Saturday, April 5, 2014

South Fakarava - A Highlight in the Tuamotus?

People told us that in the month of April, the weather in the Tuamotus would improve. People also told us that the south part of Fakarava is very nice and a must-see in this archipelago. People were right on both accounts! The weather has been perfect the last week and a bit: sunny skies, and a constant breeze of about 15 knots out of the east. And south Fakarava? It is a wonderful and beautiful place to be and every morning I wake up and I look outside, a smile as bright as the sunlight appears and I am eager to start the day… Let us be reminded how great it can be to live on a sailboat in the South Pacific!

Some of the motus on our horizon

We left the remote eastern anchorage of the atoll a few days ago and had a fun and fast sail over to the south part. Irie flew on a beam reach in the flat lagoon water and arrived on the southern end around noon, a perfect time to see all the coral heads scattered around the anchorage SW of the pass. With some concentrated conning, we found a place amongst the dark spots, two connected floats keeping the chain above the coral head closest to Irie, our anchor set well in white sand 16 feet underneath. The water is crystal clear, seven black tip reef sharks constantly circle the boat and the view to shore consists of a string of palm fringed motus with sandy beaches – the first ones we have seen in the Tuamotus. Exploring the waters around them by dinghy makes for fun excursions. Jumping in the water for a shower is always an exciting event.

Part of our resident family of sharks

The main reason people visit this part of Fakarava is to dive or snorkel the pass, where hundreds of sharks reside: white tips, black tips and greys. The visibility is reported to reach 100 feet at times and when we floated by, the abyss and groups of divers were spotted at least 70 feet underneath. It is an eerie and thrilling feeling to see the coral wall go down so deep, where fish turn into little specks and where “tiny” sharks rest on the bottom with their fins spread wide. Everything at those depths looks dull and dark from above and the amount and distance of the sharks we encountered was not exciting enough for me, except, when one approached Mark from behind while he was towing the dinghy. His reaction when I pointed out the grey animal near his feet was classic!

Keep a close eye out!

When we approached the shallower area near shore (where a dive shop and resort are located), it became very interesting. The fish were colorful and abundant, the reefs vibrant and the increased shark population moved about at eye level! Mark stayed at a respectable distance, but how cool it is to snorkel alongside these mellow but vicious looking creatures! For the sake of a picture and a movie, or even without those excuses, it is worth the thrill to swim amongst their midst and I didn’t know where to look first. A place to come back again and again. Even when you wade around in the sandy shallows, the sharks keep you company as if you were their best friend. Families with kids – locals and tourists – don their masks and fins and observe these sharks in their beautiful and natural surroundings.  How many North American parents reading this are raising their eyebrows at this very moment? J

Sharks of the deep blue

And of the not so deep blue

Now, we’re talking!

Don’t wiggle your toes, Mark…

Mark and I are very happy to have come to this place and to finally enjoy ourselves a bit. The location and the atmosphere are inducing to do boat projects and the schedule “work in the morning and play in the afternoon” suits us well. To us, cruising really is “living and working on your boat in exotic places” and for now, while being in a comfortable place, we don’t mind it at all!

Church of the small village of Tetamanu

Abandoned house from the time Tetamanu was the capital of the Tuamotus

Idyllic setting for a resort

Bridge to part of the resort

Turtle in Fakarava’s South pass – at least 50 feet down

Back to our area – motu land!

Clearer water than in the San Blas

Paradise found?

Visiting the motus and their sand banks

Time for our honeymoon… Can we pretend to be rich and stay here?

White tip reef shark

Snorkeling in south Fakarava is gorgeous

Another shark encounter…

(Our excuses for the granular pictures. Blogs are posted via email over crappy 2G connections)


Anonymous said...

I've been following Yvan Bourgnon's beachcat voyage, he's just spent two days in Tetamanu village with his (also legendary multihull sailor) brother Laurent - and that's how I came across this blog!

Nice blog!

Liesbet said...


What a great challenge Yvan is undertaking! He overtook us in his beach cat on the ocean doing 14 knots on the way to Tahiti two days ago (he should be here now) and we talked on the radio. We hope to meet him here again.

Tetamanu village is not much of a village now. There is still a church, a cemetery and some abandoned houses. And, a basic but nice resort!

Thanks for reading my blog! :-)


Anonymous said...

It was my pleasure!

15 months without a supermarket! As a book title it could be a candidate for the bestseller list?

I'll be interested to see where else your voyage takes the two of you.

We've been following Bourgnon's trip in a thread on

; )