Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fatu Hiva 2

Thursday dawned calm and clear, so I hopped in the kayak at first light and paddled around the bay at Hanavave. Its really a remarkable setting, with cliffs rising nearly vertically from the sea, and yet covered with palm trees, ironwood trees, and other unfamiliar vegetation. There were only two small spots at which I could land the kayak, so I soon headed back to the boat and swapped out the kayak for snorkeling gear. Vicki accompanied me.

Now we're talking! This is why I wanted to come to the South Pacific. Even with all of the runoff from the recent heavy rain, visibility is at least 40 feet, and the water is a remarkable deep blue color. The first fish we saw was a 5' long whitetip reef shark, which continued on its way without as much as a glance in our direction. Soon we had reached the edge of the bay, and were surrounded by a psychedelic array of reef fish, mostly under a foot in length, with an extraordinary variety of colors and patterns. Other than Moorish idols, we only recognized a few as similar to the fish in Mexico. There are no coral reefs on this volcanic island, but corals and sponges grow thickly in places, on the boulders and cliffsides that form the boundaries of this underwater realm. Soon we spotted a large, speckled moray eel, and soon after that, a sea turtle. We continued our circuit around the perimeter of the anchorage. After awhile, we retraced our path, reluctant to cross the deep center of the bay. But there was no need to worry, we never saw another shark.

The highlight of the dive came as we were passing close by the large French catamaran, Charade. Below and to one side was a manta ray, just hanging out. This was only a modestly sized manta, about 5 feet from wingtip to wingtip (they can grow to over 20 feet). It was not at all shy, and allowed me to make several close approaches as it glided back and forth near the catamaran. The captain told me that it was there every day since they had arrived.

We finally decided it was time to head back to the boat. Thankfully we had gotten up and done this early in the day, because before long, the rain resumed with the same intensity as the day before, and the bay turned chocolate brown.

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