Category Archives: French Polynesia

French Polynesia islands including: Marquesas, Society, Astrolls, Tuamotus, and Gambiers

Farewell Fakarava

O’ Fakarava!  We return to the South Pass anchorage for internet and sharks!  I know, I know, you are probably thinking I’ve lost my mind.  Probably true, but not in this instance.  The Fakarava South Pass is known all over the world for its amazing Shark Wall and its incredibly diving.

The Fakarava South Pass dive is considered a drift dive which means you drop in at one point and slowly drift to another point.  So, we partnered with a few other cruisers who dropped us off at the outer edge of the pass and picked us up on the inside edge of the pass. 

We dropped down to 70’ and meandered to the famous Fakarava shark wall!  It did not disappoint!

These black tip, white tip, gray, and nurse sharks just swim back and forth and back and forth.  The little fish seem to not care one bit that man-eating sharks are in their way!

Sometimes the sharks are curious and come close….

And sometimes they just don’t give you the time of day.

A small octopus was playing hide and seek…

Snorkel Adventures

Matt and I snorkel the pass several times.  Each time is a new episode in a fascinating series of the underwater world. We still see lots of sharks, but now we focus on all the beautiful fish.

A few sharks who came close enough to check us out.  We gave each other the “eye.”

We came across a lot of napoleon fish.  They have a large bump feature on their head.  These guys are the beasts of the sea.  In the top photo you can see how large they are compared to a normal fish.  I’d say the largest one we saw was at least 1.5meters long!  We also came across a large grouper and trigger (center left), another large trigger (right) and a smaller napoleon (bottom)

I liked to swim close to and under the docks.  Matt captured this above and below water photo while I was near one dock.

A school of rays swam by.  We were not sure if they were spotted or eagle, but they were gorgeous. 

And it appeared to be school day as all the other fish were in schools.

South Pass Beauty

We enjoyed many happy hours at the local dive shop which offered lunch and dinner buffets.  We did not eat with them as they were pricey at $30/$35 respectively for buffet of pizza and raw fish.  But their happy hours were amazing with a beautiful view of the sunset and sharks. 

For the most part, we had absolutely calm conditions to enjoy paddle boarding, swimming, and snorkeling the south pass.

We had many beautiful sunsets and sunrises

We had absolutely lovely weather at the South Pass in Fakarava.  No wind, literally no wind, flat seas and sunny skies.  We just hung out as there was not enough wind to go anywhere else.  Not a hard ship at all.

North Pass – Rotoava (the main village)

Our friends on Agape (Josh and Rachel) were arriving to Rotoava (the main village) soon so we decided to make the downwind sail to town.  It was a lovely 35nm sail with our parasail.  It surprised us by how fast we made it to the new anchorage.  Averaged 7-7.5kts and made the passage in 4 hours.

It had been awhile since we hung out and enjoyed Josh and Rachel!  We had a lovely lunch at a pension (hotel) on the water.

The many happy faces of my husband…

Josh and Rachel had a friend visiting, Kelsey.  We walked the beaches combing for sea shells and picking up trash.  Top photo: Kelsey, Matt, me, Rachel, Josh.

Dinner on Agape with their cat, Gilly.

Rachel and Gilly

Rachel and Gilly

A local “takes care” of a few nurse sharks.  They come around to his house around sunset for some lovin.

We had an opportunity to pet some beautiful nurse sharks.  They felt like sand paper and just enjoyed the soft caress.

It was a lovely visit to Fakarava.  But it is time to move on to Tahiti.

Ta Ta to Tahanea was our last blog post (see passage post).   Events from this blog occurred in March 2022.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Ta Ta Tahanea

After our 5-day passage, we arrive at the Tahanea pass with 4 knots of outgoing current.  Not ideal for our incoming arrival.  But we power up the engines and make it through the pass with no problems.  Yeah us!

Anchoring in Tahanea can be “tricky” as you have to avoid getting your anchor stuck or your chain wrapped around one of the gazillion bommies (little black marks in the photo).  In the middle of the photo is shows the pass where you enter the lagoon.  You can see there is an outgoing current at the time of the phot.

As we were approaching the Tahanea pass we saw a rather large cruise ship on AIS.  Super strange as these are not the “normal” cruising grounds for that type of vessel.

The World

A completely foreign occurrence happened the morning we arrived in Tahanea.  Typically, you will only see a small handful of other sail boats here.  However, a rather large, 196-meter cruiser ship entered the pass and dropped the hook right behind us!  WTF!  Seriously, why would you bring tourist here when there are NO services.  OMG What is this world coming to? 

The cruise ship is called “The World” and it is the world’s largest privately owned yacht.  All of the cabins are privately owned (like condos) and evidently you have to be worth over $5M to be considered for a cabin.  A 700’ cabin will run you about $300,000.  But you will be draped in luxury.  Lucky for us, they left around 5:00pm the same day and we had our anchorage all to ourselves again.  Matt said it “farts rainbows.”

