A Special Experience
04 February 2021 | Raivavae, The Australs Group, French Polynesia
We are now in the north eastern lagoon of the very remote island of Raivavae, in the Australs group of French Polynesia. It is a delightful spot, probably the calmest and quietest anchorage we can remember. The snorkeling is not great due to the very fine coral sands creating a mistiness in the water but apart from that it is perfect. We have found a great spot under the trees to exercise and we swim regularly so we are getting steadily fitter. Which brings me to the tale.
We were just packing up the gym (pictured) and walking on the sand by the water's edge when Janaki spotted a 'ball of weed' that was moving strangely. On closer inspection it turned out to be a small octopus, a Coconut Octopus as we found out later. There were a number of small balls of weed that had drifted into the water's edge. The octopus managed to look exactly like one of them. It moved from ball to ball enveloping them in it's tentacles to drive anything hiding inside towards its mouth. Each ball only took a few seconds. Wrap, release, move on, all very business like.
It was the moving on bit that astounded us. The little octopus would ball up six of its tentacles, perhaps to hold it's shell home, or just to look more like a weed, we couldn't quite see, then it loped - the only word that works - gracefully along the bottom to the next ball of weed using it's remaining two tentacles in a clearly bipedal motion. It was a smooth and practiced movement, covering ground remarkably quickly. We watched this behavior for about five minutes, at which point the octopus transformed into a streamlined fish shape and jetted off.
We could barely believe our eyes and were still unsure we had actually seen it until we read about this particular behavior in one of our marine books. Unfortunately I did not have a camera that day but a search of Google or YouTube for 'coconut octopus walking' should turn up some stuff - definitely worth a look.
Octopus are truly the most remarkable creatures. We love to watch them. Unfortunately that privilege is becoming increasingly rare as they are severely over-fished. The fact that we used to eat these spectacularly clever beasts horrifies me now.
We will probably stay here for a couple of months. It is well away from anywhere and very low risk, particularly now that French Polynesia has clamped down on new arrivals. Now that we have completed our post-Tahiti quarantine we have a six person bubble with our Austrian friends on Pitufa and a French couple so that's our community for the foreseeable future - all good.
I'm not even going to speculate on future plans at the moment. The world is way too uncertain to be sure about anything. We will decide our next move in May. This is when the weather window for a possible westward move opens up.