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French Polynesia consists of the Marquises, the Tuamotu, Societies, Gambier and the Australes. Currently we are in the Societies and these islands are blessed in both landscape and climate. They form a combination between the lush, imposing mountains of the Marquises, surrounded by beautiful lagoons enclosed by reefs, such as in the Tuamotus.
Nice trade winds and beautiful anchorages make it a sailors paradise. If we have to mention a disadvantage, it is that there is more tourism (even though there are still no big ugly tourist hotels anywhere) and that people are therefore less open and enthusiastic because they simply have a lot more people around them. There are relatively busy places in the Societies but there are also many quiet beautiful paradises to be found.
Suddenly there are REAL large supermarkets here again with a ridiculous assortment of tasty things. And countless restaurants, food vans, terraces .... We look like two children let loose in a candy store. If you're not careful here, the pounds will fly and the money will go! In 1 day Tahiti we spend more than in the entire last month!
After sailing out of Fakarava, we arrive in Tahiti two nights later by boat. The contrast between the Tuamotu and Papeete (the capital) is enormous. Suddenly you can no longer count people, there are just too many. Cars seem to be there even more, if possible, the air stinks (is that because we are so used to it or do cars stink worse here?). Yet we also enjoy the conviviality, the fact that you can buy things more easily, go out and eat out. At the same time, we see even more clearly than before that we live in an incredibly throwaway society. For example, in the Tuamotus we could take a long time to fill the small wastebasket, now it is suddenly full again almost every day! It's really hard to get around that. It's such a shame that so many things simply end up in the garbage after one-time use!
We will stay at 1 anchorage for no less than 2.5 weeks, the YachtClub. Here are all old acquaintances, very nice to see so many people again and everything we want to do here is slowly through the many socializing. The Heiva -the July party- has also started in the meantime. Scantily clad women swing their hips to the stirring music that the men conjure from their drums. Not only is there dancing, but there are also many competitions, a traditional competition is, for example, running a course with a heavy load of fruit/vegetables on your shoulders. They take it very seriously, the winner is a real hero.
At the YachtClub we can anchor for free and thanks to our super fast dinghy, we can go straight to the city center. It's about 3.5 miles and takes 15 minutes. During this period we really use the dinghy as a car, but we still like dinghy sailing much more than driving! When we have finished our DIY list in Papeete, we can of course go sailing around Tahiti. Also here seem to be many beautiful and quiet places, but no, we decide to sail to Moorea.
Moorea is a beautiful island and we are quietly anchored on a very beautiful piece at the 'Tiki Garden'. Light blue clear water, white sandy ground and just in front of the boat a Tiki garden with old Tikis that have been dropped in the water here. The missionaries who wanted to give their opinion if necessary (and still speak fanatically) wanted to get rid of the authentic Tikis. We personally think it is a great pity that they have managed to dissuade people from their own faith and force theirs but that aside. On Moorea we also see tourism again, but - just like in Tahiti and the other Societies - they don't put people in ugly white buildings. No, the tourists are put ON the water in beautiful natural wooden huts. It costs something, but then you also have something and it really looks great in the landscape!
It is teeming with stingrays and sharks
We hear from others that there is a shallow spot in the lagoon where they feed stingrays, which appears to be spectacular. Stingrays are not harmless, Steve Irwin (you know, 'the crocodile hunter') was killed by such an animal! Yet we want to experience what it is like to see those animals up close. Frans shoots a fish with our speargun, the fish gets a drink, then we cut the wretch into pieces and set off ... When we arrive with the dinghy at about the place where it should be, immediately countless stingrays swim in. ! Oh and I already see the sharks ...
©Ilona Kooistra Moorea, stingray feeding station
Frans is the man, so he must first. Go on, don't pretend, be tough and everyone does this, I say (actually a bit false) to him. Luckily he doesn't want to be a sissy and he goes into the water first. When I see that nothing is happening with Frans, I also enter the water - very cowardly. It is teeming with rays and sharks, not normal anymore! When we start feeding them (the rays, not the sharks), they come around us like eager young dogs and just climb up towards the food. Wow! And they are incredibly soft. If you tell your wife she's as soft as (the bottom of) a stingray, that's a big compliment ;-) We go to this shallow spot in the lagoon five times in total, we can't get enough of this fantastic animals and the special experience of being so close to them. The animals are completely natural and completely free, there is no restriction on them, but they like to be here and get something now and then.
Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray when he swam after it to film the animal up close. Unfortunately, that ray was not used to people, felt threatened and attacked hard with its tail, piercing poor Steve's heart ... So it remains to be careful with these animals, they must not feel threatened.
