Manihi Has Been Fantastic

Coconut tree in ManihiWe have had a wonderful time in Manihi. Unfortunately, the Internet here has been awful, so we haven’t been able to do enough blogging – or upload the many photos we have been taking. I’m going to attempt to catch up by describing a few highlights of our visit here and will add photos either as an album or insert a few highlights when I’m connected properly.

Snorkel of Manihi Pass
On our first full day here, we went to visit s/v “Songline” to find out their plans. They had made arrangements to go on a snorkel of the pass with the local Yacht services guru by the name of Fernando. Fernando is an amazingly nice guy who spends his time helping boaters get the best experience of Manihi possible. He offers a variety of services at very reasonable prices, and then totally exceeds your expectations on almost every occasion. He allowed us to join Phil and Kristina on the snorkel tour of the pass.

passsnorkel.jpgAround noon Fernando picked us up in his very nice 30 foot pirogue. He took us out through the beautiful pass. The water and sky was crystal clear. The tide was coming in. We parked just outside the pass and jumped in. It looked like we were floating in air the water was so clear. The coral looked very alive – mostly pink, orange, green, and yellow. We were right near the wall to the very deep water. There were HUNDREDS of fish along the wall. Lots of varieties. We moved along the wall towards the pass. Suddenly the current started moving us through the pass at 1-2 knots. We watched the coral and fish along the way. We stopped in a nook half-way for a rest. There we found a morray eel under a rock and a big school of some bass-like fish. We crossed the pass at one point and I saw one white-tipped shark near the bottom about 50 feet deep.

We were getting pushed by the current towards some shallow reefs. Fernando directed us to move to the middle. Phil moved too far off and he ended up bumping one reef before he moved out of the current. We went to pick Phil up after the boat collected the rest of us. Next Fernando took us further outside the pass up the beach and tied to a mooring. He jumped in with us and took a speargun. While we were snorkeling around he speared a small fish and cut it up. He dangled the dead fish at the bottom and we watched as lots of fish were eating it. Suddenly a large morray eel jumped out of the reef and snagged the fish and brought it into its lair! That was cool! We also saw a couple of black-tipped shark and took some pictures and video of them.

After the great dive, Fernando took us back to Tahina. He went on to help a boat nearby which was having trouble with the anchor line which was wrapped around some rocks. When they still hadn’t solved the problem 30 minutes later, I went over and offered to help by diving on the rocks. Fernando said the water was too deep for him to free-dive (about 70-80 feet). Jason ended up offering to dive, and after a few minutes we had the chain free.

UPDATE Here is a photo album from the snorkel tour of the pass:

View full-sized with sub-titles

Next Jason, Lara and I went to visit Xavier who runs the Manihi Sailmail station (an HF radio service that lets us send short text E-mails and download weather data on passages). Xavier gave us a nice tour of his private island, and let us use his Internet briefly to check our E-mails.

Lagoons Adventure
The next day we decided to move Tahina to the other side of the lagoon because near a hotel they have a WIFI hotspot. Jason had to dive our anchor to help get it untangled from rocks as well. But, it only took a few moments. Once we moved, we discovered the Internet was not all that great, but at least we could connect.

Later, we planned to go to some lagoons on the far north side of the atoll. These are lagoons within the lagoon. Fernando said they are very interesting with fish, shark, and colorful corals. “Songline” wanted to join us. We had decided we would take our dinghies. The island is 15 miles long, and because of the winds, we first had to cross to the east side of the main lagoon. We had loaned Phil our 2 gallon spare gas tank because he was low on fuel. It took a LOONG time to go 20 miles in a dinghy. Karen was saying the whole way that we should have hired Fernando to take us in the bigger boat.

