Swimming with the sharks

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Aug 23, 2007

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Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A great day. (Makes up a tiny bit for yesterday.) Went early to the Internet café so Paul could take care of some business (as Data service is not available in French Polynesia). Then, at 09.30h, we all boarded the Liki Tiki for an excursion (with a dozen or so other people). It was a glorious day - all sun, limited wind. We first went out to a reef, where we anchored. Our captain, Bruno (same Bruno from 20 years ago?), got into the water ... and the reef sharks began to appear even before he had pulled out the fish. We (yes, even me) got into the water and held onto the anchor rope. On the other side of the line, sharks were fed fish. It was very weird being that close to that many sharks - and feeding sharks, at that. But one felt safe ... the sharks were clearly totally uninterested in us.

Our next stop was again on the reef, to pet the stingrays. Beautiful animals - they again appeared in large numbers as soon as the boat anchored. Here, we stood in the water as the rays swam around us, between our legs, against our backs. Bruno would hold them up, and we could pet them easily. They are surprisingly soft around the edges - though rough over much of their backs. We learned that the females are generally larger than the males. It was a pretty amazing experience.

Last stop of the day was a motu for swimming and a picnic. We swam in the water for a bit, then floated close to shore while drinking rum punch. After about a half-hour, we were called for lunch - delicious barbequed fish (wahoo and tuna), chicken, rice and noodles. Very tasty fresh pineapple for dessert. Ymmm.

After lunch, Paul and the kids went for a long snorkel - saw a wall of sea anemone tentacles without obvious cones. Very odd. Also, a large parrot fish.

While they were out, we were entertained with a coconut-husking demonstration. Bruno did it very quickly, then gave coconuts to the four buffest-looking men ... who, of course, had some difficulty with the procedure. All got through, but it took them a lot longer than it did Bruno, and the coconut did not come out as clean. We then watched as they cracked the nuts, shaved the meat, and squeezed out the coconut milk. All we needed was a bit of pineapple juice, and we'd be just fine.

Finally, it was time to return. After a very wet and windy ride, we reached the condos. I immediately showered - felt great. Just 16.00h, so time for some rest/reading before our dinner/dance show tonight.

We all had a brief cocktail "hour" then at 18.00h, went to the Polynesian dance show. I wonder how much the music has changed in the last few centuries - it's so different from the music of the Malay peninsula (suspected origins of the Polynesians?). The dancers did a number of different dances, either of the fast/drum/hip-shaking variety, or of the slow/ukele/waving hand variety. Also, a number of male dancers, which had a fast, vaguely Charleston-like leg-wagging dance. At one point, they recruited audience members, including Kyla ... but the dancers never told the newcomers what to do.

The show lasted about half an hour, then we went to our own table for dinner. I had shrimp in curry sauce - delish. We didn't linger but returned instead to our own deck - the party deck - where we shared the memory from Terry. We then sat around, talking of various things, until 20.30h, at which point, we decided it was bedtime.

Now that we've driven around - and partially circumnavigated - Moorea, I feel a bit competent to describe what we've seen. First impressions: there are several closed hotels that dot the island. Club Med closed, according to my guidebook, in 2000 - andthat prime piece of real estate remains untouched. On Cook's Bay, there's a very French-colonial-style hotel, lovely grounds, that is all boarded up. We saw several other hotels - smaller - around the island that appear to be closed, too. The Intercontinental is building, but, other than that, we saw no signs of construction (which is a relief). We wonder if Tahiti has priced itself out of the market. You can only fly in on Air Tahiti Nui; it is horrendously expensive to buy food once you arrive. And everything else is overpriced, too - car rental, the DVD made for our excursion to the sharks and rays, laundry service. I can't wait to get on the cruise to pay only slightly inflated prices.
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