August 3 – 5, 2013
Sailing from Tahiti to Opunohu Bay on the north side of Moorea was only a day’s sail. We had a nice wind, and only had to motor once we were in the lee of the island. Our plan was to stay for one night, and then take off for Raiatea . However, there was lack of wind, so we stayed an extra day enjoying the company of s/v Sueño and s/y Duende, as well as a few sting rays and sharks.
It was about a 3-mile dinghy ride to the location where the sting rays and sharks hang out. We’d learned that local tour boats bring their guests to swim with and feed the sting rays, and that black tip reef sharks end up being an addition to the party. As we made the long dinghy trek to our destination, we were nervous and excited. Would we be brave enough to get in the water with lots of sharks swimming around?
When we arrived, there were a couple tour boats, as well as another couple of other dinghies. We dropped our dinghy anchors and prepared to enter the water. As we donned our swim gear, we observed the other tourists feeding the sting rays, and we could see an occasional black tip reef shark swimming at the periphery of the group.
Upon sliding out of the dinghies, we quickly learned to watch where we landed. While the water was barely a meter and a half deep, and we could stand in chest high water, the sting rays were every where. As I began to slide from the dinghy, I suddenly noticed a sting ray appear from under the dinghy and directly beneath me. Therefore, in order to make sure we didn’t land on any sting rays, we had to ease ourselves slowly into the water.
In a matter of seconds, we were swarmed with about a half dozen sting rays begging for food. The person who held the bag of old shrimp was the most popular!
As the feeding of the sting rays progressed, the presence of black tip reef sharks grew stronger. At first, it was pretty cool to see these fairly non-aggressive sharks swimming circles around the tourist group. However, as some people began feeding the sharks (something that was against the rules and just not a wise move!) the sharks started moving in a more aggressive manner.
Visiting with these sharks and sting rays was a lot of fun, and the experience made its way to the top of our most exciting. However, these are wild animals, and wild animals are unpredictable. Wild animals also should not be trained to know they can be fed by humans, as they become dependent on humans for food. However, there are many of these types of tours all over the world, and people continue to feed the animals for an up-close-and-personal experience with these incredible creatures. We love our up-close-and-personal experiences with nature and wild life, but we must respect that we are in their environment and anything can happen. While we didn’t like the idea of being among a huge group of tourists, at the same time, we were probably safer in numbers. If we’d gone on our own, there’s no telling what the sharks would have done if we’d not had enough food for them!
After our memorable time in Moorea, we bid this most gorgeous island farewell, and we began our brief overnight passage to Raiatea. Our time in French Polynesia was drawing to a close, and we still had lots to see.