Monday, July 17, 2017

Atoll Tahanea

We are finally back in the Tuamotus, where life is isolated to say the least! Only other atoll we had been to was Fakarava in May of 2016, but it has a marked channel and a population. The atoll of Tahanea is uninhabited and unmarked. Since our friends Birgit and Christian, on Pitufa, have spent several months each of the last 4 years in this atoll, we asked them to show us around and give us the trick for staying safe out here in Never Never Land!! I keep waiting for Tinkerbell and Peter Pan to show up to the boat!
We followed Pitufa across the atoll leaving around 10:30am.

It is mostly deep (from 100 to 50 feet), but it is important to cross inside the lagoon at the height of the sun so you can easily see the bombies. These are individual coral growths that can be like a bomb if you hit it with your hull. The water changes color and sometimes they even stick out of the water.

Liward sails right on by us (waterline!)

We went past an island in the middle of the atoll that was covered with lots of flying nesting birds. Too many to count!

On the South side we anchored behind the C reef (looks like a C from the satellite photos), and next to a large motu inside the outer reef.

Lili and I went shell hunting on the motu.

We found all kinds of interesting things, like this huge iron nail from who knows how long ago!

We also found a baby Boobie bird hiding from us. We did not get too close but he sure was cute in his down feathers.

We saw another nest with an egg in it, but no one sitting on it.

This bright colored crab was escaping us into the water.

Somehow, etched in the coral, was a heart with a happy face. I knew then life is good!!

We saw several birds. This one is the Curlew, which flies all the way to Alaska and back every year, just to nest in the South Pacific!!

This is the small sandpiper that is now endangered. They were very curious and walked right up to us unafraid.

This Fairy Tern flew down right in front of us, landed on this branch, gave us a few squawks and then flew away. He was only a few feet from us.

There is another motu further past the one we were walking on. We'll explore that one later.

This was the score of a shell collection we picked up. The big thing at the top is a skeleton of a type of urchin. It is about 4 inches long!

We had another sunset beach party, this time on the low tide sand bar.

The sun was setting right behind Avatar! Beautimous!!

The next day Mike and I went snorkeling. The crystal clear water was awesome! Seemed like each little reef outcrop had it's own protective grouper to guard it.
Grouper hiding in a hole in the rocks.

Marbled Grouper swimming by.

Blue Spotted Grouper swims past a clam.

This Blue Lipped Clam was a fabulous color. They can be anywhere from brown to green to dark blue to brilliant turquoise.

A large area of the C reef is too shallow for us to snorkel in, but not for the fishes!

This is a Bird Wrasse. I guess because it looks like he has a beak.

A school of large Parrot Fish were checking out the reef. I had never seen a Red Headed Parrot fish, and the book said they are fairly rare to find.

Of course this red head was quite enamored with the red headed parrot fish!! We are rare indeed!

Tahanea West Pass

The closer we got to the island, the more inviting it looked.

Close enough to enter the pass, we see what looks to be sandy beaches with palm forests.

Anchor set inside the main pass behind a motu at Tahanea. A boobie bird is flying past our bow, and the paint job is getting worse (oh well, just looks bad, but still safe).

Our friends Steve and Lili from “Liward”, come get us to go for a snorkel in the West pass.

While drift snorkeling the pass, Mike hangs on to the dingy line as it trails behind us.

The live coral here is quite amazing and these brilliant blue fish love having a home to dart into when danger comes.

This Camouflage Grouper hides in a rock crevasse waiting for some unsuspecting little fish to swim by and become lunch.

The Spotted Grouper has blue and pink scales under florescent blue dots all over his body.

One of the bigger fish we have seen is this Humphead Wrasse (also called the Napoleon fish).

Napoleon Wrass from above.

Here he was heading for some rocks.

Swimming along quickly, but you can really see his markings on this shot. Note the stripes on his back and the maze on his nose.

There is really nothing to give you any perspective on how big he is, but he is about 3 to 4 feet long and about 2 feet vertical. Big boy!

One of the many species of Parrot Fish eating the coral.

I had to search my Reef Fish book for this guy! He is a Scrawled Filefish with iridescent blue and black spots. Over a foot long!

The Silver Tip Shark can be recognized to Not be just a white tip, because he has white tips on all of his fins and tails. The white tip only has a white tip on his dorsal fin.

We watched this Dog Tooth Tuna zoom through a school of fish trying to catch his lunch. Also about 2 to 3 feet long.

To celebrate our awesome day and final arrival in the Tuamotus, we had a beach party at sunset. That is Christian and Birgit of “Patufa” and a surprise for us, a French guy named Eric and his wife, that we had met a year ago in the Marquesas! And of course Lili and Steve.

Mike and the boys got our bon fire going before sunset.

While Steve is burning some plastic trash he found, Eric is pouring fresh coconut water into Mike's rum and mango drink.

The hermit crabs are like giant ants here.

They heard we were having a party and smelled the food, so out they came in droves.

We decided to have hermit crab races. So someone drew a big circle in the sand and we all picked a crab and set them in the middle. The winner was whoever's crab exited the circle first. This kept us entertained for quite a while.

The sun is getting lower.

The last bit of sun as it dips below the horizon. Bummer, I did not get the green flash to show in the photo! But there was one!!!

The blood red sky turned the water into a Bermejo sunset. It was an awesome welcome to the Tuamotus.