Monday, June 19, 2017

Tuamotus: Tahanea Atoll

[Kyle]We arrived at Tahanea within three minutes of slack water to find an outgoing current of just under two knots. Once inside, we turned the corner and anchored right behind the motu next to the pass. There was a lot of coral, but there was also a lot of sand. Oh, how we love sand! We set the anchor on the edge of a decent-sized patch of it and then put out a buoy to float the last of the chain over a coral head beneath.

Passage and arrival at Tahanea - Kyle snorkels on the Anchor chain and we both enjoy the views

We did a little snorkeling to check that our anchor and chain were free of any coral and then snuck in a quick peek at some of the nearby gardens while there was still daylight. While making a dinner of the squash we had been gifted in Ua Pou, Maryanne threw some scraps overboard. Most of the fish didn’t seem to care, but we quickly discovered the colorful parrotfish LOVE little shredded bits of squash.

The next morning before we got underway, Maryanne took a handful of it with her on an early morning swim, which made her lots of friends.

Our stay at this particular anchorage was intended to be short. The sun was too low in the sky for spotting bommies when we arrived, so we waited until it was sufficiently high the next morning to see our way for a sail across the atoll the next spot.

There, we found three little motus fringed by a wide shelf of white sand. We gingerly approached one. The depth sounder went pretty rapidly from 10m to 2.5m and then stayed there. At 2.5m, we would only need to put out 20m of chain to have more than enough. We slowly scouted a circle with a slightly larger radius. It was all 2.5m Brilliant! We dropped the hook on beautiful, clean, white sand. There was no need to dive on the anchor – from the bow, we could see where it disappeared under the sand and every link of chain in between.

Donated fish, pretty views and Copra drying in the sun

We noticed an encampment on shore, so Maryanne prepared a goodie bag of treats and we swam ashore to meet the occupants. They turned out to be absent, so we left the package and walked the circumference of the island. The east side, facing the outside of the atoll was very different from the inside. Palm trees gave way to desert vegetation. The fringing water was only calf deep and was warmed by the sun. Little life was in evidence except for a few sand-colored minnows and lots of sea cucumbers.

The sandy beach gave way to rough coral and we found ourselves wading through the water in a line that staggered as we avoided disturbing the cucumbers.

Back on the inside, the water deepened and we continued our circuit by swimming. We saw a boat arrive and we went ashore to introduce ourselves.

At the camp were a brother and sister who spend three months a year harvesting coconuts for oil on the three little motus. She had noticed our package and in thanks brought out a big piece of freshly caught fish for us. We asked if there was anything else they might need. They insisted they didn’t and asked us if we would like anything. Well, if it’s not too much trouble, could you spare a couple of coconuts?

She explained there were no good eating coconuts in the immediate area, since they were all being processed. The big tool they use to get them out of the trees was on one of the other motus, but if we came back tomorrow, her brother could get us a few. Otherwise, if we could find one they might have missed, we were more than welcome to it.

We bid them adieu and walked the part of the beach we had missed while swimming. A little distance from the camp, we found two coconuts in the perfect state of readiness at the edge of the beach, which just fit in our sack as a homemade flotation device. We swam them back to Begonia, resting in a pool of beautiful blue bathwater.

When the sun was high enough again the next day, we moved to a different corner of the atoll. We would have been happy to stay on our idyllic little spot, but the pass was north of us, which would have meant getting back to it would be to go directly into the low winter sun. It’s very hard to impossible to spot hazards that direction, so we ‘tacked’ across it by heading to one corner with the afternoon sun off to one side. That would put the pass where it would be possible to get to it in the morning with the sun on the other side.

More snorkelling, more sharks, and heavenly views

Unlike the anchorage before, our spot was in deep enough water that we needed the full length of chain out. Maryanne attached a couple of floats to the chain as it went out and we were again able to float it over the coral heads surrounding the sandy spot with the anchor.

Rather than leave the very next morning, we took an extra day to get caught up on some things we had been neglecting. Maryanne reorganized our remaining food stores. I replaced one of our bilge pumps and the sea water tap with the ones we found at the hardware store in Taiohae. It was noon before we were able to don snorkel gear and return to fun mode.


kate rodenhouse said...

Hey! Beautiful spot! All I ever do is swoon at your photos, and this time is no different, so I've no doubt I'm becoming a rather dull echo chamber of breathless exclamations. But please, do tell me when you get a moment what a "motus" is. I looked it up and only found the Latin usage, meaning "having been moved" or "a movement or motion." You refer later in your post to "the 3 little motus." I'm intrigued... the brother and sister you met talked about the coconuts being harvested from one of the motus so it sounds like a tiny island or outcropping of land??

Oh, I love words! And discovering new ones!

SV-Footprint said...

Hi Kate... We keep having to pinch ourselves! I don't think we can ever regret having visited these beautiful places and the photos will be our treasures into the future when we are old and housebound.

An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets.

The word Motu refers to one of those islets - multiple motus will make up the Atoll.

Wikipedia describes a Motu as "a reef islet formed by broken coral and sand surrounding an atoll". And we'd never heard of them before we started researching this area either... :-)