clammanihi.jpgThe lagoons were a little anti-climatic. We saw shark, ray, and even an octopus in some of the lagoons. We kept looking for colorful coral, but they weren’t really all that colorful. It turns out they are more colorful than most lagoon coral, but not compared to normal coral. But, we did see lots of interesting fish and coral life and clams. It was getting to be late in the afternoon and we had a long ride back. Phil and Kristina left in their boat first – because they have a smaller motor. We had dinner plans to eat at Fernando’s house, so we wanted to get back by 5 to get cleaned up. So, I kept up our speed as we were dinghying back. The winds were up and there was some choppy waves in the water. Suddenly a wave crested and swerved our boat and Jason was tossed right off! We went back and picked him up. This ended up happening again a short while later, so I was asked to slow down. We were within 3 km of being back when suddenly the motor died. It was like we were out of gas. Sure enough, our tank was empty! Apparently our new bigger motor uses fuel way faster than I realized.

We rowed ashore as there happened to be a house nearby. A nice man stopped watching his TV when we said “hello” and offered to help us after we explained our plight in english/french/gestures. He gave us a tank of gas to siphon into our boat. After putting plenty of fuel in our tank, we brought the tank back and gave him some money and thanked him – “Merci beaucoup!”. We were soon back and took our showers and got dressed up. Fernando called on the radio to say he would be an hour late.

dinnermanihi.jpgFinally Fernando showed up, and he started unloading food. We were puzzled, and he was as well when he saw us dressed up. Apparently there was a mix-up when we organized the meal. Fernando thought we were asking to have a local dinner brought to our boat. He was very apologetic for the confusion. The food looked and smelled wonderful though. He brought Phil and Kristina over and we had a wonderful meal. There was even a big cake for us to eat. There was enough food for twice our number. And, it was very reasonably priced as well. It all ended well, but we do wish we had the chance to meet his family for dinner.

Pearl Farm and Night Dive
pearldive.jpgWednesday was a real treat. We made arrangements with Fernando to have a tour of his family’s pearl farm. The deal was about $25 per person and we would be given a chance to pick 2 oyster’s each and could keep pearls after they were opened. He picked us up and then went to another anchorage and picked up the crew of “Riga II” of Switzerland (a couple and their ~6 year old grandson). Next he took us out to the middle of the lagoon. He explained how they grow the oysters on these special plastic nets which dangle from ropes. We then snorkeled and he showed us various aged oysters. Then he took us to another area and we got to dive and each pull off two oysters. Then he took us to the processing farm. A couple of shacks on an island which is part of the atoll. There we first opened the oysters and we were thrilled that each of the oysters had a pearl in them. Karen found one that was gold. There were also silver, pinkish, greenish, and iridescent ones. Finally, Fernando explained and showed how they implant the oysters to make them grow pearls. It is an intricate process and takes a bit of surgery as well. Very interesting! UPDATE: Make sure you read Lara’s post about the entire process – she did a great job of explaining the process Fernando described – with lots of pictures.

Afterwards he took us on a tour of Manihi Sailmail. This time we got to see Xavier’s house which is really nice. It is being built with Tahiti techiniques and is built around the island vegetation with a natural canopy of trees providing shade for the main deck. The kitchen and bathroom are in separate buildings, but feel natural in their placement. He has wind power, solar power, and a water wheel in a nearby water pass from the sea. He also has water caches and a special roof that catches the rain. Very eco-friendly!

Around 6 PM, Fernando came back to pick up Jason and I for a night dive. We went west of the island on the outside on the opposite side of the airport. We could see Tahina’s anchor light from that side. There was a full moon which made it easy for us to see the sea as Fernando deftly drove us out the pass. It was beautiful! We had an excellent night dive. Fernando doesn’t dive any more (due to a diving-related injury), but he provided surface support and shined a spotlight as he helped find some bigger fish.

nemo.jpgThis was my first night dive, and I loved it. The biggest highlight was that I found Nemo! I noticed a large sea anemone and sure enough, there was a clown fish – just like Nemo from the Disney movie. We also saw grouper, lion fish, crabs, parrot fish, spotted drums, angel fish, and many more. The coral was quite alive out there. It was a really good dive, and I even managed to keep my breathing quite calm and didn’t use any more than Jason (who is a very experienced diver with hundreds of dives).

