Friday, May 13, 2011

Society Islands

Namaste and her crew have had some ups and downs over the past few weeks as we left the Tuamotus and sailed to the windward Society Islands.
We were shocked to see the amount of development and growth, as well as anchoring regulations, in the last 10 years in Tahiti and Moorea. We were disappointed with the changes, especially underwater outside the pass at Opunohu Bay, where we found the reefs to be 90% dead. The fish population has been decimated and it was tough to find any larger that the size of your hands. There were a few sharks lingering around, but nothing like it used to be. I guess that's "progress" for you.
Moorea still provides stunning vistas and we enjoyed checking out Afareaitu Bay. We hiked to a barely flowing waterfall and did some awesome kayaking and paddleboarding.
We returned back to Tahiti and Pointe Venus, one of Chris' old stomping grounds, and had a great experience. The black sand beach is still beautiful, and the peninsula is exploding. We continued southwest and checked out Tahiti Nui, where the towns are still small and loads of canoes filled the lagoons. Tautira was a magical little town, where we were greeted warmly by the locals and the water was crystal clear and very inviting.
We said goodbye to Uncle Bill after his 16-day stay, and picked up our friends from California, Kevin and Tony. They were game for an expedition, so we packed up Namaste and headed 100 miles northwest to Raiatea and Tahaa. We endured some horrible weather at anchor inside the Teavapiti Pass, five days of rain and wind, very unseasonable weather for this time of year.
We braved the elements to dive outside the pass and were rewarded with a stellar dive, although the reefs were mostly dead. We did have some great shark activity and were hounded by blacktips, whitetips and a large, bold gray that circled us constantly. We did a stellar hike reaching a peak above the town of Uturoa, which provided insane vistas of the lagoons and islands.
We circumnavigated Tahaa and found some amazing snorkeling off the town of Patio. Stingrays cruised along the shallow waters and triggerfish, parrotfish and loads of brightly colored clams surrounded the coral heads. Cabbage coral was everywhere and we found a few seahorses hiding. We anchored at the picturesque Baie Hurepiti, surrounded by dramatic hillsides and lush vegetation. We dove outside the Paipai pass and found some cool anenomes.
On Thursday we hauled anchor and sailed overnight to Maupiti, an unexplored and remote gem, just 25 miles west of Bora Bora. Onoiau Pass is narrow and shallow, and breaking waves surrounded Namaste as we entered the emerald lagoon. This place is amazing and feels very untouched. The locals have resisted building large resorts here and have maintained their small island. We dove outside the pass today with 100-plus feet of visibility, and found a huge outcropping of beautiful plate coral, as well as schooling triggerfish and yellowtail.
The island has one of the nicest sand beaches I've ever seen and we played frisbee and soccer this afternoon on our dinghy circumnavigation. All is swell on Namaste and the adventures continue...