My photo
Welcome to my art blog from Tasmania, Australia. I post a little on my various art projects while also working in plant genetics. For more, please try the links to my various art pages or email me at silvergumstudio@yahoo.com.au. Thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

French Polynesia: what more could an artist want?

Before dawn on Tikehau.  The distant landscape is clouds.
I suppose I should confess ... the reason I haven't posted anything since mid-May is because I've been travelling in the warm, bewitching islands of French Polynesia.  We visited Tahiti, her sister islands Moorea and Raiatea, and the far-flung archipelago of the Tuamotus.  It wasn't all play, however.  While there, I made it my business as an artist to study all manner of atmospheric effects involving sun, moon, clouds and water - not to mention mastering some Polynesian weaving techniques!

My palm-leaf table mats, woven at Fakarava
Fakarava's vanishing horizon

The full moon at dawn on Fakarava
Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea belong to the Society Islands and all have mountainous interiors with fresh waterfalls, surrounded by a fringing reef.  These islands are the epitome of loveliness with their richly variegated green slopes and turquoise lagoons.  But for sheer atmosphere, the two atolls of the Tuamotus that we visited - Tikehau and Fakarava - are beyond anything I've ever seen.  These islands have no interior but are simple broken rings of land, surrounding immense lagoons.  In calm weather their transparent waters reflect every cloud and star, and also allow sunlight to penetrate to incredible depths, revealing brilliantly coloured corals and fish in an ever-changing display.  A single day on Fakarava would supply enough material to occupy an artist for life.  Because the bits of land are tiny, it's possible to walk around them and see sunrise and sunset over the ocean every day.  On days of flat calm the horizon simply vanishes, leaving islands and yachts to float in the blue air.

Fakarava is also part of a UNESCO marine biosphere reserve and its pristine waters make it one of the world's top ten dive spots.  In particular, dive operators are keen to stress the fact that you can dive with sharks - lots of them!  Shark fatalities are either non-existent or very rare in French Polynesia, and it's quite common for locals to feed sharks - usually small reef sharks, but I also saw large nurse sharks cruising for free fish just off a jetty, half an hour after I snorkelled there.  Nobody thought to warn me because French Polynesians do not fear sharks and think nothing could be better than to dive with the lemon shark, the nurse, the tiger, the hammerhead...  At Fakarava there is a 'wall of sharks' in the southern pass.  There are also dozens of small black-tipped reef sharks cruising day and night around the village-style accommodation and restaurant, and it's necessary to swim with them to snorkel along the edge of the reef.  These are generally harmless and I got used to swimming among them.

Low tide on Fakarava

I'd like to write more, but as I sit here, Kevin Rudd is challenging Julia Gillard for the leadership and I must dash off to find out the results.  I don't think anyone in Australia will be reading my blog tonight!


  1. What an amazing and inspiring trip!!

  2. Hi there,

    I just discovered your blog and really like it!
    Here are my thoughts on writing and literature (scrall down for the english version):

    I'd love to know what you think!

    Have a great weekend&greetings from Europe,

  3. Woooooooooooow!!! How awesome was this post! My goodness what inspiration. It's fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing it and thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Wow, lucky you. Have you read the 'Mutiny On The Bounty' trilogy? It's in three parts and man is good, and all true. All about Tahiti and Pitcairn Island of course.

    1. I haven't read it, but I do know the story (OK, I saw the movies...) It's stranger than fiction, isn't it? I'll look out for the books.

  5. OoOh I am a little bit jealous :-)

  6. I remember reading this but I don't remember why I did not comment. The curse of a poor memory! (I probably closed the window by mistake after typing it. Wouldn't be the first time!)

    Holy cow, what tales you tell from this far off land. That bit about the horizon disappearing sounded a bit scary, I must admit. Even with the photo. But wow, that such places exist!