Moorea - Moo - Ray - Ah!

Miss Molly 4
Bob & Peggy Wilkerson/Geoff & Merel Pettifer
Thu 7 Aug 2008 10:50
17:29.52S 149:51.17W

Tahiti and its capital Papeete are quite a treat after all those lonesome miles at sea, but after a while you just realise that it is the Big Smoke of the Pacific. From our anchorage at Tahiti we would watch the most beautiful sunsets over Moorea each night and going over to the Society Islands became more and more attractive.

So after we had shown James, Geoff's son, enough of Tahiti, we cleared out and sailed the 16 miles over to Cook's Bay on Moorea. Very fjord-like, but a friendlier temperature than you would find in fjords. A day later we moved over to our favourite bay: Opunohu. You anchor near the reef where you can snorkel a deep drop-off coral wall, you can hike to a Belvedere which overlooks both Cook and Opunohu Bay (12 km, pretty steep road, but good to give our sailing legs a good workout) with archaeological sites underway and - the most unique thing: you can feed the eagle rays.

You follow the dinghy channel through the reef, past a resort with the bure huts overhanging the water, on to a waist deep sandy spot just off the channel. We were telling James that last year the rays would pick up the food at your feet when you dropped it there and they would just softly touch your ankles with their velvet-like wings. We also told him that there was a tour guide with a group who held a fish in his hand so that the ray would take it from his hand, while he tugged the ray's wing.

When we arrived this year there were no other boats around us and as soon as we stopped the outboard the rays (about 20) came gliding towards us. They surrounded the dinghy completely. We hardly knew where to drop the anchor, let alone where to jump out of the dinghy without landing on a ray. Geoff was the first one to find a gap between the lively animals and jumped overboard. Six or seven rays immediately surrounded him, so that he was held in place at his waist by the animals, pushing up to him. May be it was the frozen wahoo compared to last year's tinned fish, but they almost climbed up his chest! If even the captain found this too uncomfortable to stay in the water no way the crew was getting in there! So Geoff climbed back in the dinghy once the rays allowed him to and we fed them from there. They still came half out of the water, climbing up the side of the dinghy, so we could stroke those velvety wings. Very special. The wahoo we brought was gone in no time but since there was no other boat out there to feed the rays they kept lingering around us. But we had more things to do, so we could not linger and left the rays behind.

On the way back we were wondering what had happened over the course of one year. From careful natural creatures approaching human beings, these rays have changed into a hungry mob that is not shy of pushing into you and jostling you about! We are wondering how they will act next year if this trend continues.

Anyway, glad to have seen them and time to meet other friends, so we are currently underway to Tahaa to visit the so called Coral Garden. We'll keep you posted!

Geoff, Merel & James