We had a quick but rolly trip to Rangiroa, arriving before the tide and having to wait outside the passe for the tide to change. Two boats we know had been through the passe in the past week and felt lucky to have gotten through without losing their boats, thankfully the passe was relatively calm, and we had a safe entrance.
After an easy anchorage and a quick catch up with Charisma, we went ashore to get a few needed supplies; unfortunately, the one we were most looking forward to, baguettes, except they were already sold out.
We soon settled into an easy routine of an early morning baguette run, a bit of school and then an afternoon snorkel at the coral garden.
The coral garden is probably the best part of Rangiroa; you take yesterday’s stale baguettes to feed the many fish who eagerly attack you for the bread. You need to either keep the baguette out of the water or be careful with your fingers otherwise you will end up getting bitten like Andrew did from a rather excited paddletail who couldn’t distinguish bread from a finger. There are usually a few small black reef-tip sharks below the fish feeding frenzy, but they keep their distance; even Ava happily snorkelled and fed the fish. There are always a lot of tourist boats just before sunset who go to the coral garden to feed the fish and snorkel while being serenaded by a local on the ukulele.
We tried several times to dive the passe but with the strong winds and increasing swell all of which affects the forecasted tide times and currents have made it almost impossible. Adding in the fact that you are also in a dinghy with 15 horsepower engine, trying to get divers in all their gear meant Tristan and Andrew managed just one quick dive. I went a couple of times to dive but the currents and tides weren’t right, and it was just too dangerous.
Motu Fama – 7/7/2021
With Charisma’s planned departure from Rangiroa soon approaching we decided to visit Motu Fama and stay overnight before visiting the Blue Lagoon, as the Blue Lagoon doesn’t have a suitable overnight anchorage. Motu Fama is made up of a series of motus (islands) with little lagoons enclosed between them, some of them you can enter with your dinghy during high tide. We went into one little lagoon with the approaching high tide and snorkelled among the small coral bommies looking at the fish, eels and even a hiding octopus. Tristan found a whole pile of nudibranchs right along the shoreline which pleased him.
Pretty isn’t it?
After we explored the lagoon, we met up with Charisma and Distant Star in the neighbouring motu, just managing to navigate the dinghy through a precarious passe narrowly managing to avoid beaching ourselves in the waves. Ashee, Alexis and I chatted while the kids were off exploring, Andrew snorkelled, and Leif and Eden swam. A very relaxing afternoon on the lagoon.
The teens and Kline went off exploring for a couple of hours and returned with a couple of coconuts.
Relaxing in the sun.
Blue Lagoon – 8/7/2021
We got up bright and early and headed to the blue lagoon knowing that we would have to pick through coral and that if we didn’t go today, there would be no other chance as the wind was going to continue increasing. After anchoring we left Tristan and Ava on the boat to keep an eye on it as we were surrounded by coral bommies and with big waves we wanted to make sure the boat was safe. Ilo stayed on board Distant Star to keep an eye on her.
With the waves we managed to get both the snorkelling gear and everyone on board the dinghy, it was a bit of a trial. The next challenge was finding a suitable passe to get the dinghy through to the shallow waters on the outside of the lagoon. We did have a few reef sharks follow us in, looking for food as the local tour operators feed the sharks here. Inside the shallow water, while anchoring there was much excitement from Kline who was spotting all the baby black tip reef sharks in the water. The sharks would come to within a few feet of you before veering off.
We carried all our gear, Alexis and Chris manoeuvred the little ones through the coral, and sharks, to reach the island on the edge of the lagoon. There wasn’t really any coral to snorkel on in the lagoon, it was more of a swimming experience. Most of the sharks were either where we had anchored or around the other side of the lagoon where it is set up for the tour operators to take tourists to feed the sharks.
The kids happily played for hours while everyone chatted. Andrew and I went out to where the tour boats are anchored and snorkelled the coral wall where the bigger black tip reef sharks were. The water wasn’t as clear and often you could turn around and after a few seconds you would notice 5 or 6 sharks following behind you, and if you stopped, they would deviate off.
Andrew went back to get Tristan (Ava opted to not go swim with sharks) and went for another snorkel in the same area. Andrew saw a much larger shark which wasn’t a black-tip reef shark… hmm maybe Ava was right to sit that one out.
