Turtles, Turtles and Even More Turtles – Diving in Moorea

We have done seven or more dives in Moorea on the Opunohu Canyons, Garden of Roses and Eden Park dive sites. The one constant in all of the dives has been turtles and lots of them. Interestingly enough, the turtles are happy for divers to get very close to them but when Tristan has snorkelled and free-dived down they have swam away; perhaps his shadow quickly descending scares the hell out of them.

1/8/2021

Tristan, Andrew and I did our first dive in Moorea along the Opunohu Canyons. A few of the turtle photos from the trip:

Our second dive along Opunohu Canyon, Ilo from Distant Star joined us. Ilo got his dive licence in Rangiroa and is really keen to dive. You can see Ilo below with a turtle in the distance.

The turtles sit among the coral for a bit of a nap and you often can’t see them until you are right above them, like this little guy.

Okay I will admit I kept stopping to take a photo of another turtle and my dive buddy Tristan was anxious to catch up to Andrew and Ilo, so much so that he swam straight past the turtle below and didn’t even stop. We ended up using the safety sausage and going up when our air got low (after a safety stop) so as to avoid being run over by the many boats as we couldn’t find the mooring buoy where the dinghy was; it turned out to be not that far away.

2/8/2021

Today we went to the Eden’s Park dive site and had just started getting in the water when a dive boat arrived. We moved to a nearby mooring buoy and started again. I was happily swimming behind Andrew and turned to my right and was eye to eye (about 50 cm) away from a lemon shark. After my initial heart attack and screaming “Andrew” over and over to no avail (you can’t really hear underwater) the shark swam over to Andrew before quickly disappearing. Unfortunately my reflexes were too slow to get a photo of it.

We did come to a clearish slope covered with coral rubble where a pair of white tip reef sharks were happily relaxing until some diver decided to disturb them; me, coming up and photographing them. The sharks swam away and returned when I left them alone.

It was shortly after our white tip reef shark encounter that we saw another larger, barrel-shaped lemon shark but it swam off too quickly to snap a photo. We did see lots more turtles though. Here is one I swam beside for a while.

Quite a few of the turtles were tucked amongst the coral, resting.

Or eating.

or getting a pat from Andrew.

3/8/2021

Our first dive at Eden Park Ilo joined Andrew and I. Tristan came but chose to snorkel it instead of dive. We did not see any lemon sharks this time but ended up in the same spot where we had seen the white tip reef sharks yesterday.

Just as we were leaving the sharks I spotted a large turtle swimming past, unbothered by the sharks nearby.

I did spot something new; an eel. After showing Tristan the photo, he said it was a white-mouthed eel.

Just as we were finishing our dive I saw a large turtle and beside it the silhouette of a body, turns out it was Tristan frightening the turtle away.

Tristan free diving with a turtle

Our second dive, just Andrew and I began at the Miri Roses and followed on to the section of Opunohu Canyon where the turtles are. Miri Roses look like rose blooms when you look down on them, but a lot less colour than actual roses, still it looks pretty cool.

We saw a lot of turtles again on the dive and Andrew petted one.

My favourite find of the day was this little coral section which I think looks very whimsical and almost like little toadstools.

How to better end a dive than watching turtles?

Fakarava

South Passe (Tumakohua Passe) Fakarava

14 – 18/6/2021

The shark diving in Fakarava in the south passe is fantastic.  We did numerous dives in the passe and saw the marbled grouper resting on the sandy ‘bunny slope’ area that you dive. The bunny slope is also like a shark superhighway; they swim up and down the slope and there are a lot of them. 

I expected the experience to be terrifying.  Since the time in Fiji when we snorkelled with Andrew, his brothers and their wives when I had a reef shark circling me while pregnant with Ava, I have very successfully exited the water after seeing a shark.  The encounter was very serene and peaceful floating amongst blacktip and grey reef sharks that swim by above, below, and beside you.  If you get too close, they will quickly turn away from you.  There were usually a few whitetip reef sharks lying on the sand strip sleeping but if you got too close, they swam away swiftly.  We did see one shark repeatedly diving on the sand and rubbing its body as though scratching an itch.  The shark diving is a pretty cool experience and definitely the best of the Tuamotus.

Interestingly enough Charisma tried to get their dive tanks filled and couldn’t find a dive operator who would do it. I don’t know if this is the norm or whether it was because it was spawning time. If you can’t get your tanks filled then you either miss the opportunity or you have to pay to go with a dive operator. Our dive compressor has gotten a lot of use here.

A short video of one of our dives with the sharks

Unfortunately, we have had the underwater camera die on us; we think the seal had worn out as it was used so much last year, so water got in. Yes, we do have a dive camera housing, but this occurred while snorkelling.  We have ordered new ones and hope they will arrive before we leave French Polynesia. We are anxiously watching the FedEx tracking (LA to Hawaii to New Zealand) and wait for it to leave its current location in New Zealand.

Andrew during our shark dive.

Andrew and Tristan during our dive in Fakarava.

We did not dive the north passe as the anchorage is too far away from the village anchorage to dinghy with a 15 hp motor and with the currents and waves in the passe it would have been too dangerous.

21 – 23/6/2021

By the time we arrived back in the anchorage after our trip to Motu Hirifa, there were close to 40 boats anchored to see the marbled grouper spawning. 

A very busy anchorage with over 30 yachts

We did a few more dives over the next two days in the south passe and took Seth from Distant Star with us.  Most of the marbled grouper were gone from the sand slope and had moved out into deeper water, perhaps in preparation for spawning, but the number of sharks had increased dramatically.

It was then time to say goodbye to Fakarava! Photos below are of the resorts and dive centres lining one side of the passe.

Motu Hirifa 18 – 20/6/2021

The wind did pick up in the south anchorage and we moved to another anchorage at Motu Hirifa (Hirifa Island) about 6 miles away where we spent a few days until it settled down and we were able to return to do some more dives. 

The anchorage in the south-east corner has a restaurant and a kite surfing school which Makawi attended and enjoyed.  On the island there are also slack lines set up which entertained the teens and a rope swing which entertained Leif, Eden, and Kline.  The restaurant had a puppy, a couple of hefty sows with large litters of adorable piglets, which Ava loved.  We had a pot-luck dinner on our last night in the anchorage where we said goodbye to Maya who was staying to work at the kite school. 

After dinner, we had a bonfire and then Ashe brought out her fire twirling sticks which entertained everyone for hours.  Ashe is absolutely amazing with them and actually makes it look quite sexy.  Max, Seth, Alexis, and Maya enthusiastically participated and had a fantastic time, I have included a few short clips of each person.  Seth did manage to singe a bit of his hair, but it will grow back.

Videos of the Utopia Crew; Max and Ava

Max’s first attempt at fire dancing, he’s a natural!
Ava gave fire dancing a brief twirl!

Videos of the Distant Star Crew; Ashe and Ilo.

Our wild and fearless fire dancing teacher!

Videos of the Charisma Crew; Alexis, Chris, Seth and Maya. Don’t worry none of the littles had a go at fire dancing.

Alexis having a great time fire dancing. Little Eden refused to watch.
Maya’s final night with us all and she learnt how to fire dance.
Seth narrowly escaped death when his hair caught on fire, just joking! He did singe his hair but he is all good.
Even Chris gave the fire sticks a whirl.