Friday, November 18, 2011

Fantastic Fakarava

Just when you think it can't possibly be any more beautiful than the last atoll, Fakarava has to go and blow everything else out of the water.
After a month sailing just the two of us, Namsate welcomed a new crew member on Monday when we picked up our great friend Sam from Cape Cod.
Bike riding has been an unexpected surprise at this atoll, which boasts 26 km of paved roads, a veritable freeway in this part of the world. The locals have been incredibly friendly, and we've been busy riding around town meeting people, shopping at the tiny markets, and searching for farms to sell us some fresh veggies. Sunset cruises capped off our days when we anchored off the village of Rotoava.
But we've truly been mesmerized by what's underneath the sparkling blue waters of Fakarava. We sailed to the southern pass on Tuesday and hooked onto a mooring right in the channel. The local dive shop jokingly promises "if you don't see a shark, dives are free," but they're not losing their shirt on that guarantee. This place is a veritable playground for hundreds of gray reef sharks. Immediately after dropping in we witnessed the shark parade, a procession of them slowly carving their way through the channel. Hundreds of glasseyes, unicorn fish, paddletail snapper, and bluelined snapper schooled around us as Chris and I checked out the show. Giant Napoleans swam their slow circles, while parrotfish fed hungrily on the reef. A massive, blacksaddle coral grouper cozied under a head for a wrasse cleaning.
At any given time, many sharks can be spotted swimming around Namaste, feeding off our scraps. Chris and Sam spearfished at a nearby reef and we feasted on marbled grouper.
Paddleboarding in the nearby lagoons has been a dream. Soft breezes keep the coconut palm fronds swishing, and sting rays glide along the shallow waters, their interest piqued by the giant board silently slicing the surface. The shores are ringed with soft, blush-colored sand, a far cry from the rugged, crushed coral typical of these atolls.
Our only issue right now is gasoline. Unfortunately, when the ship arrived from Tahiti last week, it was missing its usual shipment due to a delayed tanker. So we're currently on gas rations and hoping the awesome family that runs the nearby dive shop and pension will be able to sell us a few liters. We dined at the small pension on motu Tetamanu last night and enjoyed several authentic fish dishes and the conversation with some fellow divers.
More diving, snorkeling, exploring, and fishing to come...
-Team Namaste
(Chris, Jess, Sam)

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