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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Magnificent Moorea

We’d overcome our fear of sharks in Fakarava, swum alongside a whale shark in Honduras and snorkelled with sea lions and turtles in the Galapagos.   There was another marine creature to get up close and personal with and that opportunity came in Moorea.  Never did we think we would be able to handle and even feed stingrays but in Opunohu Bay in the north of Moorea a dozen or more friendly and well fed stingrays and sharks allow snorkellers to get really close.  Amazingly, stingray skin is very soft – like chamois – and they are incredibly gentle, inquisitive and, seemingly, intelligent creatures.

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We’d arrived in Tahiti after a 37 hour passage from Toau Atoll in the Tuamotos.  The highlight of our arrival in Tahiti was the visit of David’s eldest daughter Charlotte and her husband Colin.   Another highlight  - and one many cruisers talked about for days – was visiting the gigantic French supermarket Carrefour.  This was a real treat after months of trading with locals, buying from local markets or buying in supermarkets with limited stock.  The size of Carrefour and array of goods available was a bit overwhelming at first but we managed just fine quickly filling a large trolley with supplies! 

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Charlotte is the last of our five children to visit Bandit so it was a very happy dad who greeted her in traditional style with a fragrant frangipani lei at Papeete Airport.  We didn’t linger in Tahiti, heading straight over to Moorea.  Charlotte is a keen sailor and Colin an enthusiastic novice so they were delighted to be on board and the weather Gods duly obliged with some fresh breezes to sail in.

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We had a couple of brilliant days at the top of Moorea in both Cook’s Bay and nearby Opunohu.  Charlotte and Colin rented a scooter in Cook’s Bay and circumnavigated the island…all 65kms of it.  All four of us explored the luxurious surroundings of the Hilton Hotel- us just wandering around admiring the facilities and overwater bungalows while Charz and Colin headed up for a traditional Tahitian cocktail at sunset.  English friends Chris and Sara from Tulu were in Cook’s Bay along with Australians Ian and Wendy from Outsider and we had a fun night on board Tulu who, once again, were magnificent hosts. 

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The rest of heart shaped Moorea beckoned so we headed off to circumnavigate stopping at two gorgeous anchorages on the way – Matauvau and Point Tipae.  These were much quieter than the busy northern bays and in beautiful and remote Point Tipae we were the only boat.  The snorkelling off the tiny island of Matu-ahi was fantastic with some of the most colourful clams, fish and coral we’d seen.   Each afternoon we enjoyed walks ashore through local villages where it felt like few tourists ventured.

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Charlotte and Colin were keen to see as much as possible during their 10 day stay and so we headed back to the south east coast of Tahiti to another remote and quiet anchorage.  Few boats cruise this coast and once again we had a lovely spot to ourselves with the Maraa Grotto and gardens ashore.   The next day was gloomy so some land based exploring was on the cards and while Charlotte and Colin bussed to the south of Tahiti and back to Papeete, we took Bandit to the anchorage off Taina Marina and met them there.  On the way we motored through a massive boil up of tuna and despite towing two lures, were unable to hook one.

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Next day we headed back to Moorea and spent three days just enjoying beautiful Cook’s Bay and Opunohu again.  It seemed to be a congregating spot for cruisers and a heap of us turned up for happy hour and to watch traditional dancing at the Bali Hai Club – a fun night.  All too soon it was time to head back to Papeete  for Charlotte and Colin to head back to Nelson and me to Auckland for a few days with mum.  Can’t wait to explore the rest of the Society Islands.

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