Under the ocean

In Voyages on 23/10/2010 at 02:29

The waters in French Polynesia are among the most pristine in the world. All islands here are amazingly steep with depths upto a few kilometers just in front of the coast. This means that the clean and clear water from the deep ocean surrounds these islands. Obviously this brings superb diving conditions and since we both enjoy diving, this is definitely a good thing.

The best diving spots around the atolls are the passes into the lagoons. The water in the lagoons is usually somewhat murky, but full of nutrients for fish. This results in a lot of wildlife under and above the water surface. When this nutrient rich water flows out of the lagoon, many species in all levels of the food chain are waiting for this nutrient rich water. That’s why the passes are such amazing places to go diving. You can find literally anything here from the smallest like plankton, the most beautiful and diverse corals to massive schools of tuna. However, the most popular of them all are the sharks and the giant mantas! We didn’t yet get to see any of the mantas, but sharks were there in abundance.

Sharks!

When anchoring in any of the lagoons of French Polynesia, you will be surrounded by massive amounts of blacktip reef sharks. These are completely harmless and feed on small fish. You usually won´t see them directly around the ship, but they are there all right. While on Manihi, we tried to catch some fish for the BBQ, but much of this fishing was disturbed by sharks biting the lines. Arent and Matty eventually managed to actually catch (and release) some of these sharks.

When we were on Toau, I decided to do some spearfishing. This is something we already did on the other atolls and usually works pretty well. Just let me give you the following advice though… If you ever decide to do spearfishing around atolls, do it inside the lagoons where you will only get blacktip sharks.

I was not given this advice and since we were on the outside of the atoll, I went for a nice dive (on my own) with the speargun. It was so cool, the fish were lining up for me because every time when I shot a good BBQ fish, another one came and sat down in its place, investigating what all the fuzz was all about. So, within no time I had a large parrotfish (very good for raw fish salad) and 3 big groupers (very good on Matty’s BBQ) and I decided to get back to the ship. On the way I noticed a couple of whitetip reefsharks and since I really enjoy watching sharks, I was happy to see them. However, they were also quite happy to see me and were not swimming away from me at all. That’s when I realized that I was carrying 4 big fish around as pretty good shark bait. The whitetip sharks started to come at me and I actually had to push them away on their noses. At least I was defending my dinner! Trust me, it sounds cooler than it was at the time. I didn’t wet my wetsuit until I saw a large shape coming at me with vertical stripes on it. It was the biggest shark I had ever seen in the wild and it was a tiger shark!!! Now, most sharks don’t scare me that much since they’re usually harmless. The tiger shark however is among the most dangerous in the world and clearly this was reason to get my wetsuit a bit wetter on the inside. I decided to part with my dinner plans and within seconds the beautiful catch was devoured by even more sharks than I had noticed so far.

Fakarava wall of sharks picture from http://www.wildencounters.net

After this adventure, you probably would imaging that we had enough of sharks. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. On Fakarava we went on a couple of dives with a local diveshop to the north pass of the island and the unthinkable happened. The sharks actually never have been more boring. Hundreds and thousands of them are swimming around the pass and there is no way to look anywhere without seeing them. The coolest thing is that these passes also have dolphins swimming around and very often mantas. We were sadly not lucky enough to dive with these magnificent creatures.

Whales

Finished now? No, not at all… On Tahiti we decided to do some even more exciting underwater exploration, but this time with only a snorkel. The Society Islands are continuously visited by humpback whales with calves. Understandably, the tropical waters are an amazing nursery for whales. Whales tend to use the shallow reefs around the islands as resting places. While mommy is sleeping at a depth of about 20 meters, the calf can easily swim up and down to breathe. An adult humpback can hold her breath for about half an hour. A calve can only hold its breath for 5 minutes, so mother and calve try to stay shallow until the calve has grown up.

This provides people like Boukje and me with a great opportunity. Swimming with humpback whales! Sadly we couldn’t find any resting whales because it was a Saturday and there were many whale watching trips out there who created a lot of noise with their outboard engines. However, after following 2 whales with a calf around for about 2 hours, most of these whale watching trips finally went back to port and we got a chance to jump in the path of the whales. Twice we saw them swimming underneath us from a distance of only a few meters!!!

Diving is amazing here and the oceanic life is magnificent. We hope to see some more brilliant things along the rest of the way, but for now we can enjoy some of the most spectacular experiences that the ocean has to offer.

  1. Lieve Rolf en Boukje, stoere zeehelden, wat en geweldige avonturen!
    Owww, ik krijg er kriebels van in mijn buik.
    Grote zoenen voor jullie beiden,
    en ik probeer snel te bellen
    xxHen

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