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?

Moorea

We have spent 9 days at the beautiful island of Moorea. Andrew thinks this is the most stunning anchorage we have been in during our 12 years of cruising. I’m torn because I also really like Fatu Hiva. Either way French Polynesia is gorgeous. Here are a few photos of the anchorage to give you an idea.

We took the dinghy up to the mouth of Opunohu Bay and gazed at the gorgeous view.

We did go to Cook’s Bay for a look, it is not as beautiful as Opunohu Bay. Interestingly enough Captain Cook never stopped in this bay.

There are tons of hiking and biking trails on Moorea; we managed to do two trails with Distant Star, both with spectacular scenery.

Magic Mountain Hike – 4/8/2021

The Magic Mountain hike is on private property on the west side of Opunohu Bay, and there is a charge of 200xpf ($2 US) per adult and 100 ($1) per child to be paid at the owners trailer. The trail is about a 4 km round trip. There is also the option, if you don’t want to hike the path, that you can pay to get driven up or both up and back. When you return from your hike you can sit at one of the tables and they will bring out a plate of various fresh fruit and their own homemade specialty jams to try.

Part of the way up the trail it divides into two paths, the right hand path is shorter but steeper (about 45 mins) and the left hand path is longer (1 hr) but the incline is more gradual. Ashe and the kids went the steep path, while Andrew, Luka, Ilo and I took the more gentle one. About 2/3 up the path there are some concrete seats where you can sit and admire the view and catch your breath.

The view as you hike up the mountain.

Once you reach the top you have an amazing view overlooking the bay, the coral reefs and anchored boats.

The view from the top!

I actually found this hike more strenuous than the one to Belvedere Lookout. But it was worth the hard work! The map below is of the trail we hiked. If you want a downloadable map for your phone to use offline send me an email and I will send you the file.

Map of Magic Mountain Hike

Belvedere Lookout Hike from Opunohu Bay – 6/8/2021

We dinghied from the main anchorage to the end of Opunohu Bay, where we locked our dinghies to a palm tree to start our hike. The hike is just over 9 km round trip, mostly along a road. The road leads you through farmland with cows and pineapple plantations, including one that sells ice-cream or sorbet or go on a tour of the plantation and through two marae before reaching the viewpoint. The hike is moderate and the incline is gradual.

View of the extinct volcanoes plug with wildflowers in the foreground.

One of the pineapple plantations we passed on our hike.

We went off-road at the first Marae and followed the dirt pathway to the second before following another dirt trail (shortcut) to reach Belvedere Lookout. Tristan opted to stop at the Marae and photograph mushrooms while the rest of us continued up.

The Belvedere Lookout offers you stunning views of Mount Rotui and the dormant volcano Mount Tohivea, as well as Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay. 

Mount Tohivea

We stopped and enjoyed the view and a bit of a rest before heading back down.

Cook’s Bay on the right and Oponhu Bay on the left are separated by Mount Rotui.

Mount Tohivea and Mount Rotui

We hiked back down, stopping at a pineapple plantation for ice-creams. The map below shows our hiking route. If you want a copy you can download to your phone and use offline send me an email and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

Map of the Belvedere Lookout Hike.

We finished off our day with a potluck on Distant Star, our final night together after travelling together for the past 5 months.

During our time together we had a long and slow 23 day passage from Mexico, quarantine (8 days for us, 14 days for Distant Star), injuries (Ilo hit by a coconut, Makawi falling through a hatch and Kahlil getting infected mosquito bites), a lost dinghy and crappy weather but through it all Distant Star have been troopers and kept going. There have also been some really fantastic times hiking, snorkelling, visiting ancient sites, potlucks, sundowners and lots of laughter. We will miss you guys but wish you all the best with your time in French Polynesia and on to Hawaii. You are an awesome family and we have loved spending time with you. Remember you can always catch up to us in Fiji if you change your mind.

Stingray City

31/7/2021

In parts of the Society Islands in French Polynesia like Moorea and Bora Bora, you can swim or snorkel with stingrays, specifically the pink whipray (Tahitian Ray). We spent all of last year in Mexico shuffling our feet when we got out of the dinghy to scare away stingrays so we wouldn’t get their barbs in our feet. Here, these much larger species are very accustomed to people feeding and swimming with them, so much so that if they hear an engine they will come to explore.

Our first trip to visit the stingrays we took bread to feed them. Turns out they don’t like bread, so we didn’t have as much interaction with them as we had hoped. There were quite a few black-tip reef sharks swimming among the stingrays. Here is a few photos from our first visit.

2/8/2021

Andrew went for an early morning dinghy trip to get a tin of mackerel so that we could make a trip to feed the stingrays. We went early to beat the horde of tourists that were there on our last visit and we were rewarded with some very curious stingrays.

A tin of whole fish would probably have been better as the mackerel kind of flaked and fell apart, but the stingrays hoovered it up.

Nope, not a puppy dog begging for food, just a stingray.

I’m not sure if Tristan was trying to kiss the stingray or just get a closer look?

Andrew quite happily interacted with the stingrays and giggled as they got close to him.

And a few final photos of these cool creatures during our snorkel

4/11/2021

After our experience on Monday I was keen to go back to the stingrays so that Max and Ava could experience it. This required everyone to be up at 6 am so we could get there early. Getting teens up and moving in the morning is difficult, I had to wake Ava and Tristan up three times and listen to lots of grumbling.

Andrew decided to sit this one out so we headed off at 7 am and were the only ones there. Max and Ava were very hesitant with their interactions with the stingrays at the beginning until Tristan showed them how to do it.

Tristan is definitely determined to get up close and personal with a sting ray and share a kiss.

The Stingrays playing with Tristan and Max, its hilarious.

Max looking a little wary.

Mmmm not sure if Max is flamenco dancing, stingray (bull) fighting or just trying to get away.

Whereas Ava just looks nervous.

Ava learnt to never turn your back on a stingray or it will try to climb it.

This stingray just wanted to sit in Ava’s lap.

And when the stingrays disappear the clownfish come out to play.

It was such a cool experience I can’t help sharing one final photo.

And another video: