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Diving with Sharks! Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia

Fakarava

June 7th, 2018:

Southwest of Kauehi is the atoll of Fakarava. Fakarava South is well known in the diving world for one of the most amazing shark drift dives. We were super excited to be heading there to freedive it and snorkel. We entered through the south pass with La Cigale directly behind us. Looking back, I’m unsure why, but we decide to take the east channel through to get to the anchorage/mooring area. It was only 3 meters at one point, which is plenty deep, but no room for error. As we motored against a strong 4 kt current, it looked like the reef was going to reach our keel at any second and we weren’t moving past it very fast. We made it, though on pins and needles the whole time.

We arrived on Tuesday to find that the anchorage was “empty”. There were only 4 other boats there and 2 free moorings were available. We grabbed one, but unfortunately the other one was too close to the other boat for La Cigale to grab, so they braved the anchoring within all of the coral littered bottom. This normally very crowded anchorage had emptied out due to the supply ship that arrives in North Fakarava on Wednesdays. Most of the cruisers all head up there on Tuesday to be there first thing in the morning on Wednesday for fresh produce. I wish I could say that we couldn’t have planned it better, but we didn’t plan it that way at all.

As we settled in, it didn’t take long to realize that this place was chalk full of reef sharks. Just looking off of our boat down 35 ft to the bottom, we could see sharks circling around. For the first time, they weren’t just black tip reef sharks either. We could see Grey reef sharks and White Tip reef sharks as well. We slowly lowered ourselves into the water for a closer look. Yep, they were all over and “friendly”. At one point I was able to attract a total of 9 sharks near the boat by splashing around on the surface. They were curious, but that’s as far as it went. We quickly realized we weren’t on their menu.

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White tip reef shark

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Grouper

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Bumphead Wrasse / Napoleon Wrasse

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Vacation rental on the water.

Over the next few days, we snorkeled/free-dived the south pass. You do this by taking the dingy to the outside of the pass, and timed with the incoming tide/current, you drift back into the atoll, watching all of the sharks, Grouper, and other sea creatures along the way. There is a section called “the wall of sharks” , in which the sharks tend to congregate in huge masses. Over the course of 5 days I think we did the drift dive 8 times! Christian put a little video together of it. See it here on our YouTube Channel.

A week zoomed by. A portion of the kid boats we met in the Galapagos arrived here around the same time as well. We met up with SV Alondra, another kid boat from Canada, and a few other kid boats we hadn’t met yet. Edith on SV Alondra is a Marine Biologist and was very generous to put together a few boat school biology classes. She pulled out a few of her props for a lesson on Marine Mammals and again, on another day, her microscopes for a lesson on Plankton.

As our time in South Fakarava neared its end we had been out for nearly 3 weeks without reprovisioning. It was time to head up to “town”, Rotoava, in North Fakarava for a re-supply.

We had a great sail off the hook and back on again in the north end after dodging pearl farm buoys. See our swinging video here.

 

 

We anchored off of the town along with other cruiser friends. We first went to find some groceries. We were lucky to find that there were eggs available at the Fakarava Yacht Services facility. They also had wifi and coffee, both were not great , but did the trick. a coconut crab Ellamae and Megan off of SV Raftkin.IMG_4904Haley (Raftkin) and Nina

Pearl Lottery – pick out a shell and hope you get a beautiful pearl…

 

We spent a few days there, getting wifi, eating really good croissants, and doing a little SUP yoga and video with the ladies.

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yes, that’s a shark… Nurse Shark

Screenshot (267)Screenshot (269)Screenshot (271)The crew off of SV Today stopping over to say hello. They have a ocean plastic awareness program called “eat less plastic” in which they are promoting through their sailing voyage.

saying “fair winds” to Alondra.

We finally were ready to head out to the next atoll, Toau. There was just one issue, the wind switched to the north, the direction we wanted to head in. Video and photos to be posted on our Toau post, up next.

