May 28, 2015. KAUEHI ATOLL, TUAMOTUS
The timing was right we arrived at 0800 to Arikitamiro pass at Kauehi atoll. This small atoll is in the heart of Fakarava’s Unesco classified biosphere reserve, in the NW part of Tuamotus archipelago. 15nm (24km) long and 11nm (18km) wide. Water level coral ring formed around the summit of a 50 million year old emerged volcano. Some of the islands have two entrance, Kauehi has only one 200 meter wide pass to sail into the deep water lagoon. As we approached the SE side of the reef, the dark blue sea turned into a beautiful turquoise water and provided easy anchorage near to the line of small coral islands filled with coconut palm trees and shallow tiny bays between. It turned out latter that those bays are the favourite place for the Reef Blacktip Sharks.
We dropped anchor in 15 feet water in a good holding sand near to the shore. Only one boat near by. This is the way I imagined the South Pacific.
The first two days we had picture perfect days, lots of snorkelling, exploring the underwater world. The South Pacific still have the colourful sea life with all kinds and colour of coral formation and tropical fishes, compared the Caribbean Sea.
Since we had seen so many groupers earlier Jessica & Jason (J&J) decided to go spear fishing on the second day hoping to get a fish for lunch. Apparently on the second attempt Jason got the fish and while hurrying it to the kayak Jessica got chased by a small shark. Their adventure turned out a lesson to learned. As they returned with the grouper the fish’s sharp fin punctured the inflatable kayak, and after opening the fish there was a sign of ciguatera (fish poisoning). So, that was the end of the great sport of spear fishing in the future as well.
However, we founded a new fun. As the tide/current is changing in every 6 hours, the water running out of those small bays with incredible speed so the “speed drift snorkelling” became a daily activity.
On the third day when every one decided to take a break from fun, I ventured out on my own to discover those small islands. The shore from the boat looks like covered by white sand, but as soon as I set foot on the island it turned out to be small shells and corals, hard to walk on with bare foot. The islands are heavily grown in with palm trees and bushy bottom grows. The heavy Pacific waves are constantly pounding the outside reef and in certain area flooding the reef creating speedy current. This current really makes the snorkelling more enjoyable. I was glad to have my wetsuit on, I spent close to 3 hour drift snorkelling with all the colourful tropical fishes, amongst fascinating coral formation. I know there are lots of reef sharks around and in back of mine mind I was wishing to see one or two. Most of the coral heads accommodate those incredible colourful clams what not recommended to touch because it can close in powerfully. As I deeply enjoyed the underwater life and while I was submerging to get a closer look at the corals, all of a sudden I found myself face to face with a Blacktip Reef Shark. Needles to say my heart rate increased immediately. It was scary but fascinating in the same time. He gave me a good look and slowly swam away. Well, this is it? I thought, I need more excitement, start chasing him but he was long gone. My obsession increased for an other experience and I did not have to wait to long to see an other one.
The rum & coke never tasted as delicious as my story telling drink, after I returned to the boat.
In the morning we decided to sail to Tearavero the only village in the Motu. It took about one hour of motoring to get there. The average depth of the water on the way is about 150 feet deep, however from that depth, still coral heads are towering up to keep the navigators alert. Some of them has a size of a small coral island, surrounded with breathtaking turquoise water. There is a sign of pearl farming in the past on those coral islands (small Motu) with abandoned houses and broken docks. Apparently the pearl farming diminished due to government regulation s and taxation. The locals switched to copra (coconut) it is timely procedure, growing, harvesting, husking, drying, shipping to Tahiti for processing. Coconut oil has a great health benefit.
Once, the village had 700 habitants, nowadays, only 140 remained on the island. Polynesian people celebrating Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of May and we were lucky to be part of it. On our first visit to the village we got invited to the party where the locals celebrated the Mother’s Day. They shared their drink with us and the sound of the romantic Polynesian music. Men were playing on ukuleles, while the ladies were singing their favourite songs. What a treat was that.
The weather called for strong wind. It was blowing up to 35knt all day long. Only four sailboats anchored in the front of the village and a French couple, the husband is operating his diving business from his sail boat and his wife is teaching in the local school. We all anchored in deeper water about 800 meter front of the village because of the crystal clear shallow water is full of coral heads.
I had a mission that day to find the pearl farm and learned about pearl farming. I only found the reminder of pearl farm with empty shells. Our next destination is Fakarava where pearl farming is still in full operation.