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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Majestic mantas in Maupiti

Maupiti is the French Polynesian island tourism forgot and it’s all the better for it.  The locals say it was how Bora Bora was 30 years ago – before it was overrun with hotel complexes and tourists.  Such activity was vetoed on Maupiti so there is little development - no  hotels, jet skis, tourist shops, helicopter tours or parasailing operations!  It’s all very villagey with a wonderful laid back feel and a perfect place for us to end our time in French Polynesia.

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Maupiti had always been on our radar but it was totally weather dependent due to its narrow pass which has a fearsome reputation.  If the weather cuts up from the south boats have been known to be trapped there for some days.  With northerlies blowing when we arrived the pass was safe and perfectly straightforward with clear channel markers so we entered and spent three magical days enjoying the island with its beautiful deserted sandy motus and turquoise lagoon.  We’d been told there were no supplies available but given the lush vegetation ashore we couldn’t believe it and sure enough we stumbled across local women selling beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants.  We also filled our backpacks with mangos, papaya and banana and Kiwi friends delivered us a delicious fresh loaf of bread – not a baguette either, but a proper loaf – divine!

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Once again the Bandit bikes were dragged out to cycle around the island and what a beautiful ride it was.  At one point the road went up a steep hill so up we biked to enjoy the breath-taking views over the lagoon across to Bora Bora, Raiatea and Taha’a in the east.  After a refreshing glide back down we came across a local wedding and enjoyed watching that before heading on around the island.  Imagine our despair when the road ran out and we were forced to go back up that damned hill again!  We were tired bunnies at the end of the day.

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 The highlight of our time was snorkelling with the majestic manta rays.   In Maupiti the mantas hang out at the anchorage in the south so after a few days anchored off the village we headed down.  The water was crystal clear and as we slowly picked our way in through coral heads we could see dark shapes in the water.  We jumped in and were delighted to find about 12 graceful mantas just cruising around – amazing.  We spent about an hour just gliding along with them and again the next day.  A memorable experience.

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The weather looked good to head west to Suwarrow so after a wonderful few days we reluctantly upped anchor.  With brisk south easterlies blowing the pass was far more tricky to exit than enter and we were relived to be through and into deep water – these reef entries and exits are hard on the nerves.

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