CORALREPUBLIC

 

French Polynesia 2004

 

 

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Trip dates:

20 August 5 September 2004

Boat / resort:

Mai Tai Hotel in Bora Bora; Les Relais de Josephine in Rangiroa

Dive centre:

Bora Diving Center Raie Manta club in Rangiroa

Photo-friendly?:

Day boats in Bora Bora with no facilities. Short boat (ribs) rides to sites in Rangiroa. No camera rooms in either.

Number of dives:

12 dives in Bora Bora over a 5-day stay. 12 dives Rangiroa over a 6-day stay.

Diving conditions:

Variable weather, windy, seas a bit choppy in both places. No currents in Bora Bora, full drift diving with ripping currents in Rangi. Water temperature 26C. in both places. Great visibility all-round.

Comments:

This is my favourite part of the world to dive, together with Philippines and Indonesia. I knew both Islands very well from the four weeks I spent working as a dive instructor on board the cruise ship Paul Gauguin in January/February 1999. I had dived Bora from the ship with my guests and the dives we did then were not very interesting (guests on a cruise ship are usually beginners and were not taken to any sites with any risk of challenging conditions, this means very shallow dives inside the lagoons). I did not like the job and left after three weeks. Before flying back to Europe I took a week to dive Rangiroa and made friends with Yves Lefevre, a regular in the Cousteau team and owner of the Raie Manta Club.

Ever since, I had dreamed to go back. Polynesia is rapidly being taken up by luxury tourism. Large hotels with water bungalows are occupying more and more space on the Bora Bora coral keys around the lagoon. That is not very good for the diving. During this trip, we dove the manta point in the north part of the lagoon probably for the last time. I have heard that not too long after, they built another hotel nearby and sand flooded the cleaning station as a result. The Mantas are gone. I hope that the news is wrong. We stayed at the nice Mai Tai hotel, which did not cost much and was perfectly adequate. We liked the dive crew at the Bora diving centre. They showed us some marvellous dives, in addition to the manta one already mentioned. In Toopua, they attract lemon sharks with a bit of bait (not really a feeding) and in Muri Muri, dozens of gray reef sharks swim below the boat as soon as they moor it. Jumping in is a high-adrenaline moment.

I flooded by Oly C-5050Z in our second manta dive. That was largely my fault, but I resent that the dive centre did not have any photo facilities, no testing/rinsing tanks, and I had to put a bucket in the boat to carry the camera in a minimum of safety through the bumpy boat rides. The O-ring was badly placed and I ruined the camera, dead. I still keep that dead thing on top of my desktop, cant resort to throw it away. Isabelle had a C-6060Z and seeing my misery, was generous to offer it for me to and shoot with it. So most these pictures were taken with her camera. Ill never thank her enough. When I came home, I got myself a replacement 5050, and then another one for extra redundancy, both of which I still have.

In Rangi, our little hotel was simply marvellous and I absolutely recommend it You need to book it well in advance. Our room looked directly upon the pass and we saw the dolphins playing in the surf every evening from our terrace, what a view. I was very happy to see Yves again, we met his wife Sandra and their lovely little son. We dove the passes of Tiputa (our) and Avatoru. We saw everything that was on offer, the great hammerheads and huge grey reef shark schools in Tiputa, the silvertips in Avatoru. There is no night diving in Rangi and we limited ourselves to two dives each day, they are deep decompression dives after all.

After a 5-minute ride on a rib, you take a back-roll entry around the corner in the outer edge of the pass, you drop deep and after a few minutes you start drifting in, riding sweeping currents. The deco stops are done in the blue, while you see the dense wildlife pass you by. These are good divemasters and can take care of novice divers in this kind of conditions, but will not go deep with them. You need to make arrangements with the centre to ensure they will take you deep if you want to get a close look at the sharks are, if you are experienced.

We did a dusk dive with Yves to watch the courtship group dance of the surgeonfishes, as it was the spawning season. Another great experience.

August is pretty windy in Polynesia, but diving is good year-round. Id love to go back, but what a mighty long trip this is. Not recommended if you are planning on less than three weeks stay.

 

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