Fakarava and Apataki


31 May 2010 | Tuomotus

We checked out the little village on Fakarava and found out that although it is more well-known and therefore a bit more touristy, is actually smaller than Takaroa. After cruising the main drag, we walked to the ocean side of the atoll. Most of the land on the atolls that we’ve seen is only a few hundred feet from the lagoon side to the ocean side you can usually see the ocean and the lagoon from anywhere. Some friends had found some pretty cool shells and we decided to try our luck. After 15 minutes of flipping over the biggest rocks we could turn, all we had for our efforts was a shell that resembled something like an earmuff and a little piece of yellow coral. We decided shell finding might have to wait for another time. We were all craving some ice cream and decided that the best deal in town was to buy a two liter container. Unfortunately, it was siesta time so we had to wait, but we were ready with spoons and some containers to eat it with as soon as they opened. After pigging out on some ice cream, we headed to a little hotel that had internet and got some things done. The wind was still blowing pretty hard and the visibility in the lagoon was pretty poor, so it was a good day for hanging out on the island. The hotel owner spoke pretty good English and recommended that we go on a dive the next day. We decided to call it an early night and get some rest. The next day, we woke up bright and early to get some fresh baguettes and croissants which were awesome. We jumped in the dinghy to find the dive shop and after navigating through big coral field, we made it to what we thought was the dive dock. It turned out to be a little pearl farming operation and the owner ended up giving us a quick tour and then offering to drive us to the dive shop. He explained that business was pretty tough at the moment and it actually cost more to produce the pearls than what he was selling them for. The problem is that he had so many pearls in the water that he still needed to harvest that he couldn’t close up shop. We jumped in his truck and he drove us down to the dive shop where we setup a drift dive to see some sharks at the pass that made Fakarava famous. We’d been having some trouble with the underwater cameras that we have and prior to diving Alex grabbed the tube of silicon that is used to repair leaks on the boat. To make a long story short, he eventually had silicon all over his hands and then thought he felt a bug on his leg and wiped silicon all over his leg. Silicon doesn’t wipe out of hair that easily and we were in a hurry, so we just left for the dive (it looked like he had a terrible skin disease and later that night while eating dinner on an Italian boat, I’m pretty sure they noticed it and thought he was a leper). We started the dive that the mouth of the pass just before the tide was changing. The dive master explained to us how dangerous the dives can be because the current gets so strong if you don’t go at the right time. It would be bad enough if the current just pushed you out to sea, but right outside the pass the water drops off and the current actually pulls you down. Thankfully, we were going as the tide was coming in. We dropped out of the boat and started the decent. The visibility was great and we could see sharks swimming around immediately. We went down to 90 ft and there were sharks everywhere. We probably had over 50 that we could see at one time. They were all blacktip sharks which are non aggressive and were no longer than probably six feet long. For the most part, they weren’t interested in us at all but a few times I’d glance to one side and notice one cruising by staring at me with its gray catlike eye. Unfortunately, a little silicon got into the camera and we couldn’t get any pictures. Other than the sharks, there were a ton of other fish. One that was pretty cool was the giant wrasse which is actually a shark killer. It’s this huge fat ugly fish with a giant forehead that looks like it’d be a great meal for a group a sharks, but apparently the sharks won’t come near it. The fish kills the sharks by ramming them with its forehead in the organs. We saw one giant manta ray and then found a cave with a big sleeping nurse shark in it that must have been 8 or 9 feet long. In the middle of the dive, I looked over and noticed Alex was holding hands with the dive master and swimming with him. I know it’s great to make friends, but I thought it was a little weird to start on a dive. It turns out that Alex breathes like he eats fast and as much as possible and had already burned through his tank, so he was just buddy breathing with the guide. At the end of the dive, we swam up into the current and were swept over these huge coral fields. It was a great dive and easy to see why it’s a destination location for scuba divers. The next day we woke up before 5 so that we could make it to the next atoll (Apataki) with some sun. It was a full moon, so we were able to see the beacons on the way out. Just before we exited the pass, we had a hit on the rod and reel and reeled in some type of reef fish. It was a decent sized fish, bluish with light purple stripes, but since many of the reef fish in the atoll carry a toxin that can be deadly to humans, we let it go. As we went through the pass, the current was pretty strong and we actually were going around 10 knots at one point. The current was hitting the swell and creating some pretty big standing waves. At one point, we were bouncing over the waves and buried the bow in wave. We got out safely and had good wind for the sail (gusting to 20 knots). Just after lunch, Alex screamed and I saw Diego throwing things out of the galley into the cockpit. It turns out, we had a pipe clamp come off and the bilge pump got clogged, so we were filling up with water. Alex quickly sealed the pipe back up and we got the bilge working. Thankfully, all that happened was that Alex’s room got flooded and all his clothes that were on the floor got soaked catastrophe avoided. We were just about to Apataki and finally, finally got a hit on the handline that we had out. It’s seriously been around 2 months since we caught a fish on it. We had the new lure that Diego’s buddy, Richmond, gave us in Takaroa. He also gave us a heavy duty swivel and tied it on for us. We saw it was a Mahi Mahi and after a decent fight we gaffed it and dragged it on board. It was a great fish and just shy of 60 inches (~57). It turned into a bit of a bloodbath, but we got some vodka and killed it pretty quickly. Unfortunately, mahi mahi loose their color as soon as they die, but we still got some great pictures. I got to filleting it immediately and there was a ton of meat on it. We arrived just on time in Apataki and with no other boats at the wharf, we cruised up and easily tied up. After pigging out on the mahi mahi, we decided to use the carcass to try to attract some sharks. We threw it in the water next to the boats and after just a few minutes, there were five big sharks circling it. Eventually, a big one grabbed it Diego pulled it up and had the entire shark head out of the water before the head ripped off the carcass and it fell back in the water. I was sitting with my legs hanging over the dock to get a better picture and nearly got more than I bargained for. I just pulled my foot out of the way before the shark’s head popped out of the water. A few of the local guys saw what we were doing and a few minutes later were on the wharf to show us how it was done. They had a live eel that they cut in half and eventually they hooked a pretty big shark (they were actually using a hook while we just had the carcass tied to a rope). They horsed the 200lb shark up to the dock and, as they were trying to drag it up on the wharf, the line snapped and it swam off. Good ending to an action packed day. The next morning, we woke up and checked out the little local church. After church, there was a big Mothers Day feed. We had some great food and had a good time talking with some of the islanders. After church, we got into a pretty competitive game of petanque with some of the younger guys (petanque is Frances version of lawn bowling). At noon, we picked up anchor to and navigated through the lagoon to the north side of the atoll where our friends from Seattle were at. They had been anchored for over a week and before we arrived hadn’t seen a soul. That night, we made a big fire on the beach and had a huge fish feed with the other boat. One of the guys, Brady, had a huge boil on his neck, so after dinner, Alex volunteered to help him deal with it. A few hours later on their boat, we had a true sailors surgery. We all had a good laugh at Brady’s expense and although it was disgusting, the boil was gone in the end and he could move his neck again. We plan on spending a few days here before moving on.



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