Rangirora (Tuamotus, Polynesia)
Our arrival at Rangiroa was, thankfully, uneventfull and well timed to coincide with slack high water. We motored in with no counter current nor large seas at the entrance mouth. On approach it was a, surprisingly, well vegetated and luxuriant lagoon fringe. I say surprising because we expected some low, sandy, coral atolls, with nary a cocoanut tree. Quite the contrary!
Upon entering the channel we were approached by a 2 meter shark, probably looking for a handout – they dive clubs used to feed them so tourists in the glass bottom boats could take pics- of fish, who cruised around us for a while before losing interest. We motored past the, “Motu” , small island inside the lagoon and around to the anchorage to anchor in 13 meters of water. Oh for an electric windlass and a deep anchor well. The next 3 days we spent walking around the towns, meeting up with friends and just relaxing.
Ospray came in after a couple of days and we decided to do a few dives with the “Six Passengers” dive outfit near the hotel. They gave us a very good rate thanks to Katie on S/V Asylum who did the negotiating. $20 less than the hotel’s dive shop!
Our first dive, just outside “Tiputa” pass was spectacular to say the least. We saw an abundance of, very tame, sea life of all shapes, sizes, and colours. I was particularly impressed with the sea turtles and grouper completely oblivious to my proximity of less than 1 meter. If I had a spear gun in my hands the grouper would not be so curious, however, they were almost close enough to touch! The next two dives were in the other pass, “Avatoru” with some mature “white and gray tipped” reef sharks and a large school of “Horse-eyed Jacks” that swam in a tight ball right above us. They dive leader took a piece of fish and tucked it under a rock on the sea floor. We were hovering just meters away as these sharks tried to pry the fish out from under the rock. Wisely, the fish had been bled elsewhere to avoid over exciting the sharks. They weren’t frenzied in their attempts but, rather playfully wary as they swam around us and back to the fish. Several times they approached us within lees than meter. I had one so close that counting his teeth wasn’t hard. Yet they didn’t pose any threat at all. Would some blood in te water have changed that I wonder? Glad we didn’t find out. After that we swam along the reef towards the pass where the Jacks were gathered.
One instructor had kept a piece of fish with him in a bag as we swam along. One shark followed him and casually attempted to take it from him. The instructor would just push it away casually as if it were a dog. As we approached the Jacks several spotted the shark, broke from the pack, proceeded to flank the shark and bang into it thus driving itaway from the school. The instructor had wanted to demonstrate this by luring old sharkie close by. The rest of the dive I spent checking out the cool coral, fishes, and swimming under the school of Jacks so I could look up into the whirlpool they created at their center!! What a great dive. So great that we repeated it the following day.
Yanni, from Ospray, and I also had a great snorkeling experience inside the pass. We were on the channel side of the Motu just as the tide was coming in. Normally you can go out to the mouth and drift in, but we heard it wasn’t that interesting as it was had to remain stationary. We found some iron rods protruding from the motu and held on as the current increased. This turned out to be a great idea as we watched sharks cruising along the channel to our right in search of food. Before long we found ourselves surrounded by schools of various fishes waiting for incoming snacks also. They completely ignored us and we had an excellent opportunity to observe them at close range. Some of the sharks did come an observe us closely as well, much to our discomfort. They weren’t mature ones so I doubted I’d lose more than a foot or hand. Small price to pay for all the fish I’ve hunted!!! Nothing happened and it was the best snorkel I’ve had in years.
We also visited a local pearl farm and were given the 20 cent tour. Basically they whisk you through the process so yu have more time to buy pearls. Ha, not at those prices. Still, it's interesting that it takes five years to produce a saleable pearl from scratch. Cultured pearls are grown around a foreign object introduced into the oyster (a plastic ball in this case) which then grows around the object to protect itself. Interesting huh!!
Whilst planning to leave for Tahiti a nasty low pressure system headed our way and produced some very nasty seas in the anchorage. The wind clocked to the west then gradually the south and blew for 3 days. This created quite a sea as we were only protected from the east and north. Our chain wrapped around a coral head, thus shortening our scope, the higher swells broke our nylon snubber (chain shock dampener), the chain flew across the deck into my leg as I replaced the snubber, I bled everywhere, Meri freaked out, I hated sailing, we both wished for dry land, garden, house, dog, permanent friends, etc. All within a few hours of the wind changing. Too long on the boat???? Probably. However, we soon got over it but realized we needed to get off adagio and got out to some cultural events somewhere. Two days later we sailed to Tahiti for to “Haiva” festival and some fun ashore.