When you live on the water you’re always seeing something cool. Captain Dan spotted this guy near our dock here in Whangarei. He saw another one the other day. I wonder if they are eating the baby ducks. Hmmmm…
While Tahiti didn’t meet our expectations and quite frankly let us down, Moorea is everything we hoped for and more. After spending so long in the chaotic and filthy city of Papeete it’s time to move to a more relaxed and beautiful spot. Moorea is just twelve miles from Papeete but it’s a complete and total world apart.
We leave the Marina Taina anchorage around 0900 and are making our approach to Cook’s Bay before noon. Just before we reach the turn we see a couple of humpback whales playing off in the distance. I don’t know about anyone else but I simply can’t get enough of watching these magnificent creatures. We dilly dally a bit watching them but it’s time to get to the anchorage. We’re hoping to get the dink in the water and head to the Bali Hai for some afternoon cocktails.
As we come through the pass in the reef we see just a handful of boats in the harbor. On three sides of us the magnificent, lush, green mountains rise from the shore. The bay is as flat and calm as can be and the water, while clear, is greener than we expected but still very nice.
We find a nice little spot and drop the hook. Of course if you follow us, you know what comes next. Yep, the ceremonial, anchor down beer. They’ve had just enough time in our Engel’s freeze to be frosty cold with a thin layer of ice on top. Oh yeah!
Before long we drop the dink in the water and head to shore. This turns out to be a bit of a disappointment as it turns out the Bali Hai no longer exists. It’s been taken over by another company and they only serve breakfast and lunch. Oh well, there’s another resort on the water down the way so off we go.
We arrive at the dock at Hotel Kaveka and the place is deserted. There’s not a soul on the large, beautiful deck but there is music playing so we walk in. A nice Polynesian woman comes out and offers to get us a drink. She tells us they only serve dinner. That’s okay, we’ll just enjoy a Mai Tai. So, we have the entire deck all to ourselves. It is atop of the ultra clear water and we watch the colorful fish swim below. The weather is beautiful and life is amazing.
Cook’s Bay is a wonderful place to spend a few days. There’s a great grocery store there with lunchmeat, a treat we actually look forward to these days, and lots of great fresh meat and veggies. We spend two days there before heading to the next bay over, Opunohu Bay. It’s just an hour trip and we decide this time to anchor out at the mouth of the pass just inside the reef. Here is where the really beautiful water is and it’s perfect.
We anchor down in about fifteen feet of water and we are the only ones in this little piece of heaven. I’m so excited as on the east side of the pass there are dozens of boats. To the west, near the Intercontinental Resort there are another half dozen. We just happened to get this little piece of paradise all to ourselves. Ahhhh!
Of course if you’re a cruiser you know that solitude in places like this is hard to find and just when I think it’s all perfect a large catamaran comes right at us. It’s a charter boat and it’s full of French tourists. At first they drop their anchor right over top of ours. Dan calls them on the radio and advises they are on top of us so they move. There’s plenty of room in this spot for them to leave us a little privacy but instead they anchor about 75 feet off our port side. Granted that’s not “on top of us” but why anchor so close when there’s so much room? Oh well, there goes our peace and quiet but you know, you can’t have everything.
They are in the anchorage for less than a half an hour when the men on the boat decide they will relieve themselves off their starboard side. They just stand there looking over at us like it’s perfectly fine. You know, I really don’t care except that I don’t want to see these old guys with their junk hanging out. I let the first one go by without a word. I even let the second one go but by the time the third guy goes up there I stand on the side of Dazzler and just throw my hands in the air. He looks at me kind of funny and some woman on the boat smacks him and pulls him inside. Okay, maybe she’s got some sense. But, before long here comes another one of the guys. Seriously? I’m ready to get on the radio and say something but Dan just tells me to calm down. We can’t police the world. No, I can’t police them but I sure can tell them how disrespectful they are being. I don’t though. I just go below and try to ignore it.
Fortunately for us they take off early the next morning because if I had seen it go on again I was going to go over and say something. I know I’ve said it before and I’m sorry if I seem to be labeling the French but they all seem to be completely rude down here and I just can’t take it.
Mid afternoon on the day the catamaran leaves we see a boat coming into the pass. It looks familiar so I turn on the electronics to see if they are showing up. Yep, I’m right. We know this boat. It’s our dear friends, Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn. We are both so excited to see them headed our way. If we have to have neighbors, these are the kind we want to have here.
We invite them over for dinner. Dan makes spicy sausages and red beans & rice. Of course it is accompanied by his delicious Mai Tais. We all have a wonderful time catching up and enjoying each other’s company. That’s one of the great things about cruising. You can be walking down the road or anchored in an anchorage in some foreign country and all of the sudden you see a wonderful friend.
We decide that we’ll go snorkeling tomorrow where you can swim with the stingrays. There’s a spot out on the north end of Moorea out in front of the Intercontinental Hotel that they call “Stingray City”. Tour operators bring people out to swim with and feed the rays. Of course we don’t need to go with a tour. We’ll just hop in our dinghies and head over.
The next morning we arise bright and early and head out to the coveted spot. Halfway there Lutz & Gabi have an issue with the motor on their dink. He was playing in our wake and accidentally swamped it. Ooops! So, we tow them back to their boat and wait while he fixes it. Less than a half hour later we are on the way again.
We make it to stingray city before it starts to get crowded with tourists. From the dink you can see the rays and a few black tip shark swimming about. We’re all eager to get in the water. It’s about chest deep so I’m standing next to the dink as Dan opens up a can of sardines. Of course these rays are trained to know food is coming and all of the sudden one comes swimming up behind me and literally comes out of the water and slides over my right shoulder. I wasn’t ready for that so I jumped a bit. Dan starts laughing at me. Then he puts some sardines in his hand and two rays come up and slide over top of it to eat the yummy treat.
