02.08.2013

3 months in French Polynesia



3 months have passed since we entered French Polynesia in Mangareva, part of the Gambier Islands. The first Polynesian island we have seen had a mountain (almost 500m high) and was very green and full of flowers and fruits. Gambier is a huge atoll with many green islands (the largest one of them being Mangareva) as well as “motus”, little flat coral islands on the outer reef of atolls with more or less palm trees on it, located in beautiful clear turquoise water.  From the Gambier Islands we sailed to and through the “Tuamotus”, many atolls with motus and no inner island. The Tuamotus are a place to find peace, to relax and to enjoy unspoiled natural beauty while snorkeling. There is no distraction there, hardly any town and if there is one, it is small with an average of 300 people. The only activities in the Tuamotus is fish, swim and snorkel (if you have no fear of sharks) , walk over millions of dead corals on the motu (if the island is big enough), sit and read or sleep. After almost 2 months of solitude it felt a bit weird when we came to Tahiti and went shopping at Carrrefour. People, many people there. But, our anchorage in port Phaeton was not too busy and we enjoyed good food which we did not have in 2 months, and internet. Tahiti is part of the Society group of archipels all surronded by reefs and is very green with mountains up to 2000m high. I have to admit that I am really enjoying our time in this group of paradise archipels; where green mountains and waterfalls meet coral reefs with turquoise water;  where anchorages can be found in bays reminding me of Brasil and in front of motus on the outer reef surrounding all the islands; where you find friendly stingrays who will swim up to you to see if you have food, dolphins and turtles swim by your boat at the anchorage, dolphins jump out of the water, wales surf in the waves, fish enjoy a wonderful coral garden; where fascinating waves constantly break over the rounded reefs; where you can smell the trees and hear birds sing on your boat. I cannot imagine a place to be more diverse than these islands here. The only “negative” is that you can hardly hike by yourself, you have to hire a guide because the trails can hardly be found and are not marked or are too dangerous. People have reported to have gotten lost in the mountains. 

You can see on the pictures that each one of the islands has its charme. Huahine for sure is the most original one, where most of the archeological sites (“marae”, kind of temples originally in their culture used by the Polynesian people for different kinds of meetings and funerals) can be found and the people are super friendly. Tourism has had its effect on all islands. On all islands besides Tahiti you can see empty resorts and hotels being shut down, often already falling apart. Local people have had many negative experiences with tourism and in places with lots of tourism causing exploitation they are not so friendly any more (understandable). We have heard today that two boats have been robbed in the marina in Urutoa (Raitea) at the (free of charge) citiy harbor. Raiatea is a big hub for charter boats and that obviously creates “wantings”. 

The last week we have been mostly cruising with State of Mind and Saliander joined in Raiatea. We met up with State of Mind in Huahine, enjoyed the SW-bay Aavea, the town of Fare with drinks and dinner at the Fare Yacht Club restaurant (we never found the Yacht Club though), rented a car together to see the island. We sailed together to Raiatea where we anchored in the Baie Faaroa and made a Dinghy excursion up the river at the end of the bay,




went to the southern cut to anchor there and have dinner on State of Mind together with Saliander.



 Next day we all sailed to and along the west coast. Saliander and State of Mind anchored at a motu in the SW, between the two cuts and enjoyed a lovely day there at the reef while we sailed up to the town of Uturoa to do the final stock up.
On the way we were able to take wonderful pictures of the breaking reef waves
Here: Bora Bora in the background

 With Bora Bora in the background


  ....and of a wale who enjoyed his time just at the borderline of the surf:

More wave and wale pictures follow the link: http://sailing.smichah.de/#!album-69


Baie Hutuopi on Tahanea gave us shelter for the night before we moved on further up to the NW where there is gorgeous snorkeling at the “Coral Garden” around and behind 4 motus.
 Clown fish on sea anemonie











 Throne starfish









In the afternoon we met up again with our friends to celebrate 2 birthdays.We had a “pot luck” party on Saliander with good food as always. Oh, life can be so good. Today, after we all went snorkeling again this morning, we had to say good-bye. We don’t know if and where we are going to see the two crews again, but latest in New Zealand. Meanwhile we all keep on enjoying the wonders of nature and hope that we all arrive safe and sound in NZ. 

All pictures of Raiatea & Tahaa (same atoll, two islands): http://sailing.smichah.de/#!album-68
Now we're in Bora Bora and it's drizzling rain. Most likely I will rent a bike tomorrow to ride around the island and hopefully be able to post pictures then. We hope the weather gets better to welcome our new guest, Klaus, on August 4th.
Have a great day everyone! Michaela