Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sea Life in Hanamoenoa Bay, Tahuata (Marquesas)

When Mark and I first arrived in Hanamoenoa Bay in the island of Tahuata, after escaping the murky waters of Atuona, it appeared to be paradise. The anchor set easily in the sandy bottom, which we could see from 30 feet above. The water had a turquoise color, while the sandy beach ashore harbored many palm trees. According to the cruising guides, this bay was a cruisers' favorite with great snorkeling and fresh fruit and coconuts for the picking a few steps inland from the beach. It would be a great place to clean the inches of growth, collected during our week in Hiva Oa, off Irie's bottom.

After being a week in this pretty spot, we still have not been able to take the dinghy ashore and have spent most of our time indoors, on our boat or others, since it has been raining for days. Again. A relatively big swell has been rolling into the bay, making dinghy landings impossible, because of the crashing waves. The monohulls are rockin' and rollin', day and night. It became too uncomfortable for Pitufa, so they left. We are very happy to be on our cat! We barely feel the motion, can do any boat projects we prefer during the day and sleep like babies at night, especially after a social gathering.

So, what have we been doing the last week? Other than some boring projects and chores onboard, we had some amazing experiences early on. Last Sunday, when other cruisers in the bay decided to take their dinghy to a small town, 2 miles away, to attend a Marquesan church service, Mark and I and our friends from SV Kril decided to stay home. I wanted to finally sleep in. We would be glad with our choice. Mark got up around 7:30am, took a look outside and appeared back downstairs next to the bed. He grabbed his swim trunks, gave me a kiss and said "I'm going for a swim. There are manta rays near the boats." Now, how am I supposed to sleep in after hearing those words? After a quick look outside and seeing the tips of wings break the surface next to Mark and Michael from Kril, I - and Ursula - soon joined the group for a most awesome experience. For an hour, the four of us just hovered near the water surface and watched, photographed and filmed three majestic manta rays while they were feeding. Their massive mouths open and their wing spans as wide as our bodies were long, they didn't mind us as they approached, circled around, dove down and reappeared. As Ursula remarked: "We were just an obstacle in their soup." None of us needed to move, while the morning show took place. Amazing, and better than church!

Every late afternoon, we notice frigate birds hovering over the water and realize the tunas are back! We see groups of little fish "run" on the water surface with their tail, being attacked from above by a frigate bird - which is very successful in scooping a fish up with every dive without ever touching water - and from beneath by a much bigger predator. Then, a massive tuna surfaces, splashes on top of the water or - very spectacular! - leaps out in a perfect arc, pretending to be a dolphin, with a fish in its mouth! If only they did that close to Irie and we had a fishing net ready! One time, Mark jumped in the dinghy and trailed a line behind in the hopes of catching one of the chasers, but it was not to be.

We also snorkeled along the rocks a couple of times to see big amounts of colorful fish, and we swam ashore to be greeted by the infamous nonos, accompanied by mosquitoes. Nonos are tiny biting flies, renowned for hanging out on Marquesan beaches and keeping the tourists away, discouraging beach
vacations and beach parties. Next time we go hunting for fresh fruit, we will have to wait for the swell to settle down, put on long clothes and spray ourselves with bug repellent. Or, we can borrow Kril's full wetsuits, booties and hoods, in which they successfully scoured the beach and the woods yesterday!

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