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  1. #1
    GemGeek
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    Default GIA Pearl Tour - Robert Wan Tahiti

    The GIA Alumni Club offered the trip of a lifetime in their GIA Pearl Tour to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. Robert Wan Tahiti definitely stepped up to the plate and gave us an amazing experience. Here is my pictorial diary. I'll have to post it in several installments.

    After the long flight from Los Angeles, it seemed that we barely caught our breath before boarding the private Wan Air flight to Marutea Sud, 1000 nautical miles from Tahiti. Being in the first of two groups, the anticipation was almost overwhelming.
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    Our first stop was the atoll Nego Nego, for refueling. An atoll is a slender thread of land where the sea embraces the sky. Being on an atoll is incredibly liberating. There is nothing to separate you from the elements and the beautiful natural surroundings.
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    Back in the air, we pass a small atoll that looks like a halo resting in the sea. I am pinching myself to be sure that I am not dreaming all this up and we really are winging our way to Robert Wan?s private atoll.
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    We enjoy even the smallest details!
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    Bruno Wan, Robert's son, showed us around the island in Wan style. Although we didn't get to meet Robert Wan, you couldn't ask for a better host.
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  2. #2
    GemGeek
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    I meet my first native Marutean, hanging around the back door of the kitchen?
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    They say that they keep the cats to get rid of mice, but I?m not so sure. This is a very friendly citizen.

    After a fabulous lunch cooked up by the universally popular chef Carl, we waddle off to the boats to see the grafting operations at one of the three pearl farms. As you can see by these photos, the weather changes rapidly.
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    Here we observe the exacting and esoteric art of Tahitian Pearl grafting. Few people are privileged to see what we see inside this humble building. The people are smart, friendly and industrious. They tie the oysters into their frames so fast that my video appears to be on fast-forward.
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    These oysters are awaiting nucleation. Then they will be drilled and tied into basket frames and replaced into the bay. Yes, I got unbelievable video of nucleation, but they asked us not to share any of their technical process. Sorry

    The grafters nucleate so quickly that it appears to happen by sleight-of-hand. They used some kind of dyed antiseptic, with which the unwary onlooker was frequently baptized. Warning ? stand close to nucleation at your laundry?s peril!
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    Jeremy got a pink edging on his sleeve.

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  3. #3
    GemGeek
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    The local chapel has been lovingly adorned with decorations of shell.
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    We are beginning to feel like members of an extended family. After a terrific day, we go to the beach to see the sunset. While waiting, we scour the upper Coral-composed beach for notable specimens.
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    Wow! I found a Giant Clam shell. These are recognized as endangered species by many countries. (As many of you know)
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    What could be better than this?

    Leslie soon finds out. She spots three or four whales in the ocean and calls for everyone to come and get a look.
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    Every time they arc out the water, we all cheer. They hear us and come in closer, motivated to frolic by all the attention. As we eventually head down the beach for a celebratory glass of champagne, they follow. One whale pops straight out of the water and eyes us. Then they all turn on their sides and wave their flippers at us.

    At this point, there were more than a few dewy eyes. If I hadn?t seen it for myself, I wouldn?t have believed that the whales were saluting us. They gave us the high five, or in their case, the high fin!

