Our snorkeling adventures in Tikehau brought us to a a small coral area where the Manta Rays get a dental cleaning. These are definitely our new friends. Today off the old Pearl Farm in Tikehau, Tuomotus, we encountered these gentle giants being cleaned by small wrasses and remora which rid them of the parasites they have on the skin and mouth.
Although some cruisers prefer to scuba dive, we find the best colors and the most animals are within the top 20’. We have all the scuba equipment (including the compressor) but we rarely find scuba is worth the time and effort. Believe it or not, the water is getting colder, it’s winter here, in August, and the locals don’t like getting in the water (80f, 27c) lol. We are even wearing shorty wet suits. A bit spoiled we are. It’s supposed to get down to 77 by the end of September. Burrrrrrr, it will be even colder South of here. I never thought I would say we need to go more north to get warm(er) Ha! We even have a blanket on the bed.
A few facts on Mantas: Kathy is intrigued by the Reef Manta Ray. Learning about these new friends; he can grow to a wingspan of 16 ft! But we have only seen these 3 of about 6-9 ft. You can see at the front of his face, he has a pair of cephalic fins which can be either rolled up in a spiral for quicker swimming or they can be flared out in front to channel the plankton filled water for feeding. I watched today that he has a small dorsal fin and a long black tail without a spine or barb like his cousins have.
Mobula Alfredi (Reef Manta Ray)
These Mantas are not afraid of us at all and often turned to look and see where we went. The Tuomotus never fail to amaze us and this atoll Tikehau is no different. We will poke our way around this atoll for a week or so before moving on. We are adventuring French Polynesia, one island or atoll at a time.
This checks off another box of “things we want to swim with”. Lol Adventure never seems to be far away….I can’t tell you how cool it is not to be in a hurry.
We dropped Anchor in the small island of Makemo. A big 2 day squall was coming, so we tried to shield ourselves from a weather. This quite difficult to do since the Tuomotu Island are flat sand beaches with no hills to block the wind. The ensuing winds definitely challenged the hardest of crews and the electrical storm did cause some damage to the generator and wind instruments.
A nice villager lived on the island behind our boat. Yes, it’s a desert isle called a Motu. A coral island in the shape of a ring with a huge lagoon on the inside. His name is Uribroa. He has lived on his little island for 28 years!!! Deserted? Good question. No power, no running water, no wifi or phones and very few visitors. Uribroa only had on an old shirt on and wandering around on his beach….. He took us to his home (camp more like it). Uribeoa was an amazing gardener. He also is different kind of interior decorator. His island is designed with everything he has found washed up on the island(s) over the last 28 years. We brought him many items off our boat, as he has almost NOTHING. Coconuts and crabs are his diet. We gave him some shirts, hats, lighters and some food. Dog food was also given for his skinny dogs.
Makemo, French Polynesia. The local villagers were practicing drums and dance for the upcoming festival in Tahiti. Heiva! Once again we were swamped with kids and we felt totally accepted in the community. enjoying time with cruisers is always routine. Campfires and music on the beach is common. Island life!
Tahanea, French Polynesia is coming up next. It is a nature preserve and we hear the scuba diving and snorkeling in the pass are supposed to be better than what we’ve seen. That is hard to believe!!! The coral, sharks, octopus, Moray Eels and thousands of tropical fish keep us in the water frequently. It seems every time we get in the water, it gets better!
What is a French Polynesian Tuomotu? Very much like the Hawaiian island chain, the Tuomotus began as Volcanoes. The difference down here is the plate movement and the development of coral. These Motus are all coral.
Amanu Atoll is a seldom visited Atoll in the Tuomotus that has a population of about 220 people. We spent a week here and checked out the village and surrounding coral reefs. An Atoll is basically an ancient volcano that is sinking into the ocean with coral now topping the outer ring. The center of the lagoon is mostly over 100’ deep with coral heads called “Bommies” that come all the way from the bottom to within inches of the surface. This makes navigation around the inside of the atoll very challenging. Amanu was seldomly visited by cruiser’s because up in to 2019 the atoll wasn’t even on Navionics charts. We used multiple navigation aids to get around but the most useful was Satellite photos used in a program called OpenCPN. Thank you Bruce on SV Migration! We spent the last week with Bruce and Alene on SV Migration getting a good education on French Polynesia and OpenCPN. It is windy here!
With no mountains for cover and the island chain being in the trades we saw between 10 and 20 knots ALL the time, with squalls up to 35 knots. We used a mooring to secure Sea Bella upon our village visit and we almost chaffed through both our mooring pendants on the coral. Expensive and valuable lesson!!!!! The reefs are amazing to snorkel and we were fortunate enough to see many sharks and mantas. We spent as much time in the water as we spent on shore cracking coconuts (a true skill). Our visit to town was on a day that the village was welcoming some visitors from a National Geographic ship and we got the full tour. See the attached kids dancing
The Mayor of this town is 30 years old and is in his third term. Francois became mayor at 19 years old when the previous mayor (his Father) was lost at sea. Francois was flown to France and celebrated as Frances youngest ever mayor. The mayor is also a member of the welcoming band and seems to be in well control of the island. Today we are off to the next Atoll to the west called Makemo. 175 miles so we should see the the completion of this passage by midday tomorrow.
I was in heaven sitting in the sand playing with the local children for hours. Without knowing their Tahitian language or French, which they now learn in school, socializing takes a different approach. Bringing heart lollipops help in starting up an interest, friendship, and trust. However, there is an art in this ‘giving’. If you simply hand over a lollipop, the child may just run off and eat it. You haven’t gained a thing. She may even bring back a friend to get a lollipop as well. But, if you play a little game like tic tac toe, or do a little whistle for them to copy, hide a coin, or turn take humming a little tune, now that builds a fun connection for both parties. This little 6 year old girl in the red dress stole my heart. She was so playful and engaged me in a drawing game in the sand. She also insisted on giving me a taste of her lollipop. The 3 year old boy in my lap was a bit more shy, but he was happy to give me a snuggle. Fun was had by all.
Most perfect place, we will be back- Fatu Hiva (Bay or Vírgins aka Bay of Penises)
Photo blast in Fatu Hiva. We must be moving too fast or having too much fun to do much talking about it all, we are just doing it all…LOL The hikes are so rewarding and there are no poisonous or dangerous plants, reptiles or animals to worry about. The altitude we were climbing in made this hike a very “tropical” misty experience.
We spent many days with a new friend Christian, he is a local carver and chef. We fell in love with this tiki and bought it, we’ll not with money but as a trade for an underwater flashlight. He said he needs it to find the lobsters. The next day Kathy hiked up to the farthest home, where Vanessa painted a Tapa, the local artisan makes the tapas all year long, then brings them to Tahiti and other events to sell at the fairs.
The bakery was closed, so Agnes swooped in and took us home. She gave us her baguettes, cold drink, fruit and special cancer cure jam, made from who knows what! She told us her life story (all in French) and was a great pantomime. She gave us a special tour of her garden, showed the vertical way she plants orchids, and explained her citrus grafting technique (in French). So special!!
Goodbye for now magical Fatu Hiva, see you in 6 or 7 months, as that is our plan for the Summer (US Winter). We have a 3 day sail to a SE Tuomotu Island Amanu. All the islands we will be “INSIDE” inner lagoons. Over the next 2 months we will explore the strange Motus or tuomotu: any island or islet in Polynesia, more specifically meaning atoll surrounded by coral reef. Fun new adventure!