Moorea

Category: Ships Log
   

July 30th - August 2nd

After escaping the hustle and bustle around Papeete, Tahiti, we sailed a short 20 miles to Moorea where we dropped anchor in the welcome quiet of Cook's Bay.

 

Cook’s bay is beautiful; similar to bays in the Marquesas, it is surrounded by towering green cliffs.  And another plus is that a hotel near the anchorage offers free internet to cruisers (as cruisers we are always on the lookout for free internet, fresh fruit & veggies, and marine stores)!  We spent our first evening camped in their main lobby with our computers, sipping expensive Hinano beers and listening to a great live Polynesian band they had hired for a private event.  

 

A view of Cook's Bay on the island of Moorea.

 

Enjoying a lovely evening at the Bali Hai hotel with free internet and dinghy dock.

 

Green Panther anchored in Cook's Bay.

 

The next afternoon we moved to the neighboring Opunohu Bay since we heard it is even more beautiful than Cook’s Bay.  Fun fact: Opunohu Bay is where they filmed the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.” As we approached the pass into the bay, a pod of spinner dolphins swam by, with a couple of the dolphins performing their namesake spinning leaps. One dolphin looked like it did about seven or eight revolutions before splashing back in the water!  It’s amazing to watch.  I read once that spinner dolphins spin in the air to create different size bubbles underwater when they splash back down; they use the bubbles as a form of communication.  It’s an interesting theory and it made me wonder what the dolphins were trying to say.  Unfortunately, they came and went too quickly for us to get any pictures (next time!).  

 

We anchored near the mouth of the Opunohu Bay in clear turquoise water with a sandy bottom.  We were excited to jump in the water and go snorkeling again since our last time snorkeling was in the Tuomotus (diving to untangle our anchor chain in Tahiti doesn’t count).  Soon after anchoring, we jumped in the dinghy and found an area with lots of coral.  Unfortunately, upon closer inspection we found most of the coral was dead and the coral skeletons were completely covered with Turbinaria ornata, a brown algae that looks like bouquets of brown hyacinth (see pic below).  The algae is native to coral reef systems, but it seems to take over quickly in the absence of competition from live coral (only my observation from a very small sample size - haven't read the literature on this yet so don't quote me).  There were still fish around, but not with the same abundance or diversity we saw in the Tuomotus.  After asking around, we learned a large hurricane hit the Society Islands in 2010 and wiped out a lot of the coral. And likely the excess nutrient runoff from the island doesn’t help either.  It is so sad when you imagine what the corals must have looked like pre-hurricane.  Hopefully the corals will eventually be able to recover!

 

The view from our boat while anchored at the mouth of Opunohu Bay.

 

A cute puffer we found checking out our anchor.

 

The shallow coral reefs in Opunohu Bay. Most are completely covered in algae, especially Turbinaria ornata (on left and bottom).

 

Later, we did partake in a somewhat guilty pleasure.  Not far from where we anchored is a snorkel site called “stingray city.” This is a shallow sand bar in the lagoon where the Tahitians feed stingrays and juvenile black-tipped reef sharks.  As a result, these fish are fairly docile and the stingrays will actually climb up your body to look for handouts.  I felt a bit guilty taking our dinghy over to see the show since I’m not sure this is a practice we should be encouraging; it really alters these wild fishes natural behavior.  But it was pretty neat to get so close to such beautiful fish and not have to worry (too much) that they were going to go defensive and take a swipe at you with their barb.

 

On our way to stingray city a rainshower passed over and left a lovely rainbow.

 

The local Tahitians feeding the stingrays.

 

 

The view underwater.

 

 

Christian snorkeling at stingray city. The shallow sandy bottom makes for gorgeous clear water.

 

Enjoying the buoyancy of saltwater (and a wetsuit).

 

 

 

We also checked out a nearby snorkel site where a local sculptor sank several tikis he carved.

 

Chris trying to be a tiki.

 

We were only going to spend about 2-3 days on Moorea, but it was so beautiful, we stretched our time there to four days.  Another day we sailed all the way into Opunoho Bay and anchored so we could hike to a viewpoint called Belvedere Point.  When we sailed in, we found our friends from Emerald Steel (who we last saw in Daniel’s Bay on Nuku Hiva) already anchored. We convinced them to hike to Belvedere Point with us and enjoyed a fun morning catching up with Susan and Julius while we hiked up the road.  On the way back, we stopped at an agricultural college where they grow all sorts of tropical fruit.  The clever college also put up a snack bar where they sell fresh fruit juices, homemade fruit ice cream, and jams to help with funding. We had some delicious banana and coconut ice cream before finishing our walk back to the bay.  You couldn’t ask for a better way to end a great hike!

 

Anchored in Opunohu Bay (yes it looks very similar to Cook's Bay).

 

Happy Moorea cows we passed on our way to Belvedere Point.

 

The view of Opunohu Bay from Belvedere Point.

 

Susan and Julius at Belvedere Point (with Cook's Bay in the background).

 

Chris and me at Belvedere Point with a view of both bays behind us.

 

Reluctantly, we needed to keep moving (hurricane season starts Nov. 1st and we still have a long way to go to Australia!), so the next day we hoisted anchor again and headed the 80 miles to our next stop, the islands of Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa.

 

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