Meanwhile back onshore, Kline was off near the restaurant with Chris paddling among the baby sharks while Leif slept half on, half off a log, and everyone relaxed under the shade of a palm tree. Just before leaving my buddy, Leif walked with me over to the restaurant side to look at the baby sharks, although he didn’t want to go in the water, so we looked from the sand.
How cute is Leif, falling asleep on a fallen tree?
My buddy Leif and some of the baby black tip reef sharks we looked at.
Kline pointing out the sharks as Charisma leave the blue lagoon.
After a long, slow trip we returned to the anchorage at Tiputa. Our last night with Charisma was spent aboard Utopia with a few drinks. We had a lot of fun and Alexis you are hilarious; I think we laughed until we cried. We will miss the Charisma crew’s company but wish you and your beautiful family a safe trip back to the USA in a couple of weeks.
Tiputa to Avatoru Bike Ride – 11/7/2021
I decided it would be a great idea if we (our family) hired some bikes from Pension Josephine and ride to Avatoru, which is 10 km each way. Lucky for us the pension had enough bikes. Andrew then thought it would be a great idea to also bring a jerry jug and get some petrol at the service station at the other town. Finally, after the delay we set off and I set a cracking pace with Ava close behind. We passed palm trees, views over the interior of the atoll, bridges linking the motus and friendly locals.
At the start of the bike ride near the passe.
What I didn’t realise was Tristan and Max had rusty springs in the bike stands which kept flopping down and dragging on the ground. Not sure who’s ingenuity it was, but by the time they caught up the stands were tied with strands from the palm leaf to stop them scraping on the ground. I guess I need to look behind me more often to see where everyone is.
We arrived at the petrol station to find it closed. Hmmm looks like another bicycle trip to come. We stopped for drinks and then I took everyone to see the unique statue on the church grounds which incorporates pearl shells into its design. Tristan thinks it is a waterfall, makes sense. After looking at the passe we stopped at another magasin for iceblocks before beginning our return trip.
Not sure if this boat was beached for repairs or wrecked here after going through the pass?
The trip had been going pretty well until just before the halfway mark, the airport, when Tristan commented that my tyre looked flat – I thought it was hard pedalling. I walked the bike for a while. Then Tristan doubled Max on the back of the bike, I rode Max’s and Andrew rode his holding my bike beside it, an arrangement that lasted less than 5 minutes. Back to pushing the bike. We ended up sending the kids ahead and I had the brilliant idea of trying to hitch a ride, with the bike. I was unable to convince Andrew to go ahead of me, so he rode in circles while I unsuccessfully hitched a ride. A local, in a small car, pulled over and told us to stop; he called Josephine’s and organised for them to come pick us and the bikes up.
While waiting he stayed and chatted to us. Turns out he is from Bora Bora and is running a hotel here on the island now. A lovely guy who was very interested in Andrew’s tattoo from the Marquesas. He did tell us that a night at a resort in Bora Bora (there are 10 resorts with an 11th approved) not over the water starts at $1100 US a night. No wonder they don’t want boats cluttering their island.
The atoll is made up of lots of little motus or islands many of which are connected with bridges like you can see in the two smaller photos.
We were picked up by the French owner of the pension and were saved the 5 km walk back. The kids were waiting for us back at the pension, looking tired. When we rode to Avatoru the road felt flat but, on the way back we noticed that there is a slight slope uphill combined with the 25 knot headwinds; no wonder the kids were so tired.
We finished the day with a snorkel over the coral gardens, where they have now installed floating underwater signs with information about the reef, which is a great idea.
Tiputa Passe – 13/7/2021
After a few very slow days we met up with Distant Star onshore to have sundowners at the lookout over the Tiputa passe. There was one major flaw in the plan. We went to the magasin to get some cold beer and some candy. We returned with just candy. Turns out there are new laws in force banning the sale of cold beer during the Covid-19 pandemic to try to stop people congregating. We are not sure if that is everywhere or just in the Tuamotus.
The kids relaxed with chocolate and cookies.
Nevertheless, we went to the lookout and watched the waves roll in through the passe. The kids shared the chocolate and Ava shared the peanut butter cookies she had just baked, while Ashe unenthusiastically drank her not-so-bubbly soda water. It was the daredevil Kahlil who kept us entertained by climbing on the channel markers while dodging waves. Unfortunately, in my haste to snap his photo before he returned to shore, they are a bit blurry.
Daredevil Kahlil venturing through the breaking waves to reach the marker.
