Saturday, July 4, 2015

Exploring Raiatea and Tahaa

Our next stop was the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa.  It was a 15 hour sail, so we left Moorea in the late afternoon in order to arrive the next morning in the daylight. The wind was good, but the seas were a bit sloppy. It was a bit uncomfortable for us, and not what we wanted for Heather's first offshore passage. She was a little seasick, but was quite stoic and managed to sleep through most of it.

The two island of Raiatea and Tahaa share the same barrier reef, so we could explore a lot while staying inside the calm waters of the lagoon. As we entered the lagoon near the SE corner of Raiatea, Malcolm was quite impressed with the various shades of blue water and Heather was quite happy the boat was no longer rocking.

Our first stop was at Hotopuu Bay. This bay is quite deep so we had to find an underwater hill where we could drop the anchor. Malcolm and Heather took Tubby out to explore Taputaputea marae (ancient Polynesian temple) at the entrance to the bay. This marae was the most important religious and historical site in Polynesia at one time. After walking around the 5 acre site, they took Tubby out to get a better look at a motu (little island on the reef) and watch the waves crashing on the outside of the reef.

The next morning we went a short way north to Faaroa Bay. We anchored at the head of the bay and took Tubby up the Aoppomau river. The river winds through the tropical jungle, with palms overhead and yellow hibiscus lining the bank. Along the way we met a local, James, who lives beside the river on his family's farm. He invited us up to see the farm where they grow vanilla and various fruits. We bought a bunch of bananas, lots of star fruit, a few papayas and a soursop (like a cross between a pineapple and a watermelon).

We continued north to the main town of Uturoa, and anchored near the reef just off the town. After anchoring, we did a little snorkeling right from the boat. The next morning we hiked up Mount Tapio for a great view of these two islands, the lagoon, the island of Huahine 15 miles east, and the island of Bora Bora 20 miles west. It was clear enough for us to also see Maupiti, which is about 40 miles west. After that, we grabbed a few drinks at a waterfront cafe with reasonable Internet access, reprovisioned at a large grocery store, and went back to the boat.

We motored north through the lagoon to Tahaa, and stopped at Haamene Bay. We heard the Hibiscus hotel had free moorings and a turtle rescue operation. It was a lovely hotel, in a lovely location, but they had to shut down the turtle sanctuary a few years earlier due to new government regulations. That was quite disappointing. In the past, cruisers would be allowed to take the tagged turtles to release them at a certain location nearby. That must have been amazing!

Since there were no turtles, we continued on. We circled the island to the north and anchored near Motu Matarare on the west. Here there is a small channel, between two motus on the reef, where the current comes in and carries snorkelers over some lovely coral populated by lots of tropical fish. This spot is so popular that the fish are accustom to people and come close hoping to be fed. We did this drift snorkel twice. Malcolm took lots of photos and some actually turned out okay.

The weather looked good for a nice afternoon sail to Bora Bora, so we left Tahaa and headed west.