Sunday, July 3, 2016

THIS is why we came here! - Tahanea Tuamotu


We have been at the remote and beautiful motu (coral atoll) of Tahanea for two weeks and it has been glorious. The only people living here, as far as we can tell, are a (temporary) group of men who are harvesting coconuts and making copra to sell in Tahiti. Occasionally a panga comes in to drop off containers of water and supplies and to pick up the bags of copra. Although Tom can access his email via HF radio, I cannot and have been without internet for three weeks. Not sure when I'll have access again, but you'll know when I do because I'll be answering emails then.

For the first couple of days after our arrival the northerly winds continued to blow but we were anchored snugly on the north side of this 9-mile wide atoll (9 mi wide x 25 mi long). The first day we arrived I jumped in the water and was astounded by the crystal clarity of the water and the plethora of colorful reef fish. That afternoon another boat pulled into our anchorage; it was the sailboat JACARANDA, friends of friends in La Paz who told us to "keep an eye out" for this boat. Also, I have been talking to the owner Chuck fairly regularly on the Single Side Band (HF) radio nets since we were three days out of La Paz, so we felt like we knew Chuck and his companion Linda before we'd even met face to face.

We spent the next five days in the north anchorage, hanging out with Chuck and Linda, taking beach walks, and enjoying some excellent snorkeling. Linda is an avid snorkeler and turned us on to a coral bommie near their boat that was rich with marine life. We identified numerous fishes including pipefish (cousin to the seahorse), reef sharks, giant morays and of course the ubiquitous types of parrot fish in all their phases and sexual orientations. (Some of them transform from female to male, so much easier than for humans!)

The passes of The Tuamotu atolls are famous for their clear water, coral gardens and sea life. You must time your dives so that the current carries you INTO the atoll, as opposed to out to sea where you will never be found again. When the winds and seas calmed down to a navigable degree Tom and I dinghied out to the westernmost pass and had an exciting drift dive into the pass which we shared with at least three manta rays. We were hit by a rather severe squall at the end of the dive and realized we could no longer see the location of our boat! Note to selves, next time bring a GPS. But we knew the general direction of the boat and were able to find our way back as the squall lifted.

We had heard that there was a fantastic wall dive outside this pass (on the open ocean side), and finally there was a day where the seas were calm enough to attempt this dive. Chuck and Linda joined us and we headed out to see if the conditions would allow us to exit the safety of the motu. We timed the tide perfectly, the wind and wave conditions were sufficiently calm so we dinghied outside and dropped into the clear water with over a deep wall and pristine coral gardens filled with sea life. We were awe-struck at the beauty and richness of the reef and wall. We were even visited by a curious wahoo (no speargun, argh!) while gray reef sharks swam below us. As we approached the entrance to the pass (dragging our dinghy behind us), we were swept into the channel for a fun ride in the current until we reached the calm waters inside the lagoon. We had time for a second drift dive and we all agreed that this spot was world class and right up there with some of the best diving we had ever experienced, and we weren't even on SCUBA. We were so high over the experience that we even visited another bommie inside the lagoon for one last snorkel. We knew the winds were shifting to the south-east and we would need to travel to the south side of the lagoon the next day so this was our last chance for diving.

After five days in the northern anchorage we readied Cinnabar for the 9-mile motor across the lagoon. Even though the day was calm and without waves due to the protection of the reef surrounding the lagoon we had to keep a constant look-out for very real and just-awash uncharted coral bommies, so we slowly made our way across the lagoon and breathed a sigh of relief as we found our next location to drop the anchor. The attraction of the south side of the motu is kiting. Tom couldn't wait for the SE winds to arrive so he could inflate his kite and enjoy some fun on the water. Later on that day another boat, NAOMA with Ryan and Nicole, anchored nearby. Turns out Ryan used to run a kiting school, so Tom would have a first-rate companion for the upcoming excitement.

More on the south anchorage and terrific kiting later...


  1. Soooo envious! We loved Tahanea too but only had about 3 days there.