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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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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tigers in Tahiti!

The first highlight of our trip was a Shark Dive with the chance to encounter Tiger Sharks!

On the way to the dive site we were greeted by a group of dolphins. A very promising start :)

At the dive site we waited for quite a while until the dive guides spotted the first tiger shark. Unfortunately, it was very shy and by the time I reached the bottom it had done a runner. Nevertheless, it was a very cool dive with four different kinds of sharks hanging around: Whitetip Reef Shark, Blacktip Reef Shark, Grey Reef Shark and Lemon Shark.

After a longish surface interval with lunch another tiger was spotted.

At first we didn't spot her, but we did have some beautiful encounters with Lemon Sharks, who were swimming quite closely past us. In addition a Nurse Shark also joined the fray.

And then came the big moment. Suddenly, the dive guide to my left screamed and pointed behind us. There the tiger shark was approaching! She did a couple of slow relaxed passes before us, giving us good photo opportunities.

This first encounter with a Tiger Shark left me really amazed. I have dived with many different kinds of Sharks. But Tigers are definitely a different category. With four meters was she substantially longer than any other shark I had encountered before, in addition she was much brawnier than other kinds.

So I was extremely pleased to finally have encountered a tiger shark and then even get such a good close look at it!

The next day we did it all again :).

We waited a long time before our first dive, but no Tiger wanted to show itself. So we decided to go diving nevertheless and we were rewarded with Grey and Blacktip Reef Sharks in large numbers. Often passing very close before or even over us!

After a beautiful hour our bottom time was finally nearing an end and we surfaced. Shortly after surfacing and settling down for lunch our dive guide spotted a Tiger Shark in the water! Since we had just come out, we couldn't immediately go diving again. Fortunately, the dive guide recognized the tiger as T5, a well-known female, and he was sure that she would hang around for a bit.

After an hour surface interval we went into the water again. At first nothing new happened. Blacktip and Grey Reef Sharks and lots of small fish. Then suddenly a shadow formed in front of us and T5 swam directly towards us! She made many passes around us, giving everyone a good look.

She was treated to a couple of tuna heads and was very relaxed the whole time. After only 45 minutes our bottom time ran out again and we had to surface. But we were left with an unforgettable experience!

Back on the boat the dive guide pointed out that T5 was most likely pregnant, which made all of us even happier :).

If I make it back this way, then doing another tiger shark dive will definitely on the todo-list.
We dove with Fluid and I can highly recommend it. They ran a very smooth, professional, knowledgeable and relaxed operation. If you're in the neighborhood and into Sharks give them a look!

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22 hours in the air

After a longer pause my next diving vacation has finally arrived. But before it could start I had to travel for 22 hours in different planes.

The first stopover was in Paris, where I spent the night at an airport hotel. That worked out really well, the Terminal is connected by shuttle-metro with the place where all hotels are located, so it took only very little time to get from the Terminal to the Hotel and back again. I used the time there to find a Geocache :).

Sunday morning I boarded a plane to Los Angeles. During the twelve hours I watched the following movies:
  • Jurassic World, which was surprisingly cool! It wasn't just a rehash of the original Jurassic Park, but rather a continuation of the same story. And I loved the references to the original movie, which were sometimes extremely delicately placed.
  • Ant Man, which I enjoyed a lot as well. Very funny and entertaining.
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Delivered what I expected. A far flung action flick.
In Los Angeles we had to go through immigration, which was a real pain. There were so many people queuing up! They tried to give us priority, because we had a very short connection, which led to us changing lanes three times until we finally could get processed. Fortunately, the baggage never left the plane, so we didn't have to take the bags and go through customs, but could rather go through back allies directly back to the Terminal. Where we arrived just in time to board (the same plane!).

The last leg to Papeete, Tahiti, took 8.5 hours and since it was getting late I also tried to sleep a bit. Nevertheless I watched two more movies:
  • Paper Towns: A moving road movie about a group of friends looking for Margot who disappeared.
  • Epic: An entertaining animation from the makers of Ice Age about the life of the forest.
At 11:30pm local time we finally arrived and were all very exhausted. We were greeted by a local band :)

Unfortunately, not all bags made it the whole way, and so we spent a lot of time waiting for the Lost and Found counter to open. Fortunately, my bag did arrive, so I could relax for a bit.

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