These rays are like puppies. All they want is attention and food. Their wings feel a bit like sandpaper on the top but on the bottom they feel soft as silk. Of course there’s sand on their tops so I’m assuming that has something to do with it. They are so cool though with the way the wrap their wings around you as if to give you a hug.
The four of us are having a ball feeding them. When they come up to take the food out of your palm you feel a sucking motion. Of course we wear gloves because we’ve heard of some people who get pricked by their tiny teeth. Before you start asking why we would do this if there is a chance of being bitten, let me explain. Their teeth are set back inside their mouths and if you hold your hand out flat they will just suck the food off of it. Those whom I’ve read about that who got pricked were ones whose fingers got inside the mouth. As for us, none of us had this happen. That’s good too because the black tip sharks are swimming all around us and we all know that blood and sharks don’t mix.
Speaking of the sharks I find it interesting that they keep a pretty good distance from us even though we are feeding the rays. Being the scavengers that they are you’d think they would get closer but they don’t. They swim in a circle around all of us.
As time goes on we spend almost and hour swimming and playing with these beautiful creatures. Finally Dan points toward a couple of the black tips and says they are closing in their circle around us. And, there are more than just the two or three we initially saw when entering the water. For safety sake he decides it’s time to move on so we all finish the feeding and get back in our dinks. Ironically at this time the local tour operators are out in full force. The water is so clear you can see all the rays and sharks clearly from above. There must be fifty or sixty people in the water by now. There are adults, children and even babies in water wings floating above the sharks. Now as an adult I know the risk I’m taking and can think logically to mitigate that risk but I’m not so sure I’d have put my baby in the water with sharks all around. Just saying.
With our ray adventure over we head back toward the boats to find the spot where we can snorkel the underwater tikis. Lutz & Gabi had already done that when they came to Moorea for the PPJ party in June. It is pretty cool to see tikis underwater but none of us know their origin. So, after we snorkeled here a bit we hop in our dinks and get ready to go back to the boats when we see a tour boat dropping some tourists off. We stop and ask them about the tikis.
It turns out they aren’t ancient or anything like that. A local carved them some fifteen years or so ago. They were on the hillside and the church elders were unhappy with it because they said you can’t serve two Gods. So the carver took them out and dumped them in the bay. Now they are a tourist attraction and they help to generate income for the local tour operators. Now you have the rest of the story.
Yes, our day with the rays, sharks and tikis was a really awesome day. It might be one of my favorite days since we left Mexico. If you ever get a chance to swim with stingrays I highly recommend it. It was a wonderful experience and one we’ll never forget.
And, we made a short video of our day so if you’re interested, go to our YouTube page and watch it. CLICK HERE TO WATCH OUR VIDEO!
Until Next Time,
Jilly & Dan
If you caught Part I of this story then you already know the beauty and splendor that is Isla Isabel. If you didn’t, you need to check that out. (Click Here for Part I) And yes, the shore adventure was spectacular to say the least. The birds and iguanas combined with the beautiful views would have been enough for me to say this is a place no one should miss but then no trip to Isabel would be complete without some snorkeling or diving in her magnificent, clear blue waters.
After our morning hike around the island we headed back to Dazzler to cool off and enjoy a cool, refreshing Pacifico or two. There’s nothing better than an ice cold beer after a hot and steamy trek through the jungle. We took a break, sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the views for a while. It was a wonderful day and we were the only ones in the anchorage. It was just us, the ocean and the wildlife. There’s something so special about being in an anchorage when there isn’t another soul in sight. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…it makes me feel like an ancient explorer. Well, let’s just leave my age out of this!
Being able to see the all the fish from above was wonderful to be sure but we finally decided it was time to take a peek at the undersea world of Isabel.
With the monoliths less than a hundred feet from our stern we didn’t even need to fire up the dink. We just donned our lycra suits, grabbed our gear and jumped in the water. For those who aren’t familiar with lycra suits, we use them almost every time we go snorkeling. We had ours made in La Paz by a lady named Katty at the beginning of the summer. She charged about 800 pesos which at the time was about $40 USD. Not too bad for a custom made suit. They look like a wetsuit…only a bit more fashionable and the are made of lycra. They aren’t meant to provide warmth rather a thin layer of protection from jellyfish and other such stinging undersea creatures. I am allergic to bee stings and while I’m not certain if a jellyfish sting would give me the same reaction we don’t see any reason to take a chance. Also, in the Sea of Cortez there are these little jellyfish that look like tiny, floating, purple eggs. Their sting is extremely painful and it’s easy to swim into a swarm of them without even noticing because they are so tiny.k
Suited up and ready to go we leaped into the water. WOW! That was really nice. First a few frosty cold ones to chill our insides and now a splash in the water to cool the outside. Yes, this was shaping up to be quite a wonderful day.
The water clarity made for some amazing snorkeling around the monoliths. We saw trumpet fish, sergeant majors, parrot fish, a turtle and a host of other colorful sea creatures. One thing I did notice, however, is we didn’t see even one ray. In the Sea of Cortez you could hardly get in the water without running into a few or even a few hundred of them. The further south we’ve come the less and less of them we see.
Isabel is as beautiful and magical underwater as she is on land and I’m sure I could spend a lot of time telling you about how beautiful it was beneath the surface but then I’m not that good of a story teller so here’s some photos and a short video of our day here.
After our snorkeling adventure we showered and prepared for a spectacular dinner. Captain Dan jumped in the galley and made crab stuffed mushrooms with a balsamic, shallot reduction sauce. Oh yeah!
Yep, Isla Isabel will remain very near and dear to my heart! If you ever get a chance to see this place, do NOT pass it up! I promise you will not be disappointed.
Until next time,
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