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Fakarava airport

Tetumanu & THE Teitelmans

The town of Tetumanu is at the Fakarava south pass. It is not really a town, but it does consist of a church, two small pensions (lodges) that each have an eatery, and two dive centers. That is it. No magasins (markets), nada, zilch. We came here to explore the many motus, dive the Tetumanu (south) pass, and hide from the weather system and it was worth it.

In our last blog we explored Santa Suzanna Island and its pretty pools of waters. It was time to take a dive. Our friends on Chasing Waterfalls organized a dive with another boat and we decided to join them. The problem was that we did not have time to rent tanks and BCDs for Josh and Sara. So, Matt and Josh used our equipment and Sara and I snorkeled. With amazing clarity we could see the divers 70+ below us with no problem.

Diving the Pass

Diving the Tetumanu Pass

Everyone thought it was “slack tide” but in reality, it was not. It is very difficult to calculate slack tide as every day has different winds, waves, moon, etc… We tied three dinghies to the mooring and all jumped in. The divers descended and immediately latched on to rocks and dead coral to prevent themselves from drifting away. They looked like spiders with all four limbs spread out! It was really a funny sight. Unfortunately, the photos I took did not come out as they were 20+ meters below us.

They hung out by the shark wall where they watched a shark get his teeth cleaned. Yep, a fish was stupid enough to swim in and out of the shark’s open mouth to clean his teeth (see top photo). There were dozens and dozens of sharks here.

Diving with Sharks

Diving with Sharks

We slowly drifted to the lagoon before hopping back in our dinghies. Sweet, but short drift. We swung by the Tetumanu Dive shop and they had different fittings for dive tanks. So, we could not fill ours. Then we stopped by Top Dive and they were never home.  They did have a handy map showing the incoming and outgoing tides (see red and blue diagram)

Top Dive and the Currents in the pass

Top Dive and the Currents in the pass

The next day we decided to snorkel the pass closer to the reef. What a difference. Not nearly as many sharks. However, we did encounter several HUGE fish, some grouper, some with a bubble on their head. Lots of schools of fish and many, many coral species.

Fish in the South Pass

Fish in the South Pass

We took our time drifting from the pass opening to the lagoon. The current got much stronger as we entered the lagoon, but it did allow us enjoy the underwater sea life.

Super pretty coral and lots of fish

Super pretty coral and lots of fish

We organized a pizza dinner at Motu Aito Paradise earlier in the afternoon. Our friends on Rhapsody (John and Ada) and Chasing Waterfalls (Steve, Johanna, Mia, Eva, Layla) joined us. It was really nice hanging with our cruiser friends and swapping stories.

Pizza night at Motu Aito Paradise

Pizza night at Motu Aito Paradise

Full Sail Back to North Fakarava

It was nearing time to return back to the North side of the island. Josh and Sara had a flight to catch, despite our attempts to get them to stay longer. Surprisingly, after three visits to Sugar Shack (BVI, San Blas Islands, Fakarava), they had never seen our boat under full sail. We had hoisted each sail individually, but the winds were not right for a full sail. However, our passage to the north side of the island was perfect!

Up went the main and the jib! We had a lovely 10-12kts of wind on the beam which gave us a steady 6-7kts of boat speed. At one point we encountered a squall, so we reefed the jib, but within 30 minutes she was back out.

Full sail in the Fakarava lagoon

Full sail in the Fakarava lagoon

Even though they had to leave the next day, we celebrated like rock stars. We had an impromptu fiesta on our boat after our friends on Gizmo gave us fresh Wahoo. Mike from Easy, cut it up sashimi style, Janet and Darryl from Maple stopped by and Steve from Chasing Waterfalls made an appearance. It was a goofy night that led to Thing 1 and Thing 2 passed out on the bow.

Celebrating a great trip

Celebrating a great trip

We did a little shopping the next day, ordered some more bread and danishes and a wee bit of internetting. Matt picked us up at the little beach. Josh and Sara in front of Sugar Shack (background).

Fakarava near Rotoava

Fakarava near Rotoava

It was sad to bring them back to the airport, but they had a plane to catch.

Fakarava airport

Fakarava airport

That night we had a stupendous sunset that turned the sky red.

Sunset at Fakarava

Sunset at Fakarava

Diving Kicker Rock

DIVE TOUR: KICKER ROCK

We wanted to dive once before we left the Galapagos. So, we reserved a dive tour off of Kicker rock. Our friend Emily, at Islanders Galapagos organized a fun filled day for us. We hopped in a small boat with about 8 other guests and made our way to Tortuga Beach.

We passed by Kicker Rock on the way to Tortuga Beach and got a great photo op.

Kicker Rock in all her Glory

Kicker Rock in all her Glory

Tobago Beach Lava Hike:

We had a wet landing at Tortuga Beach and went exploring around the lava formations. They jutted up all around us creating pits, gauges, water holes, and towers.  Pockets of water, green plants and cactus poking out of holes and breathtaking views all around.

Lava Formations at Tortgua Beach

Lava Formations at Tortgua Beach

There were several goat skulls. Our guide pointed out that they are aggressive and unwanted creatures that were destroying the natural habitat.  Eating precious turtle and bird eggs and destroying vegetation.  They are not indigenous to the Galapagos.

After a nice fish lunch, we were given our dive instructions. Only Matt, Ron, and I were diving. Everyone else went on a snorkel adventure. I hate to admit it, but I was nervous. Yes, I have well over 100 dives under my belt, but this was with strange gear, new BCD (back inflatable) and full 7mil wetsuit. I had never been diving with a wetsuit and weights. I was unsure of leveling out my buoyancy. It took a village to get me into my wetsuit – and provided a bit of entertainment.  I was laughing and a bit humiliated, not in pain – despite the photo below.

