Fakarava Part III
25 July 2012 | Tumakohua Pass aka Motu Eco, Fakarava, Tuamotu's
We found it!! We found the prettiest place on this planet, thus far.
After moving to the south end of the Fakarava atoll, we dropped our anchor and continued to wait out the winds that have been howling for the last week. After a second full day of unpleasant winds, we were finally able to get a break and launch the dinghy.
We dropped the dinghy around 1pm and immediately headed for the beach to use as our base for snorkeling around the many coral heads. Once near the beach that faces into the lagoon of the atoll, we discovered a smaller lagoon between it and the ocean. So we decided to walk/wade through it and shell hunt and look at neat stuff. The number and variety of giant clams was interesting (both blue and green), as was the pink coral. We also walked through an ankle breaking coral area. The only way I know to describe it is it looked like a big dried lava field, with chucks of lava everywhere; except here it is coral. Mounds and mounds of very hard, solid, dark colored coral. Most of it was very sharp, so we really had to watch where we stepped. It was almost like a moonscape. After a little while of wandering around the lagoon within the lagoon, we decided to put on the mask and enjoy the below water treats.
We had been told by several people who have dove around the world that the southern area of Fakarava was a top 3 or 5 dive spot, and we now believe it. The reef is very healthy and has an abundance and wide variety of sea life. On just this first 2 hour test swim, we saw and swam with trigger and parrot fish of all sizes and colors, a spotted eagle ray, four foot pike fish, and baby (1 foot) grouper. We used our underwater camera to movie the whole thing, and have since watched it twice.
After our snorkeling, we wove our way back through the coral heads and returned to the mother ship. As we were enjoying a glass of wine in the cockpit, preparing for the evening sunset show, and reliving the day; a boat drove up and invited us to his house for pizza and beer. As it turns out, he (we nicknamed him the Godfather) and his wife own the motus around here and have for two generations. So the Godfather and his wife picked one area about 32yrs ago and decided to build a house and a couple bungalows for guest and family. They have built a very remote but very spectacular island paradise. We were treated to his brick fire oven pizza, cold beer, salad, and potato salad along with trading stories about the area with the only other boat here, Alchemy a 100 super yacht. After dinner, the Godfather gave us a tour of his beautiful island paradise and then gave us a loaf of homemade multigrain bread, which he had just finished baking in the brick fire oven.
The next morning, we woke up feeling excited about the day ahead of us. We patiently waited until 9:30am so that the sun would soon be over top of us for good lighting on the coral. We headed over to our beach to do some more snorkeling. This time, we covered a bigger coral area which included some deeper water area. At one point, when I was swimming around a big wide piece of coral, I came around the corner of one side and I was met by a black tip reef shark approaching from the other corner. It scared/shocked me; I waved my hands, and in return, I scared it away. Shortly afterwards, we saw about 3 more black tip reef sharks swimming along. We would swim after them, but their faster than us and we would lose them in the water. They are very neat to watch underwater.
In the afternoon, we went drift snorkeling in the pass. What is drift snorkeling? As I mentioned in an earlier post, most of the time, in order to safely enter the pass into the lagoon, you should wait for slack or for a favorable tide. With drift snorkeling, we would wait for a flood tide, dinghy out to the ocean side of the pass at the breakers; we both jump in the water on different sides of the dinghy and hold onto a line. We then, drift with the current, through the pass, while snorkeling. This was the most amazing snorkeling we have ever experienced. The amount of fish, the amount of different schools of fish, the colors of the coral and the different colors of the fish was just awesome to see. And yeah, we saw lots of sharks! Most of the sharks were black tipped reef sharks. They werent scary to swim with, because they really didnt seem to notice us or even care about us. At one point, we saw a huge school of fish by the thousands! The line of these fishs went for hundreds of feet and were streaming into the lagoon from the ocean. (Unfortunately we couldnt find the fish in our fish book) It was such a great experience that we jumped back into the dinghy and went for a second time!
After looking in our Fishes of the World book, here are some of the fish we swam with: six spine leather jacket fish, horseshoe leather jacket fish, barracuda, feather fin bull fish, maori wrasse (about 60lbs and 1 meter), slender long-tom, venus tusk-fish, blue tusk-fish, red emperor, grouper, rainbow runner, red sea bream, along with many, many other reef fish that we havent identified yet.
Our camera battery ran out prior to diving the pass, so now we are waiting for a weather system to let up so we can make another dive and film it to enjoy some years in the future.
A side note about swimming with sharks. When I first started this sailing adventure, I was scared of the ocean and the deep water; its really the unknown of whats in that deep water and that makes it a little spooky to me. I know, that sounds silly coming from someone who is living on water, but its true. I was also scared of sharks, which goes along with the spookiness of deep water. Since coming to the southern end of Fakarava and swimming with the sharks, I now feel much more comfortable swimming in the same water as sharks. The black tip reef sharks are not intimidating at all to me. They are just another creature swimming alongside me. As for the deeper water, I do feel more comfortable swimming in it; just not completely comfortable yet, but Im working on it.
After the above paragraphs, we were able to go out again yesterday and get in two more dives, both on the pass. These were full of similar sights as described above. But this time, we were able to take our underwater camera so we can remember how remarkable this reef was, in the future.
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