Monday, 21 July 2014

Diving in the South Pass


Benjamin is still awake (crawling around the cabin, showing me just how baby-proofed we are not!) so this will be a short note for a pretty neat day.

Fakarava South Pass is famous for its diving - water clarity, sharks, fish, and coral all combine to make for an extraordinary environment (thus the UNESCO designation). We visited both dive shops this morning, and arranged for Max to dive this afternoon with one of them (while getting the rest of our questions about snorkelling answered as well). Armed with times and locations for the afternoon, we headed back (cross-country as it turned out) to Fluenta for lunch. By cross country I mean that there are wide patches between the pass and the anchorage where the depth was about 12-18", requiring us to lift the outboard and paddle.

Returning to the pass after lunch, we beached the dinghy on a little sheltered beach that was accessed by passing through a very narrow gap in the reef (carefully marked with two pieces of rebar sticking out of the coral). During the slack tide, half a dozen or more sharks come near the shore. In waist-deep water, we just put on our masks and put our faces in the water to watch them. They seemed to have no interest in tourists for dinner at all. Max's dive was outside the pass where they could swim with loads of fish and about 100 sharks. It is rather surreal, especially because no matter how safe I have been told they are, I am still nervous of them. {These sharks are about 3-5 ft long, with a pale yellow colour and black tips on their fins, etc. We were told today that biologists have recently counted the population and there are 650 in the pass, not counting the ones outside the pass). I will leave it to him to tell you more about the diving.

Once the kids had had their fill of swimming with the sharks, their attention moved ashore where two resort staff members (and one worker-guest - he is there for 2 months and is helping out for a few hours each day to earn his keep) were husking coconuts. Since babies and children are great icebreakers, I asked Johnathan if he wanted to go watch. In a combination of English and French, we learned to husk a coconut using a stake in the ground, then Johnathan was allowed to try. Once they realized how interested Johnathan was in all things coconut, they couldn't help us enough to learn about them and to try them. In the space of 20 min we had tried a drinking coconut, a "fruit" coconut (which is entirely edible, including much of the husk), a hard coconut (including a demo of the rasper they use for shredding it to make coconut milk). This required two of the people to go to different sides of the resort to find just the right coconuts for us as well. Fun!

It was late afternoon as we were heading back to Fluenta. After navigating the shallow part of the journey (paddling and at one point walking ... it was reminiscent of the Wood Islands flats when the tide was mostly out, except that the bottom was hard coral instead of mud) we thought we were home free when - BANG - we found another coral head (tower) in the anchorage itself! Thankfully, we were still going quite slowly, so the dingy stopped short and we were surprised but fine. In the lowering sunlight, we hadn't seen the coral head before we were literally on top of it. We were hardly a chain-length from two boats that were anchored beside us. Thank goodness we didn't find that coral with Fluenta! (And thank goodness the bottom of our dinghy is aluminum - these coral heads would likely puncture a rubber-bottomed dinghy) We rocked the dinghy off the coral and continued on our way. Needless to say, our foredeck crew kept a very vigilant watch as we returned to Fluenta!

Anyway, that is all the excitement of the day. Benjamin has gone to sleep in my lap, and the morning will be early (Max's dive rendez-vous is at 0645) so I will sign off here.

Much love to everyone,
At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W
At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

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