A white sandy beach! This was it! Paradise at last! We understood what had been missing up until now.
Ivaiva Iti Bay
We went ashore, a three-strand barbed wire fence stretched across the beach. Paradise isn’t a free for all.
It didn’t matter, we were on the right side of the fence. We went snorkelling and it was magic. Each new fish I saw, I thought:
“This is the most beautiful.” There were goldfish, black and white striped zebra fish, neon blue fish, larger fish with stripes the colour of the rainbow, a long pipe fish, and my favourite, a gold fish with neon blue lips and glasses (anyone would think I was making it up!) ... and still no sharks.
The cove was just for Caramor and her entourage (she has a shoal of tiny zebra fish that live around the propellor) and it was lovely. Just around the small headland was another pretty bay with six boats anchored, a little crowded for our liking.
We’d kept the kayaks up on deck for the short hop up the coast. Early the next morning we launched. As we rounded the headland, we came across a 67’ catamaran (now that is a large boat, you could nearly get two Caramors in each of the hulls and it had two storeys on top of the main cabin). A woman was waving at us and pointing out to sea. We went over, she was Irish and friendly. She pointed at a dinghy a hundred metres away and told us that her family were snorkelling with manta rays. We paddled over; sometimes a fin would emerge, then a flash of turquoise as the ray turned and exposed its white belly. Franco had suggested bringing the snorkelling masks that morning and we were sorry we hadn’t. We went back to get them but by the time we returned the manta rays had moved on.
We paddled around the north-east corner of Tahuata into the more exposed 2 mile wide Bordelais Channel which separates the island from Hiva Oa and stopped on a beach where children were playing in the water. We got chatting to a French couple, they were here for their leaving party, after four years on Nuku Hiva Island and working as a schools’ inspector, they were returning to France. He explained that the beach was private but that we could land as long as we didn’t disturb anyone.
The north-east corner is a lot drier
The kayaks on the beach with Hiva Oa Island in the background
On the way back we stopped on another beach and tried to knock coconuts out of a palm, it was harder than we had imagined, and soon gave up. The crabs had beaten us to the ones on the ground and every single one had a large hole in it.
Someone’s semi-derelict shack on the beach
Back at the crowed anchorage, we spotted the signature turquoise of another manta ray and dived out of the kayaks with our masks and flippers but it had gone. I was surprised how easy it was to get back into the kayaks and we will make sure we take the masks with us next time we go paddling.
One boat was flying an Ocean Cruising Club burgee and the Red Ensign (Britain’s maritime flag - red flag with Union Jack in one corner) so we paddled over but the reception was muted to say the least. It seemed each boat crew was living in its own little bubble and none of them had talked to each other, nor had they seen the manta rays.
Back on Caramor we prepared to set sail the next morning.