Fish and Fouling with Flowers
We would have visited Raiatea and Tahaa anyway but our main reason for
getting there is that there is a boatyard with a travel lift big enough to haul
out Gryphon II so we booked in as the boat badly needs antifouling. These are
two islands which share a lagoon but are quite different in character. Tahaa is
the Vanilla Island where the air is often fragrant with the scent of the
vanilla grown all over the island, it is said to be special as it has a very
faint whiff of liquorice - gorgeous. Raiatea was the first island in
the Societies to be settled and was full of ancient religious sites 'Marae'
but these were destroyed by missionaries and now only the most
important have been restored as the polynesians attempt to claw back their
We arrived a few days early so that we could do some lagoon sailing
around the islands before being exhausted from boat work in the heat. We checked
the location of the boatyard when we arrived then anchored out near the reef
where it is shallower as most of the anchorages in the bays and close in to the
island are very deep so if the anchor is fouled it is probably lost as it
is too deep to dive to sort it out. We managed to circumnavigate Tahaa as unlike many of
the islands the surrounding lagoon inside the barrier reef continues unbroken by
banks of coral blocking the way. We spent time investigating the picturesque
bays where the waters plunge deep and the hills rise steeply after the margins
of the shoreline where people live and work on their land and beautiful gardens.
The water in the
Society Islands is wonderfully clear and allows us to take some good photos of
the local wildlife. I had seen a small brown spotted moray eel one evening in an
equally small coral head. However, he had moved house by the time we went back
with a camera to photograph him, so Lorraine looked in a larger patch of coral
and spotted this denizen of the deep. To give an idea of scale, a bigger arm
than mine could have easily fitted inside his body!
were some rather more pretty fish....possibly part of his evening
After investigating the underwater wildlife we had
a hard working week of antifouling in a helpful boatyard on the west coast of
Raiatea. Of course we had to live on board which meant the joys of a
bucket at night but at least the luxury of a (very cold) shower after the day's
work. We launched again after 4 days ashore and now have a nice smooth black
bottom to our boat instead of our previous black and blue one with its fetching
Also whilst on the island we explored
French Polnesia's only navigable river.
This winds about 2 miles inland
before getting too shallow. However it passes the site of an abandoned botanical
garden, where we were told it was possible to land and explore. This proved to
be true but the exploration was enhanced by a local man (called James) who
offered to show us around.
James ahead of our
dinghy in his outrigger canoe.
Just as in Panama when we explored
inland with Romelia and Jessica, James spoke quite good English and
was able to tell us the names of most of the plants we saw in Polynesian, French
and English. He also gave us various fruits to try including what looked like a
large purple plum but is a star apple. Chris liked it but I found it
James climbed a coconut palm to cut
us fresh green nuts for the juice which is delicious. He challenged Chris to
climb up but it didn't work out!
The range of flowers was as ever
staggering as these photos show.
and the Cats' Whiskers
of many unusual ginger family plants
Cashew nut tree
And many others.....................
James also showed us some party tricks with local plants!
The final highlight
of the day for Chris was a go in James's outrigger canoe. James was very
surprised and suitably impressed by his canoeing skills!
Chris and James ........................... outrigger