Sharkistan - Wonderful Deep Blue on One Breath

Sharkistan - Wonderful Deep Blue on One Breath

Sharks are not the only danger in these atolls. As along the US west coast, the entry inland is changing by tide and wind. Timing is essential and so is accurate information. While the charts are very precise for the main atolls and their passes, the tide information can be scarce. We experienced a huge river-like outflow when we wanted to enter Toau, the atoll just west of Fakarava.

After a short sail and a little ripple on the passage out of Fakarava we soon saw Toau. It took us just two hours to get to the pass. But we hit the worst time we could. Standing waves that would serve as kayak world championship course. Probably 3m waves caused by a current stronger than our engine would be able to work against. So we decided to wait for the „real slack“ time. But as it turned out, Toau has a big latency. The water is pushed over the rim by waves, but can only flow back through the pass. So more water needs to go out there than actually comes in. Change of tide was thus over 3h delayed, forcing us to stay outside the atoll over night. The weak wind and little current allowed us to drift just 3 miles off the pass. However, we felt the change in the current even out there when it finally happened. So next day we were well aware of the different timing, waited a bit in front of the pass and made it through soon. Inside we found a peaceful atoll, a nice anchorage with shoreline & diving explorations for days.

Unicornfish and parrotfish were said to be Ciguatera free. So after exploring motus and diving many submerged, big coral heads, we started hunting for our dinner. Sharks were there, we knew. So we were quick to get and fish speared quickly to the dinghy. However, we were left undisturbed. The few sharks that took notice were too small and did not dare to come close to the two of us. It turned out unicorn fish, with a really long horn, were great to eat. And their skin is incredibly strong. Compared to the parrot fish which has huge gills (?: Schuppen) their skin was just super strong without any further protection. With my small speargun I had a few shots where the spear would touch the fish but could not penetrate the skin with it’s little energy at maximum distance. Whatever, I still prefer to hunt for photos - getting fish and meat in the supermarket just does not remind every time that it needs a dead animal to have meat on the plate.

Days passed, hours underwater accumulated and sunshine prevailed for many days. Then the weather started to change. So did out feeling to move on. As a passage to Tahiti was not yet necessary and winds not superb, we decided to move to an outside anchorage called Anse Amyot. There we read we could dive a drop off. A real drop off: from 15m down to a few hundred meters. An underwater cliff we did not want to miss. As on the way in, the tide was way delayed to turn and the currents were strong. In order not to get in a bad situation we set a limit to wait until 12:30 to let currents settle while still being able to make it to Anse in daylight. Delighted we noticed that the waves decreased while we were carefully watching. And with our first attempt SV Marrion rocked through the ripple. We closely followed, wearing our life vests. The way in taught us that these are the situations where the hardly ever used safety gear needs to be in place and must be ready to use. Not that we had a serious issue on the way in, but that we recognized that any unexpected failure would have potentially grave consequences, even though ships were nearby.

Anse Amyot greeted us with the two locals, Valentine and Gaston, having a sing-along in their open house. So after hooking onto the mooring ball we headed in to listen and take part. Wonderful. Not only these two were great, also the drop off proved spectacular. Floating in 15m water, looking down onto corral clearly visible, we drifted over „the wall“ and stared into the blue abyss. Exceptional. Scary. Unforgettable. The water so clear, the deep blue so close but hard to reach on one breath.

The three of us guys, Travis, Leo and I, had fun until the sharks came in. Travis had shot a fish we could have eaten. But we knew the sharks are quick around here. So I went towards the speared fish. No use. After a few strokes downwards the first shark was there, followed by the rest of his flock. One bite of the first shark and the spear was free. The remaining sharks started to hunt after the left overs. As fast as they appeared, they dove back into the blue. Slightly scared we hopped into the dinghy and decided to get parrotfish inside the atoll - less and way smaller sharks there. As Gaston had suggested. In the evening the crews of Marrion, Summer and Jade Akka joined on Jade Akka for a barbecue with fish tacos. We need more exercise after all these feasts!

Next day more diving. Floating across the entry into the lagoon. Drifting over the crest to the abyss. Close up to the corals in the lagoon. Watching sharks from the dinghy. Having a glimpse at big barracudas 15m below the surface. Marveling at a big napoleon fish. Teasing all the groupers. Listening to the funny sounds below water. Getting back on board cold and soaked. For once we did not mind the warmth, a.k.a. heat, inside the boat without any wind. It’s great to warm up and preparing the blog.

Here are all Tuamotus Pictures in low res due to slow internet ...