Christmas Tree of the ocean

The Ocean’s Christmas Tree

Kimberly, my beautifully talented sister, went Christmas tree shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend with her family.  Pangs of jealousy and want shot through me.  Not only because I was not there with them for the holiday, but also because we would not be getting a tree as well.  Sure, we have a small wooden one for the boat, but it is not the same.  Yes, even living in paradise, with the one you love, still has you wanting more.  Greedy little thing that I am!

A few days later, Matt took me snorkeling in the little protected reef where we are anchored within the Amanu lagoon.  It has been calling to us to explore for a few days, but the winds have been such that it was not conducive to good visibility.

There were not many fish, but there were tons and tons of ocean christmas trees!  I love these little creatures (yes, they are live)!  When they are out in their full glory, they look just like miniature christmas trees

Sure, I can’t smell them or decorate them or even enjoy them for a month like you landlubbers do.  But I have living, breathing, colorful christmas trees.

Love the variety of colors on each christmas tree

Love the variety of colors on each christmas tree

Each worm (yep they are worms) sprouts two trees.  You always see two by two in the same colors.  They also seem to like the same type of coral.  Check out the black tree with a white top (3rd photo down on left).  Just love all the colors.

A Christmas Tree in every nook

A Christmas Tree in every nook

They are fascinating and fun to play with.  Probably not nice, but I love to watch them disappear and reappear.

We also found loads of clams with a rainbow of lips.

Colorful clams

Colorful clams

Several really large oyster shells – all growing upside down with little things that look like teeth.

Large Oyster Shells

Large Oyster Shells

A beautiful, little starfish sitting in the middle of the sand with nothing else around her, large sea cucumbers, and my own little fish enjoying the snorkel.

The reef is full of beautiful coral sculptures that invite closer to visit its communities.

The reef itself is beautiful.  The top photo is the reef above water and the rest are below water.

When they get scared or feel threatened, they suck themselves up into their little tubey thing.  These are my favorite shots from this snorkel.  I love the pink and white christmas tree.

Love the pink christmas tree

Love the pink christmas tree

We may not have access to all of the holiday trimmings, but seeing these sweet christmas trees brightened my holiday season!

Events from this blog post occurred around the 1st week of December, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Cicumnavigating Mount Rotui

Opunohu Bay is located at the very heart of the island of Mo’orea.  The highest summits of the Opunohu valley lay around the collapsed caldera which gave rise to the island.  Mount Rotui (899m) and Mount Tohivea (1207m) being the two tallest peaks.  Rich soils, gentle slopes, and crisscrossed rivers, make it suited to agricultural activities.

Pineapple plantations, citrus plantations, vegetable gardens, pastures, pine and mahogany patches are all developed to feed the local market covering over 300 hectares.  An additional 100 hectares are rented to local farmers and 35 hectares are dedicated to agricultural establishment dedicated to teaching programs (vocational education and training in the farming sector).

Opunohu Bay Caldera

Opunohu Bay Caldera

Matt and I needed to stretch our legs.  We decided a walk about was in order.  Our original goal was just to explore the Opunohu Bay. However, we ended up circumnavigating Mount Rotui which was a surprise to both of us. 

Orbiting Mount Rotui

We started out near Ta’ahiamanu (say that three times fast) and walked past Vaihere. At Aaraeo we turned left (by the blue arrow) and walked through the pineapple plantations and gardens. Continued on to Pao Pao (Cooks bay) then back on the road, past Urufara, and back to Ta’ahiamanu.  Ended up being 21,456 steps, 9.6 miles!  Follow the map starting at orange line, to white line, back to orange line.  Who knew Mount Rotui took 4 hours to circumnavigate!

At the start, we walked along the and pass a beautiful public park with lush green grass and towering palm trees that line the beach.  Can you see Sugar Shack way, way back?

We came across a man playing Amazing Grace on the bag pipes.  He was just pacing back and forth along the shore playing his music.  It was lovely.

A local fisherman had his trophies displayed outside his house.  He clearly catches a lot of marlin!  Look at all the tails and beaks.  Holy moly.

There are two monuments celebrating “Captain Cook” in Opunohu Bay.  You’d think they would be in Cooks Bay, but no.  The funny thing is the bottom pedestal on one of them is upside down (lower right photo)! I am pointing to where we are in the world (sort of).

Captain Cook Memorials

Captain Cook Memorials

Just before reaching Aaraeo we stumbled on a new museum being built.  Really interesting shape – sort of like a clam with arched steel covered with solar panels.