Toaroa Motu – 14/7/2021
With no end in sight with the wind and us looking likely to remain in Rangiroa for another week, Ashee decided we should adventure further into the atoll and explore some new places. Our first stop was Toaroa Motu. The motu is fringed with palm trees and the azure waters lap its shores; it even has a small inland lagoon, although I don’t think you really want to swim in it. There is a cabin ashore, but we have not seen anyone using it. We walked the beach, climbing over the fallen palm trees and talking before the no-see-ums started eating us alive and we retreated to the boat for the evening.
Tristan and I made our own homemade version of bounty bars using fresh coconuts Tristan had collected and de-husked and put through the food processor, coconut oil and condensed milk and then covered in chocolate which we enjoyed for dessert. They weren’t the prettiest, but they tasted pretty good. We already have plans on improving them.
Our second visit to the motu, Tristan, Ilo, Makawi and Kahlil all went spearfishing. They were gone for quite some time; it was when we could smell smoke that we knew that they had caught something and were cooking it onshore. They decided to cook the fish whole on the fire and discovered was that it takes a very long time to cook, hours. Max and Ava finished their schoolwork off (we are playing getting ahead before our next long passage) and went ashore to join the others. They managed to keep themselves busy and are already talking about how they will cook the next lot.
Another day and another spearfishing adventure. Tristan, Ilo, Makawi and Kahlil were gone for hours in the morning and returned after cooking and eating their catch. They were back for about an hour and were off again, coming back with quite a few marbled groupers. Andrew was very impressed with Kahlil’s catch; not only did he get the biggest fish, but he did it on a Hawaiian sling.
We met on the beach just before sunset so the boys could cook their catch, while Ashee and I brought in some other dishes for our potluck dinner. The boys were really pleased with their fish dinner.
The kids sat around the fire chatting and the adults relaxed a few feet away when Andrew had the brilliant idea (according to the kids) that he should let off all our old, expired flares that we can’t get rid of. Don’t worry, there were no accidents. Most of the flares worked fine, a smoke and parachute didn’t work but the kids all know how to use a flare if it is ever necessary. Although you really want a boat or plane to be pretty near you when you set it off as they really don’t last long.
Kahlil with a branch covered in vines, Tristan setting off flares and Andrew reading the instructions on how to use them.
They look a little spooky, don’t they?
Hauone Island – 15/7/2021
Our next stop was at a little lone island inside the atoll which was supposed to have good snorkelling. I did not go snorkelling, but Andrew and Tristan and the Distant Star crew did. The water visibility was not good and there wasn’t a lot of interest to see under the water. They did visit the island which has a lot of nesting birds including boobies, and pretty shells. We decided to continue while we had sunlight to get through the maze of coral awaiting us ahead.
Maufano Motu – 15 – 16/7/2021
Our next stop was Maufano Motu. We spent two nights here with the wind howling and frequent rain, some of it torrential. Luka and the kids went ashore which turned out to be a difficult challenge as there is no easy way through the coral bommies and there were areas where they had to lift the dinghy. They managed to amuse themselves for the afternoon, but we have decided to return to Toaroa Motu where there is easy beach access and the boys maybe able to do some spearfishing.
Overall impression of the Tuamotus?
I had spent ages researching dive spots and finding their co-ordinates and which atolls we would visit. What I didn’t consider was the ability to dive the sites from a dinghy. Most of the dive sites are in the passes or on the outside of the atolls. This means you must dive on slack tide and while we were in the Tuamotus there was a lot of wind, waves and swell which directly affects the when the high and low tides were (which is not necessarily the predicted times) and this makes passe diving difficult and dangerous. So, we didn’t do as much diving as we would have liked, it was definitely easier diving the south passee in Fakarava than diving in Rangiroa. So that aspect was disappointing. Perhaps later in the year, without the trade winds blowing so strongly, the diving would be easier to manage.
The coral really wasn’t that great. The best we saw was on either side of the south pass in Fakarava, outside the Kauehi atoll and the coral gardens in Rangiroa. The corals are mainly brown, yellowish- green with the occasional purplish area but there are no vibrant colours. We didn’t see in clownfish, but we did see a lot of sharks.
The other thing we hadn’t anticipated was how strong the trade winds are at this time of year which meant we were frequently stuck for a week or more in places waiting for the winds to die down, so unfortunately, we spent far longer than we had planned in the Tuamotus.
In hindsight I think we should have spent a bit longer at Fakarava, maybe stopped at Kauehi and called the Tuamotus done.