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Monday, September 06, 2010

Bora Bora

We haven't been having much in the way of adventures since arriving in Bora Bora. In fact it took 12 nights here before we even stepped on shore at the island itself! Instead we've focused on a motu oriented life which, since they're all privately owned, means hanging out on the boat and in the water around the motus.

The snorkeling is mostly poor here. Places advertised as "coral gardens" were devastated by natural events like El Ninos and cyclones and will take years to recover. But we keep poking around wherever we happen to be anchored and John usually manages to find something interesting like a lionfish or an eel. I'm happy just being in clear water and the smallest things will hold my interest. We had one good day inside the reef west of Motu Topua, but you really have to get right up next to it to find much live coral. The coral garden at the extreme southeast corner of the lagoon (around Pt. Faroone) was a desert of bare tan rock surrounded by black spiny urchins on top of the sand. The tour boats seem to focus on feeding stingrays and sharks since there's nothing much else to see. Probably our best day of snorkeling was on the reef behind the anchorage at Motu Tupe. There's a beautiful live coral reef running the length of the drop off between a green navigation mark and a black and yellow West cardinal mark. We saw corals there that we haven't seen anywhere else, though no big fish. Manta rays are supposed to run along here and John spotted two before it disappeared into the depths. My "trophy" was watching a big moray eel free swim from a small rock with no place to hide to a larger hidey hole. But the biggest surprise was seeing a juvenile Pacific Sailfin Tang for the first time, a very unusually shaped and colorful little fish. Water clarity is an issue when it's been windy, and return trips to this reef were murkier than the first visit.

{GMST}16|29.582|S|151|42.238|W|Motu Tupe|Bora Bora{GEND}

A bonus of hanging out with other boats is getting to play with their toys. Ed on Quixotic is a certified dive instructor and has enough gear on board to share. So John went out with him for a shallow dive on the above mentioned reef. Since John already does a lot of free-diving he was perfectly comfortable with the scuba experience. Ed also has a kite board with small, medium, and large kites. He doesn't have a harness to fit John so Ed and Robert have been taking turns learning the ins and outs of flying the kite with John acting as sag wagon for them in the dinghy.

Before they could start flying the kites though, they had to get together to fix the kite bladders which were all failing at the fill nipples. This was a major undertaking which took so long that they finally perfected their technique using lots of 5200. Other projects for the guys included trying to repair Quixotic's inverter (which proved to be inoperable, but John had a brand new small one which should tide them over until they can get what they really need); replacing a steering eye bolt on Nakia which was literally hanging by two threads of remaining metal - potentially catastrophic had it failed transiting one of the narrow passes we go in and out of at each island; and Robert discovered a leak in his fuel tank on Freedom which he's in the process of fixing before they leave for their long passage back to California - very important!

We've had weather all over the map here. The day I last wrote we had a big front pass through, complete with thunder and lightning which is very unusual. Needless to say we filled our tanks and did laundry with all the excess water we caught by plugging up the side decks. A week later the winds had died, the swell was down, and we should have left for Maupiti. But who wants to move when it's so beautiful and you're enjoying the company of friends? We were lazy and complacent and we missed the best weather window possible for entering the narrow pass at Maupiti. Now we're paying for our inertia by sitting out increasingly breezy days with no end in sight for at least another week. More rain is going through this weekend and the water is murky with the sand getting stirred up by waves coming over the outside reef.

We'll probably move back down to the really shallow water at the SE corner soon for an internet fix. We've been able to buy Wi-Fi time through Hotspot and the signal has been good in places like Motu Taurere (but not at Motus Tupe or Topua) and from the moorings at Bloody Mary's. It's expensive and mostly slow, but it's a diversion and John can get a better handle on weather with the additional resources.

{GMST}16|31.887|S|151|42.358|W|Motu Taurere|Bora Bora{GEND}

I hate to rave too much because we've been restaurant deprived for so long that we may be easily bowled over by any place, but I have to say that we had one of the best cheeseburgers and fries at Bloody Mary's, not to mention their house specialty drink which was a perfect blend of spices and tomato juice. The ambiance (a sand floor where you're invited to check your sandals or shoes at the entrance) was the perfect mix of casual elegance, and best of all the lunch time menu was a bargain for French Polynesia. Burgers (including a generous portion of steak fries) started at 1000 CFP and a Bloody Mary was 650 CFP. We had such a great time that we made the mistake of returning for drinks and appetizers with Sidewinder that night and ended up spending a whopping amount at the bar. Funny how that happens especially when you're saying goodbye to friends you won't be seeing for a long time!

{GMST}16|31.655|S|151|44.660|W|Bloody Marys|Bora Bora{GEND}

We're back at Motu Tupe now where we girls forked over the big bucks to visit the Lagoonarium. This is a private motu with chaise lounges on a sandy beach fronting fenced fish pens and including a "turtle rescue program." We initially understood the cost to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-20 which would be reasonable. But when we started to hand over our 1500 CFP apiece we were told that the cost was 2500 CFP. Since the guys had opted out we decided to go proceed at the higher price (all it takes to reel me in is "turtles"). It turned out to be a lovely, if eco-questionable, place, but sadly short on small, colorful fish. The emphasis is on the big pen containing captive blacktip and gray sharks, along with stingrays and a pair of spotted eagle rays. There were also some large pufferfish, and schools of jacks and other big fish. Two small, shallow pens let tourists get even closer to stingrays. The even smaller turtle pen housed five sea turtles with an elevated wooden walkway for viewing them from above. No swimming is allowed in the turtle pen although you can wade in to hold your camera underwater for pictures. We watched as a group of tourists brought in by boat was herded first to the turtle pen where a guide hauled one of the turtles (flapping its fins in vain) out of the water onto the sand for a photo op and lots of touching. Then on to the shallow stingray pen where guides rode the rays like bucking broncos until they finally hauled one up to show off its two male organs, tail (stinger broken off), and mouth, again with more touching. Finally the big finale - everyone into the water for the shark feeding frenzy. And then everyone out of the water to line up for a buffet lunch with musical accompaniment ("La Bamba" - in French - on the ukulele). Since we weren't part of the tour our admission entitled us to a lovely plate of fruit for our group of three. I have to admit, it was the best pamplemousse, watermelon, coconut, and bananas I've ever paid for!