19th Thursday May 2016
Wow! We have just returned from the most incredible snorkel of our lives and we have had some amazing snorkelling over the years. We can’t wipe the smiles off our faces, the water at the south pass of Fakarava is unimaginably clear, the coral is stunning, the fish varied and plentiful, there are sharks everywhere.
Monday morning we set off from our calm anchorage at Hirifa for the southern pass, there were a few dark clouds threatening but looked like they would pass to the north. Almost as soon as we set out the wind started to pick up and backed, by the time we had motored the 3/4hr to our destination the squalls were blowing our way. The anchorage was very rough, the visability was very poor, we could see the torrential rain approaching in the distance. Not the best conditions to anchor in and why we would we want to spend another night bouncing around. We are now in the habit of recording our track on the chart plotter, we turn Raya around and retraced our path through the pouring rain and returned to the flat sea at Hirifa to await for better conditions.
Tuesday we tried again, the water was still choppy but the weather forecast, everybody agrees, is for a calm few days ahead. The anchorage is a mass of coral, there are mooring buoys but they are only specified to thirty tons we are thirty three, if the wind decides to get up again we would rather trust our anchor. I tried to drop it into a patch of sand but we can see through the clear water that it is hocked on to some rock, the chain meanders through the coral heads. Not a great situation, it could easily get wrap around one of the heads, it is holding however and we can at least see it when we need to get it up. As a last resort we can use our scuba gear to dive down and untangle it from the coral, there is one small extra problem however, we are surrounded by sharks. Not little three footers now but fully grown, black tips, white tips and even larger grey reef sharks. It gives a whole new meaning to feeding the fish off the back of the boat.
As is often pleasantly the case now, we have friends in the anchorage, the catamaran Yolata is sat on a mooring bouy next to us. They dingy over to say hello and give us the low down of what’s here. Incredible snorkelling on the pass, a dive shop, a collection of resort cabins, a bar where you can get a meal but you have to order it a day in advance and an old deserted town that was before a cyclone came through fifty years ago the capital of Tuamotu. No supplies however, we swap notes on the empty state of our fridges, being Australian and hearing we have only a few beers left, they immediately insist we have a case of theirs. We are again humbled by the generosity of the cruising community.
Wednesday dawned still and fine, without a doubt the best weather we have had since we arrived in Tuamotu, perfect for snorkelling. To snorkel the pass you need to firstly make sure you are doing it on an incoming tide, sweeping you into the lagoon rather than out to the ocean. You dingy to a mark put down in the pass by the dive centre, tie the dingy to your wrist and if the tide is strong enough, drift, if not swim, back towards the lagoon.
The water is so calm and clear, it is like looking through glass, we motor agog at the coral passing by below us. The sight under the water is even more breathtaking. The coral resembles a glorious rock garden, communities of small fish guard their patch on the reef, large shoals of bigger fish swim past, a spotted eagle ray drifts near the sea bed. We raise our heads exchange a glance of incredulity and return on masks to the water.
We must see a couple of dozen sharks, it’s funny when your head is above water they are frightening, I imagine them nibbling my toes as I hang from the dingy but as soon as you put your head in the water they are just part of the back drop. They glide past with an air of indifference, magnificent, powerful but not at all intimidating, Rick is clicking the camera as fast as it will reset, I just watch in amazement.
The current starts to pick up as we reach the end of the pass, instead of me dragging the dingy it starts to drag us. We are whisked around the corner towards the anchorage, a bed of beautiful coral whizzes past beneath us, a large barracuda swims by, we hardly notice so caught up are we with exilaration of flying through the water.
We pinch ourselves, same again tomorrow please.