Friday, August 1, 2008

Underwater Eden

We thoroughly enjoyed Tahaa, without ever having set foot on it. More accurately, we swam our way around the island, touching solid ground only on the little motus that ring around the lagoon. From our vantages we admired the peaks all around us, with “mainland” Tahaa in the foreground, and Raiatea, its sister island, just behind. (These two islands are adjacent and share the same lagoon). In the other direction, Bora Bora’s steep volcanic plugs formed a dramatic silhouette.

It was the water that beckoned. We had been promised superb snorkeling and superb it was. The coral makes all the difference, and these were the coral gardens. In our second anchorage we found ourselves all alone, perched on the precipitous edge of sandy shoals along Motu Tehotu. Our depth sounder, near the bow, read 50 feet. Our makeshift lead line showed 10 feet at our stern, with not much room to spare below our rudder. As the boat threatened to swing over the turquoise shallows we set about dropping a second anchor off the stern, which kept us comfortably in place. Then we explored with the dinghy, trudging through thickets and swatting away mosquitoes on the motu itself, and finally, back in the water, scoping out a spot to snorkel. We dropped our dinghy anchor in a sandy spot in the midst of coral heads and jumped in.

The coral here, combined with the water’s blinding clarity, creates a spectacular backdrop for the circus of fish that parade past. We shimmied through the labyrinth, fighting the current in some spots, floating along with it in others, trying to avoid scrapes with the coral itself, and enjoyed the freak show. It was all fun and games until Ben motioned to me, popped his head out of the water and said “big shark.” Well, that was my cue, time to go. Luckily the shark was more timid than I and made a quick exit. Ben was dismayed not to have caught him on film but he had little choice as I was making a steady bee-line back to the dinghy.

Our next anchorage off of Motu Tautau was more heavily populated, with several boats at anchor adjacent to a fancy resort. Here the channel along the motu boasted another beautiful coral garden, with a strong current that necessitated a drift dive. Not much use fighting it, just float along and enjoy the view. We snorkeled that channel a couple times and always saw something new.

Finally we left, through Passe Pai Pai, for the 20 mile sail to Bora Bora, the last of our destinations in French Polynesia. Time to collect the bond I had paid, fuel up, provision and check out of the country, in preparation for the 1200 mile (roughly week-long) passage to American Samoa. New horizons….


Jacques said...

I have read with lots of interest your last descriptions and enjoyed the fish pictures so much that I used one of them as my screen saver.
When reaching Bora Bora you should go to the restaurant which is straight ahead from the pass. On Bora Bora lived Paul Emile Victor, a famous french explorer of the antartic. He died about 10 years ago. He lived in a motu no too far away from the landing strip. May be a place to visit?
A fabulous place to snorkel is nicknamed the aquarium. It is kind of tricky to get there because you need to get alignment with trees (the local can tell you). In this "aquarium" you will see mooray eels, lots of fish of different colors but also rays. With snorkeled there years ago when we sailed into Bora Bora from Raiatea.
Enjoy one of the greatest place on earth.
Bises a tous les deux,
Jacques also known as Apyjack

Sanantonio said...

Dear Cousins! Shame on me! Shame on me for not being more thorough in following up your whereabouts! My consistency in doing so equals Ben's in writing letters. So I shamefully acknowledge, this is my second time browsing your blog since you left! Lucky enough I was sailing yesterday and that made me think of you;-) Maybe I should sail more often....should be easy...else I won't realize when you are back. So I went through the posts from this last month and I am so amazed at all these places unheard of, at the way you trip goes on - so much sharing and getting close to the people you come across. Hopefully, August will be light on the work side and I will have the pleasure to go over your last year. In the meantime, I wish you well in exploring the world and "bon vent" - Bises, Antoine

Anonymous said...

American Samoa sounds so tame compared to French Polynesia. I don't even need a passport to go there. However, I expect you to open my eyes to its wonders. Do you need resupplied on Panalog cream? I could bring you some. As I am writing this Amy is sailing down Admiralty Inlet. I was going to paddle out to the shipping lanes to be the welcoming committee but it is white capping with 20 knot winds so I think I will wave from the beach. Yippee!!!
Peace and Love, Fid
PS Stop with the rudder scraping. Makes me cringe every time I read that. Flashbacks to my anchor chain entanglement in 2006.