Rangiroa Atoll is the biggest of Tuamotu Islands (Palliser Islands group, French Polynesia), as well as one of world's largest coral atolls (though smaller than Kwajalein in Marshall Islands and Huvadhu in Maldives). Tikehau (the nearest atoll) is located 12 km (8 mi) to the west. Rangiroa is approx 355 km (221 mi) northeast of Tahiti, has population around 2600 and covers total land area approx 79 km2 (31 mi2) . Its main town (Avatoru) is on the northwestern coast.
The pearl oysters' breeding in the lagoon produces black pearls (marine cultured pearls produced from black lip pearl oyster shell, Pinctada margaritifera), which are abundant in the French Polynesian atolls. These pearls, featuring a wide range of colors, all kind of grey from white to dark, are the world's only cultured pearls with so many various natural colors as the green rose peacock.
Rangiroa Atoll is also famous for its unique vineyards. The vines produce two harvests per year. They grow on the edge of a beautiful lagoon beside coconuts, and the winery is located in the heart of Avatoru village. The grapes are brought by boat to the winery. The creation of the vineyard came after prior analysis, to find the best spot capable of hosting the vines, the first of which were imported in 1992 and tested for acclimatization and selection in Polynesia's main islands, with uncertainty of the adaptation to climate. 30 varieties were imported from different parts of Europe.
Tourism is the major economic activity on Rangiroa Atoll due to good connections with Tahiti, exceptional lagoon and passes that are good sites for scuba diving and appeal to a steady number of tourists. The island offers some of the world's best dives in and around Tiputa Pass. Sedentary common bottlenose dolphins regularly play group in Tiputa. They can be viewed from mainland but it's also one of the few sites where they can be approached via scuba diving. Each high tide creates strong incoming current while low tide creates an outgoing current in the passes. When the current flows inward, around 200 shark specimens gather at Tiputa Pass' entrance, at 50m deep. Led by the strong current, they can remain motionless allowing divers to observe them with no difficulty. Green sea turtles, humphead wrasses and manta rays can also be seen. Occasionally, hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks can also be spotted.
Rangiroa Atoll cruise terminal
Cruise ships to Rangiroa Island dock (anchor) at Tiputa - port town on the atoll's northeastern coast.
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