We sailed overnight from Papeete to Raiatea, and here I learned all about pearl farming. How they prepare the oyster, and attach it to a rope until it grows its own attachment, then it hangs there for about two years. After this period of time, they carefully open the oyster just wide enough to extract the pearl, using dental instruments. It is fascinating. They then cut the black lip off another oyster who is sacrificed, and add that into the oyster from which they have just extracted the pearl, along with a round white nucleus made of mussels from a river in Tennessee. The nucleus is approximately the size of the pearl they have just extracted, and that piece of “lip” will determine the colour of the next pearl.
Afterwards, we snorkelled off the little wooden pearl house that sits on stilts above the coral. There was a strong current out there that day for snorkelling. But still lots of wonderful fish and we could swim over to where the ropes holding the oysters were hanging down from buoys into the deep water near the coral.
This is an island I would come back to because it is like dropping back 50 years. Not much to do, but a lovely untouched island, and again the people were so friendly. Our tour guide, Summer, was a surfer gal from California who came to the islands to surf and met a gentleman from Raiatea twenty plus years ago. They fell in love, and got married. They have two children, one at university in the states and another just finishing high school. She loves it there and I can understand why.