Written by Chris Fitch

The beautiful French Polynesian island you've never heard of

One of the South Pacific's most incredible destinations is the quiet, unspoiled island of Anaa, part of French Polynesia.

Three hundred miles east of Tahiti, it's a short flight from Pape'ete but only a handful of international visitors make the journey each year, making it perfect for ecotourists.

Sustainable fishing

Anaa aspires to lead the world in the long-term sustainability of fly fishing. Fly Odyssey organises regular community-led trips to the island during the main fly fishing season, April to December.

This initiative helps support the local community, funding local conservation, environmental school programmes and ensures the survival of the local speciality, bonefish.

Cultural tours

In recent years the island's population has dwindled. Seven ancestral villages around the lagoon are now all but abandoned, with only short-term, seasonal inhabitants.

Visitors are invited to explore these ghost towns, complete with empty homes, old town halls, and crumbling temples.

Take a marine safari

Local fishing boats can be hired for day safaris to explore the lagoon inside the Anaa atoll, full of colourful coral reefs and shallow sandy waters. It’s also abundant in vibrant marine life.

Jump into the turquoise waters and swim with docile blacktip reef sharks. Outside the lagoon, you can spot sea turtles, dolphins and rays in the open ocean.

While many popular reefs and archaeological relics can only be reached by boat, it is also possible to hire bikes and do some self-guided exploring around coastal paths and inland trails.

Traditional crafts

Anaa’s community is rich in artisans using local materials. Elaborate shell necklaces are presented to all departing passengers at the airport, as well as ceremonial crowns.

Dried banana leaves are turned into everything from handbags to passport covers, and patterns capturing traditional island motifs are dyed into fabric.

Carved stones, mined from the centre of the island, are turned into beautiful jewellery and sculptures, and the island's coconuts are used in everything from confectionery to scented oils.

Island life logistics

For accommodation, consider Kanapa Lodge for an immersive experience in the middle of town, or Toku Kaiga to wake to a beautiful view across the lagoon.

If you want to sample the real island vibe, consider staying at pension Flo Turquoise – guests get their own sleeping quarters, but otherwise share facilities with the family.

Finally, if you make friends with the right people and ask the right questions, you might get to spend a night on one of Anaa's private islands (called motu).

French is the island's official language although English is an acceptable back-up among some residents. But be sure to also try pick up some Paumotu, the language of the Tuamotos.

Thanks for reading.

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