Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disapointed by Rangiroa.

The atoll of Rangiroa is one of the many forming the Tuamotu, one of the four sectors of French Polynesia along with the Marquesas, the Society Islands and the Austral Islands. We choose to stop here since it is the largest atoll in the Tuamotu and looked promising. An atoll is a string of islands formed by the coral reefs that surrounded an island long time ago. The island eventually sinks and disappears but the growing coral stays there and eventually the coral and it’s debris create islands that the locals call motus. No doubt that the place is gorgeous with sand beaches, palm trees and water clear enough to embarrass a Bahamian. (Bahamas have one of the clearest water in the world.) Our disappointment didn’t come from the environment but from the people. We anchored near the village of Tiputa and the nearby island has probably more tourists on it than locals. For that reason the locals have become “immune” to tourists and they don’t say hello, don’t smile and in some cases don’t even answer when you try to talk to them. It was a genuinely strange feeling as for the last year and a half we were used to find very nice and warm people everywhere we go. Snorkeling was nice. Just off the boat we had coral heads with very colorful fishes but unfortunately El Nino many years ago increased the water temperature by 2 or 3 degrees and all the corals turned white. A hurricane followed a few years later to finish the job. However, we briefly anchored in front of the village of Avatoru just 7 miles west of Tiputa and I dove to see if the anchor was set correctly since all we could see was coral. The tide was going down and the lagoon in the center of the atoll was emptying itself through the pass creating a very strong current. I managed to swim up to the bow of the boat but couldn’t go further so I let the current pull me back to the stern where I grabbed the hand railing just as I was passing by. I didn’t see the anchor but saw instead a carpet of coral spreading as far as I could see. The corals were the shape of a big flower and the number of different colors was staggering. Usually corals offer a limited number of colors at one place but here it was the whole rainbow spectrum. The current being so strong we couldn’t stay very long, and surely not in the water, so we left. Danielle didn’t see this coral but I for sure will remember it for a long time.