Atolls of Polynesia.
French Polynesia has an amazing diversity of islands, roughly 130 scattered over 2,500,000 square kilometers. Some of these Islands are "atolls", often described as a "ring-shaped ribbon reef enclosing a lagoon".
(See below for a quick explanation on the formation of an atoll.)
In Polynesia, the Tuamotus form the largest chain of atolls in the world, spanning an area of the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of Western Europe. The most famous are Rangiroa, Fakarava, Tetiaroa, Tikehau, Maupiti, Manihi, Ahe or the heart-shaped Tupai, very noticeable from the sky and loved by Japanese newly-weds. It has become a very special honeymoon destination. On the other hand, the magical Tetiaroa will soon host the exclusive but eco-friendly Brando Hotel.
Atolls are very much part of the richness of Polynesian bio-diversity. Fakarava for example, Polynesia's second largest atoll, is presently being classified by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. Rangiroa, the largest Polynesian atoll, spreads its elliptic shape over 80 km in length and 32 km in width. It is a favourite scuba diving area, offering some of the best dives in the world in and around the Tiputa Pass. Sedentary common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) regularly play in groups in the Pass. Large manta rays, green sea turtles and humphead wrasse can also be seen. Occasionally tiger and hammerhead sharks can also be spotted. In January, large numbers of stingrays gather in the Tiputa Pass with the hammerhead sharks that feed on them.
From the sky, these atolls resemble exotic paintings, stripes of lush green coconut and palm vegetation contrasting with a striking palette of turquoise blue waters dotted with corals heads.
Have a look at Tim's selection of beautiful aerial Images of Polynesia's favourite atolls - the best Polynesian atolls from Polynesia's best aerial photographer.