UPDATE Here is a photo album from the night dive:

View full-sized with sub-titles

Fernando has been a real joy to work with here in Manihi. He obviously loves his island and sharing it with others. He is the leader for his church here on the island and so he doesn’t work on Sundays. His son is the engineer/businessman for solar panels on the island. We would highly recommend any boater use Fernando if they come to Manihi.

Finally, here is an album of general sights we saw in and around Manihi. It starts first with a few photos from our 3.5 day passage from the Marquesas to Manihi.

View full-sized with subtitles

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5 Responses to Manihi Has Been Fantastic

  1. John Krause says:

    Hi Lara
    I have been reading about your trip. Enjoy it to the Max. trip of a Lifetime.

  2. Saleh says:

    for one month, i have been reading about Tahina.
    Since I am from Saudi Arabia 1st thing for me in the morning is to read The Blog.
    Good Lock for all of you….

  3. William T. Brooks says:

    My wife is an anthropologist who did her field work on Manihi in 1966-7 and again in 1970. I accompanied her and kept us fed by spearfishing daily. We’ve been back a number of times, but not for the last 20 years. Really enjoyed your blog and will continue to follow it. If you get to Huahine, look up Peter and Ghislaine Owen. Peter is an American who met his wife (Ghislaine nee’ Tapu) when she was living with us as a teenager in Los Gatos, CA. He is a potter and started the craft in Fr. Polynesia. Ghislaine’s father, Jean Tapu, is a 4 time world champion spear fisherman, and was one of the founders of the perliculture industry in FP. Peter and Ghislaine now have a pearl farm on Huahine, but her Dad stays in Tahiti or at his farm on Arutua which you would have passed on the way from Manihi to Rangiroa. The blotchy grouper that you photoed on Manihi is known as the Kito in Tuamotuan. Great shots of the sleeping parrot fishes on your night dive. Marvelous how they change colors at night.
    When Candy and I were there in 66-7 there was no pearl culture yet. Just diving for shell, and it all had to be done without scuba. #1, because using scuba was forbidden for diving for shell (used for inlays mostly by Asian furniture makers) and #2, because no one had power to run a compressor. So the men learned to dive deep. 70′ was a nothing then. They’d go 150′ for shell. I had read a National Geographic article on Takaroa when I was a kid that covered a pearling season at Takaroa, so when Manihi had its pearling season when we were there, I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven. Actually, when I said they would dive to as much as 150 feet, that is not completely true. No one swam down. All had a 2# coffee can filled with cement with an eye bolt in it. A rope to the eyebolt gave you an express elevator to the bottom. No swimming require, just the fastest equalizing you could accomplish. On the way down it just kept getting darker and darker till the last 15-20 feet, then the reflection off the white sand bottom lit up everything just as if someone had turned on the lights. Astonishing!
    You were lucky to get a ride in thru the pass on an incoming current. That clear deep ocean water coming in through the pass makes everything visible. Once on an incoming current in mid pass I could see the bottom, 70 feet down, and the sides of the pass over 100 feet to each side. Like flying through Yosemite. Even more fun, though, was riding the current going out over the shallow bar on the village side of the inside end of the pass. It is a hundred yards or more wide, and the outgoing current whips over it at 7 or 8 knots with the bottom flying under you just over an arm’s reach away. Wild.
    Boy has your blog brought back the memories! Thanks for sharing. William Brooks

  4. William Brooks says:

    I sent a long comment before signing in. If you didn’t get it because I did this backwards, let me know and I’ll repeat it. My wife and I used to live on Manihi and enjoyed your blog of your visit. WTBrooks

  5. nanag says:

    I sure have enjoyed your visit to you pronounce that as manehee or what? Show us a picture of your pearls. I loved Lara’s post and pictures. I also enjoyed William Brooks comments. Love being able to keep up with all of you. Much love to you.

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