 

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Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands : Week 3

Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands : Week 3

Posting from our iridium satellite phone. I will post photos when we get decent wifi somewhere in the South Pacific.

On April 10th we arrived in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island at night. Not our favorite thing to do, arrive by night that is. We were having such a great sail up and over here that we were a little late on getting the engine to assist to make sure we were there before dark. We came in around 7:30pm. We motored in slowly as it was incredibly dark, but littered with lights from town, it was hard to discern were there was space in the anchorage to drop our hook. To top it off the anchorage was crowded. Some people had stern anchors out and some didn’t. We found a hole to safely anchor in and called it a night.

The next morning, April 11th, our morning coffee during sunrise was beautiful. The sun came up soft and warm, and the sky turned from pastels to a bright blue. The town had a look of a little village in the Mediterranean. We were excited to get to shore. Santa Cruz is the most populated island of all the Galápagos Islands. The town of Puerto Ayora itself only has 2,000 people, but that does not account for all of the tourists and the nearby villages. It was Tajs 5th birthday and we were all excited to wonder town and find a place to get a birthday treat to celebrate with.

Water taxis were mandatory once again, $1/person each way. We walked the Malecon, found our place to get a treat, found good coffee and we found our local friends that we had only met online. We attempted to FaceTime family for Tajs birthday, but wifi on the island was slow. A little frustrating, but it forced us to enjoy the moment more.

Over the next few days, we met up with our local friend, Diego and surfed. We found more activities to do with the other kid boats (Pelizeno, La Cigale, Lady Mary, Raftkin, Bajka and Dol Selene). We surfed more and went to more beaches and tortoise breeding grounds and huge lava tunnels. Saturday was a big day. There is a local farmers market that starts at 5am. A group of us got together at 6 and took a taxi there. We loaded up of fresh food for the crossing!
That afternoon (April 14th) we celebrated Tajs birthday with all the other kid boats and celebrated Hayleys (off of SV Raftkin) 12th birthday as well. There was a total of 17 kids (SV Kea and C’est Si Bon joined our kid boat group)! We were so happy to have so many kids to help celebrate with.

Before we knew it, it was time to check out. Our weather window to leave was looking to good as far as having decent wind to sail as much as possible to catch the southern Pacific trade winds. Also, all of the other kid boats were leaving during the same window. Wed already grown attached and didn’t want to be too far behind them once everyone made it to The Marquesas. Leaving was so hard. We all felt like we wanted another week there and we wanted to spend more time with our local friends Paola and Diego. But weather windows always take priority when planning a departure. We might just have to find our way back to the Galápagos Islands for another visit.

Tuesday morning, April 17th, we finished checking out of immigrations after one last farmers market (6am) run, breakfast with Paola and Diego at their house, and a last minute FaceTime with family. I held it back during the moment, but those calls were a little emotional for me.

At 10:30am (16:30 UTC) we departed for French Polynesia. Kea and C’est Si Bon left 2 days prior, Bajka left the day before, the rest of us kid boats (Pelizeno, La Cigale, Raftkin, Shawnigan) and Dol Selene left on Tuesday a few hours apart.

*** side notes for people who will be visiting Santa Cruz:
Places to eat;
-La Garrapata (excellent service, sea food, fresh tuna, ceviche and kid meals).
-The Rock: For lunch time, you can get a very tasty almuerso special meal for $5 that comes with soup, main meal (i.e. Chicken and rice) and fresh juice. -OMG: for coffee and ok wifi.
-Saturday morning Market (Farmers market) fresh empenadas and Bolons.

Places to see:
-Darwin Center
-Museum that’s down town
-the 400 m lava tunnels and tortoise breeding grounds.

That’s all the Shenanigans on Shawnigan for now…

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Christian and Diego Surf it up, #tortugabayexperience

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Field trip to the Darwin Center!#Eatlesspasticand we still had enough for sushi!