 Boobies, Boobies, and more Boobies

As you know by now, boobies are a type of bird that are super common in French Polynesia.  There are red foot, blue foot, and brown foot boobies.  And they are all super fabulous

There are lots of nesting motus where the a large variety of birds mate.  We enjoy seeing them, but keep our distance so as not to scare them off.

The adolescent boobie (top left) was with a friend and they literally walked or rather waddled up to us.  I took the funniest video (check it out on my instagram account).

 The boobies in Tahanea nest in the trees and on the ground!

Some of the young adult boobies are super curious.  One little guy decided he wanted onboard Sugar Shack!

 Turtle Nest

On one motu we spied these tracks from the water to a spot below a tree.  They were turtle tracks – most likely a large turtle like a leatherback!  One set of tracks left the momma up to the nest and one set of tracks left her back to the water.

A little Relaxation Station

We head to a motu near the eastern most pass and discover a small village.  It is used as a communal area for locals visiting from other atolls.  They even built an outdoor seating area.

 Tahanea Anchorages

 The anchorages here are simply breathtaking!  It is so difficult to express in words so here are a few photos.

 And my favorite anchorage, called “7”  The reef makes a natural “7” in the lagoon.

Tahanea 7 Anchorage

Tahanea 7 Anchorage

So very beautiful.  Our anchorage near the pass at sunset.

We take our time migrating from Gambier to Tahiti (see migration post).   The migration began 25 Feb. in Gambier and ended on 26 March in Tahiti.  Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.

Goodbye Gambier (na na)

After four seasons in Gambier, we are finally saying “farewell” to the beautiful Gambier archipelago.  We have been unbelievably blessed with all the friends we’ve made here.  So, it was a bit difficult to say farewell.  By the way, “na na” is “goodbye” in Mangarevan (the local language in Gambier).

Our first arrival into Gambier was in April 2019 and we stayed for 6 weeks.  Then we returned in January 2020 and stayed for 4 months.  The third visit had us arriving December 2020 where we stayed for 5 months and our last visit was December 2021 where we stayed for 2.5 months.  So, over the course of our 3 year stay in French Polynesia, over a year of it was in Gambier.  That is how much we liked this archipelago!

We save all of our tracks as we move around.  The image below made me laugh because we had so many yellow tracks all over Gambier!  The green dots are noted anchorages, the yellow triangles are warnings of obstructions, the orange dots are points of interest.  Clearly, we’ve been in and around most of the islands in the Gambier Archipelago.

Tracks around the Gambier Archipelago

Tracks around the Gambier Archipelago

Saying “Na Na / Farewell” is super hard…

Over the course of a few weekends, many drinks, and multiple occasions, we capture our farewells to everyone.    The first person I met here was Stefan (or Tanavai) and his beautiful wife Manu.  We’ve spent countless hours with them at their house, on our boat, at Puaumu, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and more. 

Dada was gracious enough to showcase his pearl farm and all of his spectacular pearls with us and so many of our friends.

Heifera taught us how to carve the pretty pearl shells and gave many cruisers tours of the carving school.

Stefan, Manu, Dada, Heifera

Stefan, Manu, Dada, Heifera

One of my very special friends is Poerani (“Popo”).  She teaches English, art, and dance.  She has brought so much joy to our lives.  It was especially hard to leave her glorious smile.

Poerani a true joy

Poerani a true joy

The top photo is Titoan (he runs a small yacht services and charter business) and Juliet who is the local nurse.  Teva (lower left) is the heartbeat of Gambier and has all the connections.  Danny is a teacher and always has a pretty smile on his face!

We met Tehotu and Noella during our 3rd and 4th visit which is a shame as it would have been lovely to get to know them better.  Truly blessed family with so much love and heart to give. 

Taina (lower left) owns Taina Pearl and Keishi and she is an amazingly talented jewelry designer.  And Atuona (lower right) greeted me daily at Magasin Jojo’s. Always brought a smile to my face.

On our last night in Rikitea (the main, and only village in Gambier), we had our cruising friends over for a final farewell happy hour.  Photo: Matt, me, Dave, Pia, Daniela, Leo.  Front row: Jan, Rita, Doug, Kobe.

We head over to Taravai for our last night.  We invite Valerie, Herve, and Ariki for dinner and enjoy an intimate evening with our good friends.  They loaded us up with lots of tasty fruits and beautiful flowers.  It is Polynesian tradition to gift visitors with a shell necklace and flowers to set in the sea to welcome you back in the future.

It was super hard to capture the flowers in the sea as we were traveling 6kts, but you get the idea.

We have had countless sunsets and sunrises in Gambier, but here are a few of my favorites.  A short farewell to the day made brighter by its brilliance.

The iconic Mt. Duff on Mangareva lit up by the sunset.

A dance, fun run, and raffle during the Valentine’s Day Gambier Fundraise (see passage post).  Events from this post occurred mid-February. Our blog posts run 10-12 weeks behind our adventures.