We arrived at the pass of Raroia around 11 and Ian jumped in the dinghy to check out the current which had to be slack and preferably inflowing. As I watched, I realised I was more worried than I had ever been since living on board. The last time we had entered a pass we lost an engine and we had been warned about the dangers of getting through passes so I was really nervous. Ian came back all smiles and shouted ‘piece of cake’. We then proceeded to sail through without any problems at all. We were inside this beautiful lagoon and all we needed to do was find an anchorage. We were the only boat so had lots of choices and dropped anchor just off the village. There are bommies everywhere in the Tuamotos islands – and it’s highly recommended you float your chain. This means you need to add a heavy duty float every 5 or so meters to lift the chain from the bottom to prevent getting it entangled in the coral. Problem was we had no floats but we’re told that they often wash up on the shore and we may be in luck finding one, so we set off to walk the shore hunting for a float. The shore line is all coral so we needed sturdy shoes and within about 20 minutes we had found about 20 – we chose the five best ones and took them back and floated the chain. Now we were all set to go and explore.
They had a small but functional harbour where we put the dinghy and wandered around. We found the one and only shop, bought some vegs and bread and went on the hunt for internet but in there islands of only 500-1,000 people they only have a wi-fi hi spot at the postoffice so we are off grid for a few weeks.
While wandering around we met a young English guy who had just returned to the anchorage from the other side of the atoll. He invited us to go out with some local guys spear fishing. We were very happy to let the locals take us out because fishing in the pass can be dangerous with the strong currents and the sharks, and we reckoned they knew exactly where to go! All the guys jumped in and us cruisers came back with lots of little fish and the local guys came back with huge fish! They also had to swim back to the boat with their catch up in the air to prevent the sharks from taking their fish. We caught a huge amount of fish and they then pointed out the ones we couldn’t eat due to cigatera poisoning.
We were given one of their huge fish to keep and also invited back to their house for a fish bbq that night. We bought some rice and they literally just put the biggest ones on the homemade wood bbq and we all just had a fork and honed in. It was delicious and so simply done. Their sister joined us and told us she made jewellery so I took a look at her work and bought a pretty gold coloured pearl on a leather thong. Its a beautiful reminder of a lovely village and the beautiful people we met. After dinner we all went to the sand track outside their house and played boules and because they knew all the ruts in the road they beat the pants off all of us which was very amusing. I expect all their visitors get thrashed! It was just a lovely evening.
The next day Ian joined them playing football and came back exhausted – not only were they all 30 years younger than him but they were all super fit – he took all day to recover!
We spent a few days before heading off to the uninhabited island of Tahanea. We were choosing atolls that had easy passes so we made sure we arrived at slack water and sailed in without any problem. We were the only boat there but another boat turned up about an hour later and we all decided to go dinghy drift snorkelling. The current was running in and so we just jumped in the water and let the dinghy pull us along while we held on. We were amazed at the shark life. There were hundreds of them all lazing on the ocean floor totally ignoring us – we went through so fast that we did it again. It was an incredible sight and I realised how healthy these reefs are. That night we had dinner on our friends boat and all four of us came to the conclusion it was the best snorkel we’d ever done.
Our next atoll was the tiny island of Katiu. This island has a small dock which we tied onto – we were going to head into the atoll but the pass looked so narrow we didn’t think we would fit. Being in a dock was nice because we could just wander into the village. That evening we became the focal point for the villagers who came down to say ‘hi’ to us. The village consisted of two roads and a bitumen section running out to the airport.
Whilst taking an evening stroll along the coastal road, a tiny truck stopped to talk to us. They invited us to go back to their house and so we jumped in and they took us about 7km out of them to their small holding on the beach. It was a gorgeous location with their daughter’s house sharing the plot. The lady’s name was Caroline and she was half German. Her father came to the island 50 years ago and stayed… I think she was the only villager with European blood and she was very proud of her heritage. They were delightful and gave us some water, papayas and lemons. They dropped us back to the boat with a promise to come and visit us again.
True to her word Caroline turned up the next morning and took us to the municipal offices to get some internet. The Municipal office has the only internet on the island and they were fine with letting us use it – so we called home and sorted out all our business. Living without the internet is fine but we love it when we can get a connection!
We spent a few days snorkelling, swimming and enjoying Katiu and then headed off to Fakarava.
Fakarava is one of the biggest atolls in the Tuamotos and is famous for its diving as it has so many sharks. Its huge – about 30nm long and has two passes. We entered at the north pass which was the easiest and anchored just outside the village. Mare was anchored just a few meters from us so we had our Swiss friends Christian and Ester for company.
We decided to spend a couple of weeks in Fakarava as we wanted to do some diving and explore both passes. As we came in we passed Ikigai with our friends Paul and Kirsten. They were heading off to another atoll but we agreed to catch up in Tahiti. The north pass was about 10nm from the anchorage so we went with a company rather than take our dinghy. It was an incredible dive, with mantas, sharks, stingrays, turtles and literally hundreds of fish. The clarity was much better than in Galapagos and the range of fish life was some of the best we’d seen.
One day we joined a religious procession. They had the church service outside wuth cruisers joining in and slowly made their way back to the church for the rest of the service. Their singing was amazing with strong voices sung with deep feeling – they all dress up and its the highlight of their week. After the service we all went back for coffee and cake on a friends boat.
The rest of our time on Fakarava was spent in the south. We found a small dive resort and went snorkelling in the famous wall of sharks. There were literally hundreds of them – all completely ignoring us (thank goodness) just swimming around or lying on the bottom.
While we were there we saw a yacht that had broken it’s mooring a few months before and ended up on the reef. It was a stark reminder to all us of of how easy it is to get into serious trouble in these atolls – many boats are lost in French Polynesia and it makes us very wary of the weather and the conditions.
Our time in the Tuamotos was coming to an end we needed to get to Tahiti as we were running out of our visa. We went back to the north pass and spent our last few days enjoying the beauty of the island.
Gorgeous and idyllic. Big hugs to both of you from us
Thanks Helen. Big hugs back to you and Robert xx
Never cease to be amazed at what a wonderful life you are having. What happens when you have a dream then a master plan then put it all into action. 🤞🙏Congratulations.
Hi Kaye – sorry been offline. Yes it’s great when all the plans come together and we can actually live our dream. The real beauty of it is that there are so many unexpected bonuses like all the precious time we spend with the local people learning about their cultures and traditions. Its been an amazing adventure and there’s still lots to come… xxx hugs
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Excellent location – what an adventure! Love the various colours of the fish.
But most of the colourful ones were the poisonous ones – plenty to go round though. Xx