New Museum

New Museum

Across the road is a beautiful look out.  It had several legends outlined on the plaque which are pretty darn cool.

Entering the heart of the valley

In order to complete our loop around Mount Rotui, we had to cut across the valley through the pineapple plantations.

The plantations and gardens popped up, once we made the left turn toward the center of the valley.  Lots and lots of pineapple fields – it is the pineapple island after all.

Pineapple plantations

Pineapple plantations

Lots of animals along the way, cows, horses, goats.

Beautiful pastures and sweeping views of towering mountains.

We crossed several creeks and rivers.  Most were flowing because we had heavy rains for a few days.

There are lots of trails around these mountains.  We did not hike up any of the mountains (this time) as our track would be close to 10 miles when we are done.  The different colors show the different trails on just Mt. Rotui.

When all was said and done, we were exhausted, hot, and hungry.  We made it back to the boat, and took a dip in the water to cool off.  We relaxed the rest of the day!

Events from this blog occurred on 8 November, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Matt at Tiki Village

Magical Moments in Mo’orea

As we were waiting for a weather window, we encountered many magical moments in Oponohu Bay, Mo’orea.  We are anchored on a sandy shelf about 2 to 3 meters deep between the reef and the island.  Late one afternoon we spotted two huge nurse sharks (about 3 meters long) just hanging out next to Sugar Shack. We think they were nurse sharks, but they could have been lemon sharks.

One night, just before sunset, the clouds rolled across the caldera and provided this beautiful photo.

Oponohu Bay, Mo'orea

Oponohu Bay, Mo’orea

We had the most enchanting sunset another night.  It started out with a little beauty and then blossomed into this firey red across the entire sky and reflecting onto the water.  None of these photos were enhanced or tweaked…just nature’s beauty.

Some of these photos needed to be shown as stand alone images.

And this has no filters or changes – just pure magic.

Even the rain brings magical moments

It is not always sunshine and rainbows in French Polynesia.  It does rain a lot which is good because it feeds new life into the land, mountains, trees, and flowers.  But sometimes it is a torrential downpour which keeps you holed up in you boat.

I actually got cold and snuggled up.

But the huge rains brought several beautiful waterfalls – just magical.

And another pretty sunset.

Underwater Tiki Garden

Across the channel is a shallow anchorage called Tiki Village.  Matt and I have anchored here several times and never knew there was a tiki museum nearby (we also did not know this anchorage was called “Tiki Villiage”).  Our friends Steve and Lili on Liward took us over there to explore this amazing underwater museum.

The legend has it that when the missionaries came to Mo’orea they built a protestant church right on the Marae, their sacred grounds. The missionaries forced the locals to either destroy or toss their monuments / tikis in the ocean.  But the inhabitants outsmarted them.  They strategically placed the tikis underwater, clustered together directly across from the church in the village of Papetoai.

Church built on the Mo'orea marae

Church built on the Mo’orea marae

There are 7 tikis gently laid in 3 meters of crystal-clear water.  And despite the efforts by the missionaries, the Tahitian culture is very much alive today.

We found all 7 tikis, but some were hard to distinguish.  They are just starting to get growth which is fascinating.  This one we could not figure out – or should I say, I could not figure out.  Lili pointed to what she thought was his head and face…I just don’t see it.

I love this tiki called “the twins”

The Twins Tiki

The Twins Tiki

Matt liked it too and gave me a smile hidden behind his bubbles (he took his mask off).

I think this tiki is a woman, but what do you think?  It actually looks more like a mermaid, but either way female.

This was a great tiki with little growth.

This is my favorite tiki.  I love how the soft coral grew right at his head giving him hair.  And do you see the fish at his head too?  This tiki is a man sitting down while holding a bowl in his hands.

This magical man brought shivers to me as I explored his carvings.

Another difficult one to decipher.

The final tiki had three carvings on it.  Not sure you can see all 3 faces, but they were wonderful.

It was magical to find these tikis knowing their history.  It brought shivers to me as I examined them.  I hope they are honored for decades to come.

Super good times with our friends Josh and Rachel (“Agape) and Steve and Lili (“Liward).

Fruit shopping on the side of the road…don’t you love the pretty decor?

The Opunohu Anchorage at sunset

Opunohu Anchorage

Opunohu Anchorage

View facing the mountains from the same anchorage

Events from this blog occurred during the first week of November, 2020.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.