Monday, May 20, 2013

Bora lagoon (with updates)

With the boat in relatively good order, and preparations for my student's oral exam complete, we decided to spend a few days exploring the lagoon surrounding Bora Bora. We set off under power, as we were starting from the downwind side of the island, and we found ourselves battling a 20 knot headwind. The anchorage that sounded most attractive was the furthest, naturally, and required threading our way through some intricate channels, complete with shoal depths and strong wind against equally strong current. At one point we saw a least depth of 9 feet (we draw 6.5). Two hours later, we had reached the extreme SE corner of the lagoon, and we anchored, improbably, next to a derelict power boat that reminded me of the liveaboard fleet back at Puerto Escondido. There were only two other sailboats, and one soon pulled anchor. To achieve the maximum amount of shelter from the strong E wind, we nosed in as closely as we could toward the shoreline of the motu, and put the hook down in 10 feet over a smooth bottom of silty sand. If we had misjudged the tide and were to go aground later, it would be a very soft bump! The wind was blowing a bit too hard for a dinghy ride, so we stayed onboard for the rest of the day. The next morning, we arose to a wonderful sunrise lighting up Bora's main peak, Otemanu. After breakfast, we loaded the dinghy with snorkeling gear and headed out to the seaward side of the motu, where we had heard there were nice coral gardens. Our initial appraisal showed only a few isolated coral heads amidst the sand, so we opted for a beachwalk instead, our first since Tahaa. Walking eastward, the lagoon narrowed, then the barrier reef merged with the motu, and we were only a few hundred feet from the open ocean, still breaking violently on the reef, though the swells have diminished over the last few days. At our turnaround point, we opted for an inland route, and soon found ourselves in a tiare flower plantation. There were also coconut palms and palmettos, and a few lakes that looked like great breeding grounds for mosquitoes. We ended up back on the lagoon side of the motu, and walked that shoreline back to the dinghy, stopping to admire a few nice bungalows, and Vitali's artwork, along the way. Back in the dink, we noticed a couple of excursion boats moored far out toward the barrier reef and realized that must be the place for good snorkeling. We motored out, then anchored far enough away that we would not arouse the ire of the tour operators for horning in on their site. Once in the water, we were delighted to find that the visibility was about 100 feet, the norm for these islands but far better than we had experienced so far this season with all the rain. We worked our way out toward the barrier reef, where the coral was heavily damaged from recent storms, but the formations were still beautiful. The current flowed strongly toward us, just like a river. Surprisingly, there were not many fish, and we soon found out why. Once the tour boats had left, we snorkeled over to their mooring buoys, and were promptly mobbed by a horde of small fish, mostly Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish, but also sargeant majors, parrotfish, triggerfish, and, lurking in the background, a posse of over a dozen blacktip reef sharks. Knowing they had been recently fed helped assure us that we would not be too tempting to them! (tried to upload some videos, but it looks like that option no longer exists!) The next day, we followed the same pattern: a long beachwalk on Matira Beach, reputedly the best beach on Bora: followed by snorkeling in another "coral garden" (none of the pictures I took here were very good, although the videos were nice). On Saturday, we pulled the anchor and returned to a mooring in front of the Bora Bora yacht club. On Sunday, we went scuba diving for the first time this season. We went with a commercial dive boat out of the pass to a dive spot on the outer reef wall. The main attraction here were the nine-foot lemon sharks, several of whom made very close approaches (again, I have video, but no stills). There were a number of other fish species present, including this unicornfish, but the coral was probably 90% dead.

1 comment:

Cathy Ellis said...

Hola amigos, wonderful photos and stories past 2 weeks...i am not envious of your engine issues, glad you finally sorted that out, but i am envious of those long sandy beaches and such clear snorkeling.......I am home-sweet-home now, with wonderful memories of our month aboard together recently...and i wonder, without me..... who is cleaning each lettuce leaf to perfection, with out my diligent use of me and your galley spray bottle to do that joyful job....???!!! I love you both and miss you so....see you next winter in Central Oregon, Happy Trails, love Cathy