August 15 – 18, 2013
Our final days in French Polynesia had arrived. It was time to clear out, and time to say good-bye to friends we wouldn’t see for awhile. While still anchored near Mai Kai Marina, we spent time getting last minute provisions from town, and we finalized our clearance out of the country at the gendarmerie.
Business at the gendarmerie was easy, but buying eggs was not. There was an egg shortage on the island, and all known sources were completely sold out. Even the locals were desperate for eggs. Every day, we’d check the main egg sources, but there was not an egg to be found. I couldn’t help but wonder about all of the vacationers at the resorts. Surely, they were eating hefty breakfasts with plenty of eggs available. Again, we were getting to see life from the local standpoint. Eventually, we got wind of an egg delivery that would happen at one of the groceries. Wil made sure to be there, and we were thrilled to finally have the eggs that we needed for our family.
Even though we had cleared out, we also needed to wait for ideal wind conditions to achieve our next leg. While we waited, we decided it would be fun to explore the east side of Bora Bora for a few days. We had heard about a manta ray cleaning station and some gorgeous coral gardens that were a recommended must see.
Along with s/v Sueño and s/v Flour Girl, our first stop was near the St. Regis and Four Seasons resorts on the northeast side of Bora Bora. We anchored near Motu Tofari, and the following morning, Justine and I took the dinghy over to snorkel at the infamous manta ray cleaning station. Each morning, manta rays glide into this “cleaning station” where lots of small fish descend on them for the cleaning. These little fish swim all over the manta rays’ bodies, eating away any “dirt” they can find, including inside the mantas’ giant mouths. Such an amazing system in nature, and it completely reminded me of the whale wash in the movie, “Shark Tale”!
While observing one huge manta ray gliding back and forth through the cleaning station, I began to notice that it seemed to stay below Justine. Due to our past experiences with sharks, and now with this manta ray, I was beginning to think it had something to do with her highly contrasting rash guard. The top is white, but the sleeves are brown with blue flowers. The rest of our group mostly wears black or dark blues. Every where Justine swam, the manta ray seemed to follow.
My theory about her rash guard may have been proven again when Justine had lingered behind with some of the Sueño group. She eventually felt like it was time to return to the dinghy, and began to head for the coral path that led to where all the dinghies were anchored. She turned around for a last glance of the manta ray. The large ray was coming in her direction again, so she waited for its last pass. Once the manta ray began to swim back towards the larger group of people, she again turned toward the coral path. The second she turned around, there was about a 1.5-meter black tipped reef shark 4 to 5 meters away, and it seemed to be swimming towards her. Before her brain completely registered the fact that she was looking at a shark in such close proximity, the animal quickly turned and darted down the coral path. Once she recovered from her surprise sighting, she decided that it wouldn’t be wise to follow the shark down the path due to the fact that she might corner it. Therefore, she returned to the remaining Sueño group to watch the manta ray for a little longer. When Justine finally returned to the dinghy, she asked if I’d seen a shark pass by. I was surprised by her question and quickly learned about her close encounter.
The previous afternoon, Colin had been playing on Sueño. I was snorkeling around the boats when I saw Nathalie & Colin sitting on the bow of Sueño. I decided to swim over to say hello. As I neared the boat, they both casually waved and then informed me that Colin had injured his toe. From my position in the water, I could see Colin’s pinky toe sticking out almost 90 degrees from the rest of his toes. Yikes! Colin and the other kids had been jumping and doing flips on Sueño’s trampoline. As Colin had been in motion for a complete flip, his toe got stuck in the trampoline netting, bringing him to a full halt, and yanking his toe out of whack.
We quickly returned Colin to our boat for a more thorough inspection of the toe. We couldn’t tell if it was broken, but it was definitely out of place. After numbing the toe with ice, I pinned Colin down and held the foot while Wil did his best to reposition the toe. We couldn’t get the toe back to straight, but we managed some improvement. After a few tries, it was decided that we couldn’t make Colin suffer anymore. By taping the toe to the neighboring toe, as well as wrapping it in line with the rest of the knuckles across the foot, we hoped for more improvement over time. Colin was a great sport through it all, and I was amazed at how he held back the tears.
After our snorkel with the manta rays, we hauled up the anchors, and proceeded to the southeast corner of Bora Bora in search of the coral gardens. The further south we went, the more amazingly gorgeous the water became. We made the afternoon one of touring and snorkeling. First, we picked our way across some 2 meter depths, and dropped anchor on the southern side of Taurere. Flour Girl had to anchor on the opposite side in deeper water, and then they dinghied over to join us.
Max (s/v Sueño) kept our injured Colin company while the rest of us went for a snorkel on the nearby reef. We were actually in search of sharks, but only one shy black tipped reef shark made a very brief appearance.
We did, however, come across a very large and territorial moray eel. Justine was swimming past some coral when I suddenly saw her frantically swimming backwards. As she had unknowingly approached this moray eel’s hole, it had darted out towards her. Once we were all alerted to the fact that there was a moray eel, we observed it from a safer distance. Then, I noticed that as we swam back and forth in front of the eel, it followed us with its head. Even when we moved on to the next clump of coral, it slyly slithered to another hole closer to us. At this point we realized, that we’d definitely better get away from this aggressive moray.
On our return to the dinghy, Justine and I came across a spotted eagle ray. We could literally hear the crunching sound as it dug in the sand for mullusks to eat. It wasn’t long before it noticed our presence and quickly darted away.
After our snorkel, we ate lunch before hauling the anchor to rejoin a more protected Flour Girl for the night. The next morning, we were in for a big surprise!
To be continued . . .