TV Interview: Keith Bellows on French Polynesia

August 1, 2001

Susan Roesgen interviews National Geographic Traveler editor-in-chief Keith Bellows about French Polynesia. Underwater photographer David Doubilet joins the discussion and shares his insights on making images in the coral-lagoon paradise.

Susan: National Geographic Traveler magazine is preparing an article that will take readers to French Polynesia, into a coral-rimmed lagoon. Editor Keith Bellows tells us about it and National Geographic photographer David Doubilet is here to share his images.

Guys, I would think that is the kind of place that you would lie in bed at night dreaming about.

Keith: Clearly this is classic paradise. French Polynesia—the island's name is Rangiroa—is about as good as it gets.

Susan: You go to some wonderful places in your magazine, but why this place, why now?

Keith: This has been in the works for quite some time; it really embodies a bunch of different stories.

The French government has essentially subsidized French Polynesia, and they are talking about pulling out in the middle of this decade. If that happens, if suddenly all of this money goes out of the system, they are going to have to replace it somehow, and they will probably do it by attracting more tourists.

More tourists, when we are talking about this kind of fragility, really can create some problems. Rangiroa is not built for volume. This is a very, very special place and we're concerned about it.

Susan: The photographs here really make me want to go. Tell us about taking pictures there.

David: Imagine this giant atoll, and it really is huge, it is 20 miles (32 kilometers) across and 30 miles (48 kilometers) long.

It has to empty and fill maybe as much as four times a day. And when the pass fills, the blue Polynesian water pumps into the atoll. That's when it gets terribly exciting.

You can photograph gray reef sharks and you can ride the pass into the atoll. You can photograph silvertips, which is what we did.

Continued on Next Page >>


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