07 March 2017 | Rikitea, Mangareva, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia
Henderson & Pitcairn may have been out of reach due to weather constraints but we've certainly stepped into a piece of paradise here in the remote Gambier's. Magnificent Mangareva and it's surrounding islands are stunning beauties with lovely folk and lush green forests.
We entered the atoll at the SW passage on 19 Feb and made our way along the charted fairway/channel towards Mangareva and Rikitea. We encountered numerous pearl farm buoys with adjoining nets on the fairway that we needed to negotiate; sometimes just going slowly between them where we could see the nets some 2m below. Daylight passaging only from this direction!
the final entrance into Rikitea is well marked and we put our hook down in 12m at the Rikitea anchorage with excellent holding and later made our way to the Gendemarie for a straightforward inward clearance. This went smoothly as we are both Europeans and din't require any (extended) visas and bond issues. And then began our lovely time in the Gambiers.
We've had a good choice of activities here including hiking/climbing Mt Duff and other trails, visiting locals on surrounding islands (cant forget Iles Travaia), kite surfing, snorkeling and diving on the outer reefs however found the coral 80% sadly bleached and dying or completely dead. There's a reasonable assortment of reef fish where some have managed to get quite large i.e. groupers, having not been fished due to the ciguatera that exists in this atoll. The water vis was excellent which was good as it allowed us to spot the multitude of sharks that like to suddenly appear and give you a little fright. We met local and expat families on Ile Taravai who were most hospitable and showed us their lifestyle, massive garden and a glimpse into their lives. We also met fellow cruisers from Silverland, Kraken, Ednbal and Pitufa and shared good times with them.
We also arrive when Gambians were having their first cultural festival - a weekend event of traditional dancing, folklore stories, emotions and life. Impressive.
There are many pearl farms in the surrounding islands, some look like 5-star homes on water! It's seems a booming business for the Gambians. Of course we managed to procure some pearls after discovering what we were looking at. Pearl prices, we were told, are reasonable on the Gambiers. Not so for the groceries i.e. US$20 for 3 loafs of bread! We were here when the monthly supply vessel arrived with its cargo including fresh goods and managed to be at the shops the same afternoon to pick up some fresh items. The locally made baguettes are as tasty as they come!
I met Frances in Rikitea and after a few conversations he asked if I would put together a energy/procurement proposal for two 4kW solar energy systems for communities on NW side of Mangareva. I prepared a detailed plan for them which was finally accepted by Francis and the Gambier council for later procurement approval.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here, such a fantastic place on earth, and now ready for the rest of the Tuamotu's!