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Date: 06 Jun 2014 19:57:00
Title: Fakarava South Pass - sharks!

16:30.44S 145:27.497W

Imagine you went to the biggest Aquarium in the world and they passed you a pair of flippers, a snorkel and a mask and invited you in for a swim. That is, truly, what it is like here. I wouldn't have believed that so many different species of fish could be seen within just a few yards of each other - and the water clarity - unbelievable, think like in Bonaire only more so. We can scarcely keep ourselves out of the water, there's so much to see - each day brings new delights. If these fish had been designed it would have been best done by giving a class of five year olds a pack of the brightest crayons and letting them loose on some fish outlines - with instructions to add as many bumps and lobes and tassels as they pleased!

But it took a little while to get us in.

We had trouble finding a sandy spot to drop the anchor - there are coral heads everywhere. In the end we had to just pick one and go for it, and sure enough our chain zig-zags between the coral heads - not good as it gives much less 'working chain', chain that can lift and move with the boat as squalls pass over (and they do!). In retrospect we should have put buoys on our chain to keep it up over the coral heads, but when we just arrived, looking straight down, we didn't realise that the dark patches were lumps of coral 15 or 20 feet high! As soon as we had anchored sharks started passing under the boat. Black tips mostly but grey reef sharks too. I had been planning on snorkeling the anchor chain, to check how it was lying, once we'd finished our just-anchored beer, but I grew hesitant watching them pass under us time and time again. In the end I decided to go for it. We had heard that this was one of the best places to snorkel in the world and a few sharks weren't going to keep me out of the water. If my time was up, my time was up, I'd had a good life! We debated Phil attaching a line to me so he could retrieve the remnants, should all go wrong, but I felt that was too much like fishing, with me as the bait. As you realise, I lived to tell the tale but that first time down the swim ladder into shark infested water, heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, was a moment to remember. Off I swam, seeing full size sharks heading straight for me... and passing by. I tried to calm my tendency to speed up when they approached - they are attracted to activity.

They are innumerable. When ever we sit to look over the side we see them. When we clean the bottom of the boat, they keep us company. Nearer the pass, in the shallows alongside the village they literally swarm. But we watched a man mending his mooring line with even a tiger shark passing by - he didn't bat an eyelid so we've learnt to do the same, to watch with awe and delight as these wonderfully beautiful and graceful creatures effortlessly sweep by. But you should see them when something attracts their attention: the lazy whole body sweeps of their tails suddenly burst into turbo boost mode and they shoot through the water, they're on their focus in a moment.

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