You may have never heard of Tepoto, a coral island in the Tuamoto Archipelago. But it's a real place, and it's incredible.
Andrew Evans recently embarked on an expedition to get there, and wrote about the experience of going to somewhere so remote for this recent BBC article, an island inhabitant was quoted as saying:
“I can’t remember the last time we had a visitor. Not for as long as I’ve been here – over 20 years now.” In fact, Severo said that no-one could recall the last time a non-Polynesian had come to Tepoto – certainly not in their lifetimes. Then, he told me that what I had read on Wikipedia was wrong: there weren’t 62 residents on the island, but closer to 40 now, 13 of which were children under the age of 12.
How difficult is it to get to Disappointment? It's a long trip.
I opted out of scurvy and long months at sea in favour of the 18-hour flight to Tahiti from Washington DC, measured out in cups of fresh pineapple juice poured by flight attendants wearing floral prints. After a night in Papeete, I boarded a two-hour prop plane to Napuka...“Do you want to visit Tepoto?” tavana Marina asked, because a boat had already been organised for the technicians. Yes, I wanted to visit Tepoto. That was Byron’s first elusive island, and aside from the once-a-month supply boat, there was no way to reach it. I jumped at the chance...halfway between the Marquesas and the main Tuamotu island groups, Tepoto has remained comparatively unblemished. I felt lucky to
glimpse the vibrant and teeming underwater life, knowing that millions of tourists would visit the rest of Polynesia and never see this kind of virgin reef.
Their biggest local attraction with a handful of inhabitants in Tepoto is a 4-headed coconut tree.
In the nearby Napuka island, with 200 inhabitants, is a bustling place comparatively. On the local cuisine:
Marama told me he was on the Napuka island council that regulated the gathering of clams and coconuts. When there was no other food to be had, there would always be clams, and it was his job to maintain a sustainable population of both clams and coconuts.
Our author, Andrew, discusses how the Island's original names, based on Admiral Byron's disappointment at being unable to make landfall in these islands, actually may have saved their culture and natural resources:
“Napuka [and Tepoto] are the last places where you can witness the original vegetation of the Tuamotu islands,” Kapé said. The Paumotu anguage, which is only still spoken by an estimated 6,000 people, is also alive there, along with their customs – one of which is unbridled hospitality towards the rare visitors they receive from nearby islands.
It's a fascinating story and definitely worth reading!