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French Polynesia 2016 Summary
Large Schools of Fish in North Fakarava
Baby Sharks in Toau
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Shark Nursery of Tahanea
Nurse Sharks of Makemo
The Manta Rays of Raoria
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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Board Game Weekend

I spent the weekend in Tösstal playing board games. Over three days I played 24 different games, 22 of which I hadn't played before :).

It would be too much to list them all, but I'll name my favorite new discoveries:
  • The Bloody Inn: We play a member of a greedy family owing a small inn in rural France in the 19th century. We don't really care about the well-being of our patrons, but rather only about our full coffers. To achieve this we can recruit the patrons and take them into our hand, from there we can play them in our play area using them as buildings which give us immediate or continued benefits. The most money, however, can be made by killing the patrons and burying them under one of our buildings, because then we can empty their purse. But watch out for police officers among the guests, they may confiscate the body...
    The play mechanism is really intriguing (and well known to Race for the Galaxy Fans), all actions have to be payed with cards from our hands, however, if the card has the correct color we get a discount. All our games ended up really close and we had great fun!
  • Nippon: We play a member of an influential conglomerate in Japan during the Meji period. We try to grow our influence by building factories, railroads and ships, producing goods and shipping them both to the local and foreign markets.
    This was the most complex game we played this weekend and with our initial three hours playing time it might seem overwhelming, but nevertheless time went by very fast with quick turns and many interesting decisions to take. I'm looking forward to another round soon!
  • Potion Explosion: We are apprentice wizards taking our final exam in potion brewing. In order to pass we need to brew a number of potions with the available ingredients. The more efficient we achieve this the more points can be earned and at the end of the day there is only Student of the Year Award!
    The ingredients are represented by small marbles placed in a dispenser with five rows. As our turn we can take one marble out of the dispenser, if this leads to an explosion (at least two ingredients of the same color smash together) we can take them as well (and so on until all marbles are gone or no more explosions happen). The gained ingredients need to be placed in our cauldrons in which we brew the potions. Once a potion is finished it can be drunk to gain a one-time advantage (which ranges from taking more ingredients from the dispenser, to stealing ingredients from our class mates). Once all bonuses are collected the game ends and everyone counts up the value of their potions.
    A very easy to learn and play game, which is delivered with fantastic components and a cool experience. It feels a bit like a cellphone game ported to a board game, but it works wonderfully.
  • Lanterns - The Harvest Festival: To celebrate the end of autumn harvest we want to gain honor by dedicating combinations of lanterns. Every player has square tiles in hand showing up to four different colors on each side. Once a tile is placed every player gains a lantern of the color pointing in his direction. The trick is to connect identical colors to gain additional lanterns.
    A very easy to learn game with lots of depth and different strategies.
  • Celestia: We play an adventurer who takes part in explorations in an aircraft. The farther we can travel the higher the possible rewards. The clue is that everyone is in the same aircraft and the place of captain is taken in turns. The captain rolls a number of dice showing different symbols. Every player has to decide if the captain can weather the crisis by playing matching cards, or abandon ship (taking the current reward). If the captain manages the difficulties travel continues and the next player takes the helm. If the captain fails the airship crashes and no-one on board receives anything.
    A wonderful little game with superb components (featuring a three-dimensional aircraft in which the player tokens have a place and beautifully illustrated cards) and great replay value. A definite recommendation!
  • Quadropolis: We are a city planner trying to build the best city, but we have to compete with the other planners for the available buildings and institutions. Every building is scored differently at the end, but only if it can be activated with the needed energy or people. Thus a fierce competition breaks out.
    For a city-building game Quadropolis works very smoothly and can be quickly explained and played. The included expert mode promises more strategic choices, for those who can build cities in their sleep. The package is rounded up by functional, colorful and pleasing illustrations and components (the people are actually small people). A definite addition to my game collection.
I had a great time and want to thank Cäsi, the organizer, and everyone who was there and played games! I'll be back next year! :)

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Monday, February 08, 2016

French Polynesia 2016 Summary

I had a fantastic time in French Polynesia.

In this post I want to collect all the links with information and pictures from this trip

The first part took place in Tahiti, where we stayed in a nice hotel
 The second part was the main feature, a 15-day liveaboard trip with the Aqua Tiki II starting in Raroia and ending in Fakarava
Thanks for everyone on the trip for making it such a memorable experience!

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Large Schools of Fish in North Fakarava

We first returned to Rotoava, the main city of the Fakarava Atoll located all the way in the North, to rendezvous with the supply Ship Cobia 3. There the captain refueled the ship. Funnily enough, we encountered a young German journalist, who is traveling the world and currently spends one week as a guest on the Cobia 3. Strange to meet other German speakers on the other side of the planet.

