21 June 2020 | Taha'a, French Polynesia
The last couple of weeks has been a crazy mix of good and bad but the good first.
We went to the 'tourist mecca' of Bora Bora with some trepidation. I guess we expected the sort of development you get in the US or Australia, massed apartment buildings along the foreshore and music bars everywhere else. We knew they would be closed but they were not even there. The tourist industry consists of a large number of resorts made up, mainly, of thatched roof bungalows on stilts over the water, remarkably tastefully done. Apart from that it is a typical Polynesian island, fishermen, family compounds and small villages. There was not the communal sense we have had in other islands and the town was remarkably scruffy. The tourists are clearly picked up from the airport and whisked off to their all-inclusive resort. That is, when there are tourists.... With zero fly-in tourists and only six cruising boats around the whole island it turned out to be the quietest place we have stayed. We did not actually talk to anyone except the mooring fee collector for nearly a week.
We went round the lagoon to the SE corner and had a wonderful few days with no people, and miles of shallow, crystal clear water over pure white sand. It was the first time we had seen these conditions since the Bahamas, several years ago. We had lots of exercise swims and a couple of great snorkels. The coral was in poor shape but the water was crystal clear and the fish were amazing. We, as ever, spotted a couple of new fish that our guide shows extending east only as far as the Solomon Islands so we expect more new stuff as we head west. I have not been able to post photos for a while but be prepared for yet more fish when we finally get some internet access.
All good things must come to an end and very strong SE winds were forecast that would make that location pretty unpleasant. We checked out the west side of Bora Bora but did not find it as attractive so we used the lull before the blow to head over to nearby Taha'a. This is much less developed and very lush We are tucked into a little bay on the west side until the wind drops and we can head out to the reef to do some more snorkeling. We went round to a small family resort called Perle de Taha'a last night for a beer. The restaurant was closed but they offered to cook us dinner and we had a lovely (if pricey) meal. They let us use their mooring for the night which made for a very short dinghy ride but an uncomfortable night because the mooring was exposed to the fetch coming up the lagoon broadside to the wind - oh well. At first light we scuttled back to the shelter of the adjacent bay, much windier but flat water.
The other good event this week was Fiji opening up her borders to cruising sailboats. This is a big deal because it provides us with both a stopover on the otherwise very long sail west and some flexibility in our future options. It also bodes well for other locations like the Cooks, Tonga and even New Zealand where we have optimistically booked a berth in a marina for next southern summer.
So, why the 'Sanctuary Lost?' title? We have really cherished our dumb luck at being stuck in a Covid19-free country for the entirety of the pandemic so far but the world is catching up with us. Driven by a failing tourist economy, French Polynesia are opening up their borders to fly-in fly-out tourists on July 15th. This, in itself might not be a bad thing but, unlike the very strict two weeks quarantine and multiple tests being imposed by Fiji, French Polynesia will require no quarantine. The preventative measures they are proposing to put in place are frankly pathetic and have been shown to fail elsewhere. Bottom line is that it is pretty much inevitable that the virus will get loose in the regional hub of the Society Islands in the next couple of months. Unless they re-impose the very unpopular ban on inter-archipelago travel it could get really bad. Remote communities with no concept of social distancing, extremely limited or no medical facilities, an elderly population, high levels of obesity and diabetes, what could possibly go wrong?
This will have a limited but significant impact on us. The tentative idea of hiding out here for another year is definitely off the table. We have to stay until early August to finish Janaki's dental work and receive a shipment of supplies but we will be extraordinarily defensive after the opening up and get underway to Fiji as quickly as we can. For now we will spend a while exploring Taha'a and Raiatea as they share the same fringing reef. At the first opportunity (light winds are the best we can hope for) we will have to push back upwind to Moorea so that we can get the ferry over to Papeete to visit the dentist.
We hope this finds you all well and dealing OK with this very disturbing period we are in. Hopefully one day it will be consigned to history.