This is one of the less touristy islands and a true paradise in certain places. There are even really uninhabited motus (small islands). When we arrive in Huahine after a short night sailing from Moorea, we anchor in a nice quiet place, no sign of tourism! A little later a man comes to paddle in a canoe. He has a nice face but is stupid (can't speak I mean ;-)) He proudly shows his two albums with stories he has collected from cruisers over time and the man turns out to be called PAUL - in capital letters! - . We ask him on board, write a story in his album and talk with hands and feet. A sympathetic man and great that he goes to the sailors so spontaneously. As a thank you we get two coconuts and can get as much as we want from him, he gestures. In return, we give him a pack of cookies and he seems to appreciate that.
A few days later we sail to the other side of Huahine, there we rent a car for 4 hours and that is enough time to drive around the WHOLE island and see all the sights. It is an unspoilt island with lovely inhabitants, not much tourism, not much money but the people seem happy :-)
Raiatea and Tahaa
These two islands lie within the same reef, the lower island is called Raiatea and the upper Tahaa. The former is again a somewhat busier place and a place where there are many charter boats. In Tahaa is a 'Coral garden' where it seems to be choking with tropical fish because people from the neighboring resort (you know with those beautiful and expensive huts above the water) feed them daily. The so-called coral garden is located between two small motus, in shallow water with all kinds of coral, anemones, clams and water plants. You anchor your dinghy at the beginning of the small island and then walk along it to the back where you enter the water and then float back with the light current. When we enter the water, we think for a moment, well, that's fantastic ... we don't see any fish. However, when I open the bag with stale bread and banana and hold a piece in the water, fish are rushing from all sides. Not normally so much fish anymore !!! And what beautiful colors and types. The fish are extremely tame, some even bolder and more at ease than others. They eat from your hand and if you don't give a new one when it is finished, they swim very cheekily towards your diving goggles with a look of 'hey, I want more!'. We glide through the water with a cloud of colored tropical fish around us. Indescribable, so beautiful.
This is of course one of the most famous islands and is blessed with a beautiful bright blue lagoon and two famous mountain peaks that rise from it. The rich and famous is on Bora Bora, not on the main island but on the motus around it. And you can park your boat in their expensive view for free and for free, ha! All motus around Bora Bora are filled with super expensive resorts, all with the view of the famous mountain peaks of Bora Bora. The island itself is quiet and inhabited by the normal local people. The main island is not expensive and sheik but very cozy!
Our last island of the Societies is Maupiti. A tiny island consisting of a high mountain that you can walk around in a few hours. Little tourism, no hotels, spontaneous population and an abundance of fruit trees (that is everywhere in the Societies, just like in the Marquises). The pass to enter the surrounding lagoon is infamous and ..... terrifying indeed! At least, when we arrive from the sea it seems as if there is no pass, as if the big waves break IN the pass. Only when you are very close can you see that the waves are only breaking on the reefs next to the pass and that the narrow pass itself has flat water. There is a continuous outflow of water and the pass is narrow and lies exactly on the side from which often the swell and a current-opposing wind come from. It is also not straight but in a bend. Enough ingredients to make it a scary passage and all residents know that it is possible to get stuck for two weeks because the pass becomes inaccessible. Some cruisers take the risk, well, what's so bad about being locked up in paradise for two weeks ??? There are many mantas swimming here, also near the boat. A resident tells us that they sometimes see 15 to 20 at a time ... That must be really impressive, but unfortunately we have not had the luck to see it with our own eyes.
I wrote the above paragraph yesterday, today we know what it feels like to be trapped in a paradise! We left early this morning, the locals told us that the pass today would be difficult but that it might just be between 6 and 7. When we arrived at the pass we saw that there are high standing waves in the pass passage, nowhere was flat water. Fortunately, you have a good view of it from the lagoon to the sea. The wind is too strong and the swell is too high! There is always an outgoing current here so we had to decide in time before we might not be able to go back and get sucked into the narrow pass with high standing waves. Brr! NO GO. It looked too fierce, we don't want to take the risk. Back to the anchorage then. With this back to the internet we can upload this blog (the photos and the video still had to be in it) before we leave for the next destination. Most of the disadvantages also have their advantages ;-) Today we wanted to leave for Suwarrow, but we have to wait .. Suwarrow is an uninhabited atoll in a nature reserve, belonging to the Cook Islands, but it is very secluded. There are 1 or 2 rangers who have to make sure that no wrong things happen in the nature reserve, but they themselves seem to be pretty crazy types that cruisers like to take on spontaneously made up expeditions. The rangers are dropped there after the cyclone season with a supply of fuel and food and they have to do that for the entire season. The snorkeling seems to be special and the water very clear. The trip there is about 650 nautical miles and the weather can be very annoying so the forecasts must be good, we cannot start this crossing every moment because you have to deal with that annoying spcz ... what In that respect it might be a bit annoying to be locked up in paradise because the goedweersgat is closing ... But patience is a virtue and we can also do plenty of things here and it remains beautiful here too!