The Island of Pearls
Peaceful and serene, Manihi appears to have invented the simple life. Being the least developed of the primary Tuamotu Atolls, this secluded locale is covered in white sand beaches and swaying coconut palms—and not much else. Travelers come here mainly to snorkel by day and stargaze at night.
Manihi is the farthest north of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Flight time from Tahiti is anywhere from one to two hours, depending on whether or not you connect through Rangiroa. Life here moves at a much slower pace. This small coral atoll is home to less than 1,000 inhabitants. Primarily pearl or copra (coconut) farmers and fisherman, these locals rely on the surrounding natural environment to sustain their livelihood.
Aptly named the Island of Pearls, Manihi's inner lagoon is the ideal environment for the cultivation of the highly prized Tahitian black pearl. Blessed with all the right attributes including temperature, light, density and salinity, coupled with the abundant population of the Pinctada margaritifera—the only oyster in the world capable of creating the rich hues characteristic of the black pearl—the lagoon in Manihi is a natural jewelry box for these precious gems.
Tahiti's first traditional pearl farms originated in Manihi, and many are still in operation today. We highly recommend visiting one of these small overwater shops. You will learn the process involved and witness a demonstration of their unique grafting technique, which makes it possible to produce up to four pearls over the course of one oyster's natural lifespan. More importantly, you can also purchase these pearls directly from the source.