Posts Tagged ‘Coral’

South Fakarava

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The south Fakarava pass is a UNESCO World Heritage site for very good reason. It is a place where the frontier of development meets the interface between a large atoll and the open ocean.

The village of Tetamanu at the south end of the atoll is actually a set of bungalow pensions and a dive shop. There is also a church remaining from the days when it was center of regional government.

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We motored through the pass with K in the rigging watching with wide eyes as the crystal clear flooding tide gave the appearance of much (much!) less water than we actually had under the keel.

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We settled in to the deserted south side of the pass in a very small sandy patch and set off to explore the picture-perfect motus dotting the edge of the atoll.

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Our favorite palm tree cluster ever.

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There was a bedroom community for terns on a sand spit next to this islet were they spend evenings talking to their neighbors about property tax and the homeowners association.

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The islands are separated by tidal channels that flood across the reef at high tide.


We kicked up the outboard and S rowed us up and down the channels.

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It was a good workout and completed the alignment of numerous factors that allowed S to relax for the first time in her adult life.


She read a book for one whole day! K could only stand so much of that so back to the pass we went with a list of residents to find, including 200 grey reef sharks supposedly loafing around at a depth of 45 ft.

We began the search for the shark party with some poor 3rd hand directions, but how hard could it be to find 200 big sharks in a little pass? First we found a couple of whitetips asleep on the sand, then we drifted over a school of about 100 huge barracudas and kept going, then, sure enough, there was a large gathering of grey reef sharks, more like 100 than 200 and closer to 100 ft deep.  K made an effort to close the gap for a picture but they were too deep and are exactly the same color as the bottom. 

It was a vulnerable feeling to make free dives in 100 ft of water towards 100s of large greys with very little spatial reference and all the room in the world for a large tiger shark to come zipping up from the offshore depths. 

A small dental issue prevented S from joining in the snorkeling fun, but she watched from above like a dinghy angel. She can’t help but smile at her manfish, even when he is about to get et.

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There was other cool stuff on the edges of the pass including some friendly Napoleon Wrasses.

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These things are about the size of a dinning room table. K knew one in the Red Sea who could inhale a whole pack of hotdogs at once. Alas he was shot by an Italian diving tourist who needed a dead handfed Chelinus Undulatus for some form of personal development.

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Large school schools of trumpetfish were competing with the barracudas and grey sharks for superiority in numbers.

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Even the butterfly fish were schooling, S Fakarava brings out the herd influence in fish and gringo sailors alike.

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There was a high level of organization among the cruisers on the right side of the tracks to coordinate times and logistics for mass drifting of snorkelers. For some reason K usually ended up by himself in the pass playing the part of a floating hors d’oeuvre (that’s French for “little drifting snack with no associated school of co-specieslings”) .

But there were some other weirdos out there like this blue fringed unicorn fish.

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and this odd triggerfish

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and a lonely little whitetip.

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South Fakarava has been grand but it doesn’t have groceries, fuel or Wi-fi so we must begin the inevitable spiral towards civilization after a month on our own.

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16°31.21’S 145°28.58’W   13-Jun-10 23:01 UTC