French Polynesia/Tahaa: Champon Pearl Farm
A 40 minute boat ride and I move to the next island in French Polynesia – Taha’a. Taha’a is famous for two things – the best vanilla in the world and the Tahitian black pearls. At the Champon Pearl Farm, you can see how the whole pearl farming process works which is quite interesting! First, you need to find an oyster with the most beautiful colors (this is done by inserting a dentist-like mirror inside the shell). Once selected, the tissue from the colorful shell is then transplanted/grafted into another shell together with a white nucleus that will form the pearl. The nucleus comes from Mississippi River clam shells that are cut into small nuclei balls in Japan. Once implanted, the oysters are left hanging in special nets for a minimum 18 months for the Pearl to produce the colorful material that surrounds the nucleus (it’s mostly aragonite, just like cave crystals). The pearls are then harvested and sorted into categories based on roundness and purity from imperfections. Tahitian pearls are not black but have a variety of hues of black, green, blue, and in between, as well as a wide-range of shapes (absolutely round are the most valuable).