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  4. #4
    GemGeek
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    Carl caps our evening by preparing another fabulous meal, including pearl meat, fresh from the farm. We are living the dream of a lifetime.
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    Another day dawns and after breakfast we leave to take the boats to the other side of the atoll where the hatchery is in full swing. Yes, that's a sweater!
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    The hatchery sports a sign that says ?Maternity?. The spat attach to fluffy collecting ropes and grow along with a lot of other creatures. The one in the center is the kind they?re looking for Pinctada margaritifera. Hopefully, someone will have a sharper photo than mine.
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    This place is very beautiful.
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    I could definitely live here!
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  5. #5
    GemGeek
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    The buoys and oysters have to be cleaned regularly to keep them free of opportunistic sea life.
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    Bruno shows us the ropes. Ha, I couldn?t resist!
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    And at break time, we receive treats ? fresh cocoanut meat and cocoanut milk straight from the shell.
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    Then it?s back to the boats for a cruise to a beach where we can snorkel and stroll. While we wait to transfer to the shallow bottom boat, Jeremy gets a quick interview in French.
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    You never know what kind of friends you?ll meet on an atoll. This hermit crab was peripatetic.
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  6. #6
    GemGeek
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    This would be a great place to camp if it wasn’t covered in rough volcanic stone.
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    On the way back, we watch as cleaning crews work on their boats.
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    After a farewell feast and a few marriage proposals to Carl (and attempts to get his blue cheese sauce recipe), we get back on the airplane to Tahiti.
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    Back in Tahiti, we visit the Musee de la Perle. Every possible detail is covered in the life of the oyster and pearl, including models of atoll formation. Lustrous examples of every type and color of Tahitian pearl are displayed.

    One of the museum highlights are the handmade costumes of Miss Tahiti wore in the Miss Universe Pageant. Featuring pearls and decorative seeds grown in the area, they are stunning.

    We received a terrific in-depth lecture from Vanina Pichevin, Robert Wan Tahiti’s Marketing and Communications Manager. The museum also houses the Robert Wan Tahiti showroom and our group enthusiastically viewed pearl jewelry of the finest quality. Many items were once-in-a-lifetime treasures.

    Nadia Roustan outdid herself in making us feel welcome from our stay in Marutea to the final dinner in Tahiti. The Robert Wan people showed us the world of the Tahitian Pearl with true Tahitian hospitality and elegant style.

    (At this point, I was taking photos with Leslie’s camera because I didn’t bring backup batteries. Someone is sure to have photos - Jeremy?)

    Then we were off to the Perliculture Department of the French Polynesia Ministry. You may have heard that Tahitian pearls that don’t make the grade are destroyed. Here is the place where all Tahitian pearls are inspected, including x-rays to ensure minimum nacre depth.

    X-Ray Equipment
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    Pearls in special tray ready to be x-rayed
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    Last edited by GemGeek; 09-13-2007 at 06:27 AM.

  7. #7
    GemGeek
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    Warning - here come the first & few pearl photos -- brace yourselves!

    The bounty of harvest was evident in the weighing process. Bowl of pearls, anyone?
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    The elusive top grade Peacock Tahitian Pearl! The words ?King?s Ransom? come to mind!
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    And others, all ready to be exported?
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    With each area we visited, we got to see and handle more pearls. You would have seen a lot of them here if my camera was working in Robert Wan's showroom. Wall to wall elegance! I took a lot of photos, but with someone else's camera. I can't get at them yet. Jeremy may have taken some, but he sees a lot of Tahitians.

    A flight delay offered an opportunity for a quick trip to neighboring island Moorea. If you can?t relax here, you can?t relax anywhere. It?s that laid-back.
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    Next stop, New Zealand!

  8. #8
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Raisondetre's Avatar
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    One of these days I'm going to take the GIA pearl course just to get on the tour ... the peacock Tahitians are so luscious!

  9. #9
    GemGeek
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    The bag of high-grade peacocks is the best photo of the tour. Can you imagine the necklace? Whew!

  10. #10
    GemGeek
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    Oh, and wait on the pearl course, because they are re-doing it. Jeremy has been helping

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Those bags of pearls are marked "AAA Peacock".
    Wasn't there someone that used to say "no professional pearl dealers would ever use A-AAA"...

  12. #12
    GemGeek
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    I didn't catch that. The ministry uses A - D, right?

  13. #13
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    Yes. Their grading is A-D, which leads some people to believe that only A-D is used. But you shot proof that they are both used by farmers and traders.

  14. #14
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Raisondetre's Avatar
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    I'm just hoping it won't be a problem doing the pearl course by distance ...

  15. #15
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    It won't be. Just be sure to wait until they finish the new course. The current one is not very good. The new one should be out by the end of the year.