Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rangiroa, Tuamotos

Over 500 miles away from the Marquisses lies the coral atolls of the Tuamotos. The Tuamotos are a group of over 40 islands nicknamed the "danger islands" because of all the coral fringes and expediante currents going in and out. We decided to visit Rangiroa which is the largest of the atolls in the Tuamotos and the second largest atoll in the world. Entrance is necessary at slack tide so luckily we timed our entrance well and except for the fact that we had a current against us that slowed us down to 0.9 knots at one point we made it in safely and dropped the hook in the clear water. So far the nicest water we have seen anywhere. Tired from a 4.5 day passage we were too excited to sleep so we dropped the dinghy and immediatley headed for land. The island is mostly made up of two small villages that are 6 miles apart. The island is miles long and most is uninhabited. Atolls are not actual islands but groups of mini islands called motus that join together and form a lagoon inside. Most of these atolls only have a few passes where the tides go in and out thus making the tides really fast and it can be dangerous for small vessels ie sailboats to enter and exit. But as I said we made it in. On the shore there is one main road, about seven magasins (small stores) and numerous hotels and pensions. As I said this is the largest island in the Tuamotos and a mecca for divers. One of the most popular dives is a 90 foot drift dive through the pass that allows diver to drift at about 5 knots past huge schools of sharks, barracudas and rays. Since I have trouble getting down that deep because of equalizing we stuck to more shallow dives and we snorked almost everyday. A place in the lagoon they call the Aquairum was always loaded with fish who were waiting to be fed. The locals have spoiled them by feeding them baguettes and fish heads when they bring out the glass bottom boats. This has made them aggressive and one even tried to bite a mole of Mark's back hoping it was a morsel of food. Every dive or snorel was amazing. I felt like an explorer ,as every time we jumped in the water I discovered something I had never seen before. And sharks, yes there were still plenty around even if you did not dive deep. They were always curious and some local said they were shy. I still kept my distance or just kept still and let them pass on by. The wierdest thing we saw were the Remoras, or sucker fish who attach to sharks and other fish with their huge sucker mouths. I have heard stories of these fish attaching to divers and I had more than one instance where I had a remora come really close as if he wanted to stake a claim on my white belly. We ended up spending two weeks in Rangiroa, celebrated my birthday and had a really great time. We departed Rangiroa on June 25th. Next.......on to Tahiti.

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