We then headed a bit closer to Garuae Pass, with 1'600 meters the widest pass in French Polynesia. During the first two dives we were overwhelmed again by the number of Sharks present. And contrary to the South Pass, they didn't focus in one wall, but were everywhere! Up, down, left, right, in front and behind us! Unfortunately, the visibility wasn't too good, so it was difficult to capture this experience on photos.

The dive profile in Garuae Pass was interesting. After our first descent to 25 to 30 meters at the edge of the channel, we went with the current into the Channel up to 10 meters, after several minutes we descended again to a depression called Ali Baba, where we encountered huge schools of Soldierfish and Paddletail Snappers.

This was the perfect end to our diving trip in French Polynesia!

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Baby Sharks in Toau

After a short pitstop in North Fakarava for supplies we headed further West towards Toau, a small atoll which features two passes located close together.

The larger Otugi pass features lots of Sharks joined by huge Dogtooth Tunas, some of which are bigger than the Grey Reef Sharks! After several stops along the reef the time came to fly. We ascended into the channel where we were picked up by the current, which for once was so strong, that it was possible to do loop-the-loops and other acrobatics with ease.

At the smaller Fakatahuna pass we always dived on the outer reef, where we encountered a large school of tiny juvenile Grey Reef Sharks. That was a real highlight! The small Sharks behaved like the adults but were so cute! After about twenty minutes at the corner of the pass with the sharks we headed back over the reef which also had a lot to offer. Hundreds of different fish as well as a lot of intact coral.

Between the dives we made two visits to the uninhabited islands, there we encountered in a sheltered pool of water a small number of tiny Blacktip Reef Sharks. They were so cute! They stayed in the shallows and it was brilliant to see their small fins cut through the water surface.

During our second island visit we also encountered an Octopus near the shore, which at first shied away from us and thus showed us a colorful spectacle.

After three days it was time to say goodbye to this fascinating corner to head back to North Fakarava for the two last days of diving.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Wall of Sharks of South Fakarava

The main reason I wanted to return to French Polynesia was to dive the fabled South Pass of the Fakarava Atoll.

This was the fourth stop on our trip. We anchored right next to the Channel, across from Tetamanu, which we visited during an afternoon off.

The most famous dive spot of Tumakohua Pass is the Wall of Sharks! A channel where dozens upon dozens of Grey Reef Sharks cruise around.

And that was definitely worth the long journey. It was amazing to see so many Sharks so closeby, undisturbed by our presence.

To top it off our dive ended in the "swimming pool" a very shallow area next to Tetamanu Beach, where young Blacktip Reef Sharks and two Napoleon Wrasses have found their home.

But we didn't even have to go that far to see Blacktip Reef Sharks. A detachment stayed constantly close to our boat, waiting for scraps.

As if this wasn't enough, the lagoon and surrounding islands are unbelievably beautiful!

A fantastic location with fantastic diving! Fakarava definitely made the list as one of my top 5 destinations!

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Shark Nursery of Tahanea

Our third stop was Tahanea Atoll a bit farther South-West.

Diving there we spotted many Sharks of different sizes. The highlight was when we encountered a Shark Nursery. A huge school of tiny little Grey Reef Sharks and two to three juvenile Silvertip Sharks. They were so cute!


In Tahanea we received a visit by the French Navy, who is cruising through all the Atolls, checking the boats they encounter on the way. After a quick chat they were on their way again. Maybe we'll see them again in another place.

Here we could visit one of the uninhabited islands, called Motus by the locals, where we encountered many Hermit Crabs and Sailors pyramids. Passing sailors erected small stone "pyramids" in the pass when they crossed it. We also added a couple of stones/corals.

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Nurse Sharks of Makemo

Our second stop was at Makemo Atoll.

In addition to the usual Greys, we also encountered Nurse Sharks and very inquisitive Lemon Sharks

Overall, the diving was okay, but definitely not as good as Raoria. So we decided to continue onwards after only one day. Fortunately, the wind was favorable and so the captain was able to raise both sails.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

The Manta Rays of Raoria

The main attraction of our trip to French Polynesia was a two-week cruise on the Aqua Tiki II live-aboard in the Tuamotu Archipelago.

We started in Raoria a small island in the North-Eastern corner that is only serviced by plane once a week.

From the very first dive we encountered many Grey Reef Sharks, but what impressed us most were the Manta Ray encounters.
During the second dive we spotted two Manta Rays coming to a cleaning station and one stayed with us for almost 30 minutes!

The next day we spotted another Manta Ray during the morning dive and about five different Manta Rays during the noon dive and one was almost completely white!

Our last day of diving in Raoria started with many Sharks and a quick visit by a Bottlenose Dolphin :).

We also had time to visit the village one afternoon. Where, at the local supermarket we spotted a large supply of Nutella!

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