Squeezing into my wetsuit was entertaining for all

Squeezing into my wetsuit was entertaining for all

We jumped in the water which was a brisk 22 Celsius (warm in their standards, freezing for me). Took awhile to get used to the BCD, suit and weights, but we descended to 90’ fairly rapidly. The current was a bit of a bitch to get used to, but we saw some amazing sea life! We swam above several white tip and Galapagos sharks which was a first and a bit intimidating.

UNDER WATER WORLD:

Diving Kicker Rock - descending to 90'

Diving Kicker Rock – descending to 90′

Santiago, our dive guide captured this beautiful manta ray, eel, fish, and starfish.  Not the best photos, but you get the gist.  Clarity was only marginal.

Kicker Rock Underwater Creatures

Kicker Rock Underwater Creatures

The second dive, on the other side of Kicker Rock, produced a huge school Galapagos sharks, a hammerhead shark, lots of sea tortoises, and some beautiful schools of fish.

Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks

We did see one hammerhead but were not able to get a clear photo of him.  He was there and then he wasn’t.

Kicker rock Fish

Kicker rock Fish

Cerro Brujo Beach Stroll:

We joined the snorkelers back on-board for some hot tea and snacks. On the way back, we stopped by Cerro Brujo to get the iconic view of Kicker Rock through the rock formation. We also enjoyed a beautiful stroll down Cerro Brujo beach (witch’s hill).

Cerro Brujo Beach Walk

Cerro Brujo Beach Walk

Matt and a Sea Wolf Practicing Yoga

Matt and a Sea Wolf Practicing Yoga

PASSAGE PREPARATIONS

Before we leave for our 1800nm passage, we needed to provision and fuel up. Luckily, we still had a lot of frozen food and a few pre-cooked meals from Costa Rica.

Fueling in the Galapagos only takes place in San Cristobal and is done with jerry cans. First, you need to tell your agent 3 days in advance when you want to fuel and how much fuel you need. We needed 150 gallons of diesel, which came in (9) sixteen gallon jerry cans, plus one can of gasoline.

On our delivery day, a panga pulled up with one driver. This should be interesting as each jerry can weighed about 130lbs a piece. After we secured the panga to Sugar Shack, the driver attempted to transfer one can off the back of his boat to our sugar scoop. Let’s just say it came on-board, but it wasn’t pretty.

The rest of the cans were hoisted using a spinnaker line off the side of the boat. Much easier and more efficient process.

We were uncertain as to the quality of the fuel, so we filtered it using our baja filter. To bad our fuel filter wasn’t working properly.  We will have to fix it for next time.  It just took a little ingenuity.

Five hours later, all filled up, we returned the jerry cans and considered it a successful day.

Refueling in Galapagos

Refueling in Galapagos

Aruba dive site

Wreck Dives of Aruba: Renaissance Airplane

There are two dive sites with sunken airplanes in Aruba.  The most famous one is the Renaissance Airplane dive site and the other one is called the Arashi Airplane dive site.  Our following blog will be about our Arashi airplane dive-stay tuned.

We did not get to dive at Renaissance airplane site.  But in the spirit of sharing information, I thought I would still post about it with the hopes that one of you can dive it in the future.   Matt and I tried to find this dive spot, looked at 4 different mooring sites where we thought it could be and never discovered the actual airplane wrecks.  The maps all show different locations for this site which does not help either.  So frustrating!

But, evidently, just in front of the Renaissance Island are two submerged planes.  Aruba has intentionally sunk two airplanes an YS-11 and a DC-3 to help create an artificial reef.  Many of the wrecks we have explored in Aruba have been intentionally sunk and are located in relatively shallow waters.

The DC-3 is a small aircraft at about 23 meters long and holding 40 seats.  In the late 1980’s this plane was confiscated during a drug bust and later sunk by authorities.  Originally it was sunk in fairly shallow waters, but in 1999 hurricane Lenny decided to find a better place for it in deeper waters – 28 meters and cut the fuselage into two big pieces. Several other pieces of the plane have been scattered around the sandy bottom reef called Sonesta coral reef.

Aruba dive site

DC3 Airplane wreck Aruba. Photo courtesy of AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine.

Aruba wreck dive

DC3_wreck_dive_aruba. Photo credit star5112.

The second airplane belonged to Air Aruba who donated it to the Aruba Water Sports Association in 2004.  This plane was a Japanese turboprop passenger airliner that was laid to rest on the Sonesta reef.  She is about 20 meters long and weighed close to 13 tons.  The cool thing about this plane is that she landed with its nose in 13 meters of water and its tail section resting at the 28 meters of water so it gives you the impression it is ready for take off.  The cockpit is still intact and provides for great photo opportunity.

Aruba dive site

Fuselage. Photo courtesy of AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that we could not find the Renaissance airplane dive site.  I am sure we could have paid to go out with a dive group, but that just seems silly when we have all the gear and have found over 50 dives on our own.  This was the first elusive dive spot and it did not help that the dive maps are inconsistent and vague at best.  But nonetheless, it is a cool blog story and I found some great photos online.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Why we couldn’t find the dive site:

Several days later, we went to get our scuba tanks filled at Aruba Watersports and found out that the moorings for the Renaissance airplane site broke off and are no longer visible.  You have to go with a local dive group to do a drift dive in order to see the airplanes.  Phew, at least we weren’t totally off the mark.