Lucy & I dinghied ashore
early to arrange our pearl farm tour.
Hinano’s Pearl farm had come highly recommended. There are only two
pearl farms that do tours (free of charge as well!!!) but Hinano’s was the name
on everyone’s lips.
Gunther agreed that we could go
on a tour at 2pm, so I went over to the dive shop to see what Roger had
He was planning to do the north passage drift dive,
which we had heard so much about. I was not able to do it, as it is a strong
current and very rough seas, so getting into the boat at the end of the dive
might be a problem, with my knees in the state they are. Still I had the pearl
farm to look forward to.
At 2pm we all met up, credit
cards in hand (BIG mistake!!!!). The drive out to the farm was nice as it gave
us a better idea of what the rest of island was like.
The pearl farm is built over the
water on stilts. Gunther talked us through the whole process.
take an oyster and open it (this is the donor oyster) and remove its mantel.
This is then trimmed and cut up
into small squares, these are the grafts.
then get a nucleus, which is made from pure mother of pearl and is about 6mm in
size. These are manufactured in Japan and China.
Then next stage is to find a recipient oyster. Now here
is the interesting part. Polynesian pearls are black or grey, Japanese are only
white, Filippino are pink, each hybrid of oyster only producing a particular
colour, it is not random. However, when they are selecting the recipient oyster,
they pry it open, just enough to see the mother of pearl inside and not damage
the muscle. What they are looking for is iridescence. If the mother of pearl has
produced it in the shell, then there is a good chance of getting good
iridescence in the pearl.
They then pry open the shell,
slit open the gonad, insert the graft into the incision and then put the nucleus
in, so that the graft and the nucleus are touching.
The oyster is then put in a
protective netting sleeve and returned to the water. The sleeve protects the
oyster from trigger fish and other predators.
Within a month the incision has
healed and the graft has enveloped the nucleus and the pearl is beginning to
After 18 months the graft should
have created 1.5 mm of mother of pearl around the nucleus, this meets with the
The oyster is once again pried
open, the gonad is once again cut open, the pearl removed and if it is of
sufficient quality a new nucleus, the size of the pearl that had just been
removed, is put back in its place. In this way they create larger pearls.
This process takes a few
Geoffry was the technician
demonstrating to the process. He had been doing this for 4 and a half years and
was extremely adept, moving with the precision of a surgeon.
Good oysters can be used for up
to 16 years. But the older the oyster, the less likely to get good quality
The waters around Fakarava are
not very good for collecting new seed oysters as too many other molluscs take
advantage of the collectors, taking up valuable space. So the seed oysters are
bought from another island that specialises in collecting.
It was a fascinating tour. Then
we were taken to the shop, oh dear. Let’s just say that I got a little carried
away (not as much as some other yachties who were reputed to have spent in
excess of $2000!!)
So it was a happy little camper
that trotted off to meet Roger after his dive.
When I asked Roger how the dive was, he simply said
‘mind blowing’!!! I will do it again!!
We had debated on whether or not
he should take the camera with him, we thought better of it, after what we had
heard from other divers, telling tales of hanging on for dear life.
It was a very disciplined dive.
As soon as they hit the water
they went down to 5 mts and the dive master did the safety checks there.
They then proceeded to descend to
40 mtrs, all the time drifting with the current.
Eventually the sea bed rose to
meet them and they then grabbed on and moved hand over hand along the bottom,
where they waited. Above them were hundreds of different sharks, all around them
were hundreds of fish and I forgot to mention that there were also sharks
swimming close to them. But they seemed totally disinterested in the divers,
having checked them out, they swam off.
They then carried on, crawling
along the coral like crabs, to the next viewing spot, where there were more
sharks and huge Napoleon Wrasse.
The next stop was in a gulley,
out of the current. There were fish everywhere, Roger reckoned if he had taken
the camera, he would have been able to point it at random and get a photo full
From there it was an ascent to
the safety stop. One of the divers had gone into decompression time, so they all
had to do a 16 minute safety stop. But they had been down 48 minutes, so it was
a good dive.
He enjoyed it so much that we are
booked on tomorrows dive at the Southern passage, which is a gentler dive, but
with as many sharks. But tomorrow we are taking the camera, so watch this