01 – 05 August 2016: Raiatea & Coral Gardens, Tahaa – 16 36S 151 33W
As much as we were enjoying our time in Huahine we still had more islands to explore in the Societies so westward we continued. It’s only a few hours downwind from Huahine to neighbouring Raiatea so after a last trip ashore to the excellent supermarket we were off.
By mid afternoon we had entered the pass through the fringing reef and anchored at the head of the deep recess in Baie Faaroa, a couple of rivers flowed in, the water was murky and the bay deep. But the river was why we were here and next morning we took the dinghy up as far as we could go and explored.
We turned around when our way forward was barred by shallows and rapids and on the way back down stream we stopped at a local garden and were taken for a walk around by the owner. His tidy patch of cultivated land was producing several varieties of bananas - curved, straight, little fingers, big fingers, three sided ones – it seems there is no end to how you can make a banana look and taste! There were limes, papaya, vanilla and other fruits and nuts we had not seen before. Then our guide built a prototype pig trap and captured himself to show how it worked! - an entertaining and educational stop.
Once out of the river and back into the bay we were blasted by the wind which had built and switched direction. Time to leave, but Raiatea is not blessed with many shallow sheltered anchorages, we passed possibility after possibility and deemed them all unsuitable. The free town dock was being pelted by waves and wind, on we went and finally managed to tie to a sheltered private mooring that we got permission to use off the boatyard at the Raiatea Careenage for a couple of nights.
Fun Feeding the Fish
The Careenage anchorage had little appeal except that we were able to get our gas bottles filled there and we were sheltered from the howling wind.
The winds dropped off and we had a forecast of just 24 hours of calms so we headed north just a few miles across to the neighbouring island of Tahaa in company with Liward and Out of the Bag, we had superb calm conditions so were able to anchor out on the reef and visit Tahaas’ famous Coral Gardens.
We had heard about the Coral Gardens but didn’t really know what to expect. It is a narrow area between two motus (islands), one motu has a resort on it, the other seems mainly visited by day boats and is where you land to “do” the coral gardens. You walk along a path to the sea side of the small motu, don flippers, snorkel and mask then wade into the warm crystal clear shallow waters and virtually get taken on a free ride by the current down a pathway through coral bommies teeming with friendly tame fish waiting to be fed.
With a little manoeuvring you can go “off piste” into a maze of water ways through more bommies, but some are dead ends and swimming back against the current can be quite some task but very good exercise. There were thousands of fish here, some we hadn't seen before like the one on the left who definitely wins the prize for the most colourful but do you think I can identify him in our tropical fish books, (maybe a mutant parrotfish) any suggestions would be appreciated and we did see more than one of him!
It was a great spot to while away a couple of hours in the shallows, the water clarity, type and numbers of fish were exceptional, the coral was ok, a few colourful patches but not so impressive. I even found some lovely shells that were home to shellfish so I relocated them to a spot off the beaten track and found them a cosy hiding place so they didn’t end up being taken away to join someone's shell collection.
The winds built again the following morning so we couldn’t stay any longer at the Coral Gardens. Tahaa lacks shallow anchorages on the sheltered side of the island, Bora Bora loomed in the distance just 30 miles away – it was time to go and explore the most well known island of French Polynesia.
We exited the pass in company with Out of the Bag, it was a boisterous ride and Balvenie did well in the downwind conditions and we were in front at the first cross over, but slipped to 2nd on the finish line!
Bora Bora Beckons