Our round-the-world trip has two major unexplored dive areas in our itinerary – the first was the Solomons and second is French Polynesia. This area is famous for its passes – the channels between two atolls that separate the ocean from the lagoons, where hundreds of sharks hang desultorily in the blue while the tide washes over their gills for effortless breathing. The Tuamotu islands, where we are headed, has several lagoons with passes and probably has the most famous shark-diving in the world due to the vast volumes of water that swoosh in and out twice a day. We have decided to explore them on a live-aboard, an eight-berth catamaran, the Aquatiki II.
There is a trick to the passes – you have to get the tide exactly right to maximise the currents and get the best shark sightings, as they can really rip though the pass especially at full moon. The best plan is to catch the incoming tide to drift-dive the passes and the outgoing for the reef dives.website for more pics.
When we are not diving we play some good card games – Papayoo is a great success – and even dice. We are also eating three delicious meals a day comprising fish, fish and more fish (yes even for breakfast!). Sidonie is a fabulous cook and I am picking up all sorts of tips. The speciality here is raw fish in coconut and Sidonie also makes an excellent Tuna tataki ‘chaud-froid’ as it is known locally. I never thought I’d tire of tuna but by the end of our three weeks I need a break!
I get an uneasy feeling that all is not well in Paradise: for years dependent on France and now largely cut loose, things are tough; beneath the smiles there is a big drug problem in Papeete, a pretty run-down sort of place, and outside of tourism there can’t be many opportunities for the young – who have to go to other islands for secondary and France for university education. Scruffy-looking men of all ages mooch around the place. On Tahiti the beauty of the place is spoiled by rubbish, recycling is hit and miss and the buildings are ugly – huge French supermarkets are everywhere while the remaining old buildings look ramshackle and unloved. I have to wonder how long it can remain an idyllic tourist destination especially if the water levels rise – the atolls will be swamped. But feast your eyes on the photos! Tomorrow the Cook Islands…