Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rangiroa: the Image of French Polynesia

These atolls are so low you can hardly see them. That is
why there are shipwrecks in this area of the Pacific Ocean.
White sand beaches - finally!
One of our most favorite places so far has been Rangiroa in the Tuamotu island group. It rhymes with "kangaroo." Actually the Tuamotus are atolls. These are very low islands and difficult to see as you are approaching. What exists today is really the rim of very old volcanos that have sunk back into the ocean. Coral has grown along the sides of the rim and into the sea to form the coral reefs. They are almost completely surrounded by coral reefs with limited and tricky passages into the lagoons.

The mountain rim is so low that the oceans swells actually move across the large inner lagoons and out the other side. It is not the place to be in a tsunami! Here we saw white sandy beaches with the palm trees and the thatched huts in the water for the first time. This is what we were expecting to see in French Polynesia.
This lagoon is about 45 miles long from east to west and. 18 miles across. The entire island of Tahiti could fit inside the lagoon. The
Our guides called me "Mother" so I renamed them Nick,
Jon and Ben! They were a lot of fun and very helpful.
central lagoon is surrounded by smaller islands known as "motus" and many of them belong to specific families. Instead of going "up north" to the cottage, they just travel across the lagoon to their motu. Usually there is a little hut for storing their personal items and that is about all. We have our cottages; the Aussies have their walk-abouts. And the Polynesians have their motus!

Snorkeling was great in the crystal clear water!
One of the highlights of our stay here was the daylong snorkeling tour. We took a 45 minute boat ride to our guide Ivan familys motu. On the way out, we motored through the passage in where the current is swift and about 80 dolphins live and play in the current. Then we continued across the lagoon to what looked like paradise!
Traversing a lagoon with Sandra and Tom from
S/V Sweet Pearl. At times the current was very swift.

After we all climbed out of the boat to walk into shore with one of the guides, we snorkeled in a beautiful lagoon and saw many different kinds of fish and healthy coral. Our guide, Mario, climbed a coconut palm to gather a branch of leaves and coconuts. He then wove a plate on which he served fresh coconut as a mid-morning snack.

The coral wall holding back the swells.
He had us gather up our belongings and walk across the lagoon through the water. It got to be about 4.5 feet deep with a swift current. Keeping our balance while carrying things above our heads was challenging. The hike along the coral shore led us to an area of dead coral that has formed a high wall against the ocean swells. This a natural formation of coral that died long ago.

The flat atoll with the lagoon in the background.

Dennis as grill master!
Lovely palm hat!
After climbing up and jumping off the coral mounds into the pool below, we then waded across a larger lagoon to the family's hut where lunch was served. The other two guides were preparing a lunch of coconut bread, fish and chicken cooked on an open fire. They also served a rice and vegetable dish and fresh fruit followed by coconut cake. It was all delicious! The best part was the coconut bread cooked on the grill -heavy, but heavenly tasty!

My woven basket.
Then it was craft time! This was funny because they taught the gals how to weave a basket from palm leaves. I did not let on that I have been weaving things and baskets for 30 years. I was told that I caught on very fast! They actually made beautiful hats from the same leaves. I know I would not have looked so good on that one. Ivan had learned it from his grandmother. The tour operation has been the family business for years. I can see why one would like to make a daily trip to the motu just to soak up the beauty!
Imagine yourself relaxing on this little motu!
The Black Tip Sharks seem to know when it is lunch
at Ivan's motu as he feeds them leftovers everyday!
After lunch they feed the Black Tip Sharks some of the left overs. You should have seen them attack that food! They were right on shore in about one foot of water.
On the way back, we stopped at an area called the Aquarium. It is an area off the motu at the Avatoru Pass into the lagoon. Here they tossed in more of the leftovers from lunch to bring the fish to the surface. The water was almost solid with fish. This is when we jumped in to swim with them. No sharks here. There were hundreds of fish there!
These were the fish at the Aquarium when the food
was tossed into the water. There were hundreds of them!

We actually jumped into the mass of fish and swam with them. As we swam away from the feeding frenzy, we saw many other types of fish heading in for their share of the late afternoon snack. I think all of the tour boats come here and share the lunch remains with the fish. It was the best tour day we have had so far!
This was the first time we had seen the hotel resorts with the huts over the water. The Kia Ora hotel was just ashore of our anchorage. Although very beautiful, it was extremely expensive ($600 per person per night for a regular room). One of the boats booked a dinner reservation for four for a dinner that would run about $100 each plus libations! When they arrived in their sailing clothes and asked to use the internet, they were told they would not be served and were ask to leave! Note: we saw no other hotel guests the whole time we were there. One would think they would welcome our money. No one else from the WARC fleet bothered to book in there! Obviously, they didnt think our money was good enough!
The melt in your mouth quiche!
One thing I have learned over the years is that many people with a lot of money don't always dress to the nines! The fact is there are millions of dollars invested in these yachts and none of us are traveling with black tie attire! It is the old "don't judge a book by its cover" theory.
We had several really great meals on Rangiroa. The quiche I had was the best ever. The French really go heavy on the butter and cream. And, of course, the French bread and cheeses can't be beat! And the deck over the water at the passage made for interesting views: dolphins, tour boats and yachts fighting the current! It is a nice place to have a cocktail and relax as the sun sets.

1 comment:

  1. Sherry, we stayed at Kia Oro and their motu, Kia Savage.. It was heaven.. The diving in Rangiroa is amazing, and the channel pass was wonderful.Lots of sharks and other fabulous marine life.. We actually did snorkel in the lagoon when they fed the black tips... Crazy! Keep up the great job on the blog


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