Hawaii/South Pacific: Fakarava

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Once we were back on the ship, we had to proceed directly to our muster station to check-in, just like we were San Diego all over again. The Captain soon came on the PA system and gave his safety instructions. We also had to watch the in-room safety video again but luckily we had done that earlier. This cruise is the first cruise where we have had to go through the muster drill more than once.

Chuck was hungry so we went to the Dive-In so he could get a hamburger.

At the sail-away party, the Captain announced that we had re-fueled, re-stocked the produce (yay – bananas are back!), and a diver had to untangle a rope from a propeller that had gotten tangled during docking when we arrived at Papeete.

Chuck, having eaten the hamburger, was not hungry when dinner time rolled around. I went to the Lido and ate tempura shrimp, noodles, and a spring roll. I met him for the early show of Kelly McDonald, comedian. He had some funny lines.

I came back to the room and got our snorkel gear ready. Then, I worked on my photos until 10:00. Chuck went to the Casino.

As we were moving along, I thought the propellors or azipods or whatever they have back here are louder than I have heard them this whole trip. There is always some engine-type noise, but I don’t really notice it after a while. This noise was very loud.

I hope whatever went wrong during the docking at Papeete is truly fixed. One trip, one of the azipods broke down and we slowly, slowly made our way back to Florida. We didn’t arrive until 10:00 a.m. when normally the ship arrives around 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. Everyone was scrambling for new flights. We had driven to the port, so we just got a much later start than usual.

If the same thing happens this trip, it won’t be hard on us because we are staying an extra night in San Diego but there are plenty of people who have flights out on that Sunday.

We had room service breakfast delivered at 6:30. Met the group for the snorkeling excursion at 7:45 and all took a tender over together.

Our snorkel tour today was with Ato’s Blue Lagoon tours. We had enough people to fill up 4 speedboats.

I was a little apprehensive about our boat. We had three rows of three plastic chairs. They were bolted together and to a fiberglass bottom. We were jammed in there pretty tight. No padding.

Our first stop was the best coral of the whole trip in my opinion. The current was a little strong, but the fish and coral were beautiful. Chuck and I were the last ones back in the boat. I could have stayed there all day. It was overcast so Chuck could see well and could stay in the water.

As we were traveling to the next stop, it started raining hard. It was cold and it stung when it hit our bodies. Some of us put our snorkel masks on so we could see.

We came out of the rain in time to get to our next stop – a family motu. We could swim in the warm shallow water of the lagoon or pick up shells. I picked up a couple of nice shells, but they were already occupied so I had to put them back. Chuck had a nice time talking with the crew who were preparing the lunch. Even with their limited English and his limited French, they seemed to be able to communicate.

One of the crew took his spear and went fishing for our lunch. He came back with 3 fish that they grilled.

The lunch was coconut bread, rice, roasted pumpkin, grilled mahi mahi, grilled chicken, the grilled fish he speared, mango, pineapple, grapefruit, and watermelon. They had beer, bottled water, sodas, juices for beverages. One of the crew sliced off the top of a coconut for me so I could drink coconut water with my lunch. It was all excellent. I was happy that they provided plates and utensils.

Afterwards, I watched them rinse the plates in the ocean and scrub them with the sand from the bottom. I chose to believe that when they got home, they ran the plates and utensils through a dishwasher on high heat.

They threw the leftover fish parts into the lagoon. Suddenly, all sizes of black-tipped sharks came to grab the goodies but the water was too shallow for the adult ones – they thrashed when they touched bottom and swam away.

All the food was left for the little ones who had a party. First time I have ever seen tiny baby sharks. Some were no bigger than my fingers. (They were almost invisible against the sand bottom – had to look for the black dots)

We all had to sing the song.

Our next stop was another shallow lagoon that had some coral, but it was not as colorful as the other spots. Too much glare for Chuck. I stayed fairly close to the motu. Others said if you swam out farther, there was a turtle swimming around. I would have liked to have seen the turtle.

Our last stop was out in deeper water around a large coral formation that came up out of the ocean. The interesting thing about this spot was all the different clams that were embedded in the coral. Their mouths looked like snakes and came in all colors. If you could stay still, you would see them open and close their mouth. The current was very strong, so it was hard to stay in one spot. Lots of birds in this area. Not sure if it was a nesting site.

Eventually, it was time to go back to the ship. Chuck had his fins off but still had his dive socks on and his vest. The boat suddenly rocked and Chuck slipped and went down. Luckily, the chairs kind of broke the fall as he landed on his side. His vest saved him from getting scratched up but he was now wedged tight between the row of chairs.

He had to get the vest off to be able to squeeze out from between them. I was glad he hadn’t broken any bones or gotten a concussion. We had a nurse on our boat, and she seemed to think he might be sore later, but nothing looked sprained or broken.

Our guide had the motor wide open on the speed boat during the ride back like he had a hot date that he was late for. We hit each wave hard and my back felt every hit sitting in that plastic chair. Miserable. We were back by 2:45 – last tender was not until 4:30 so I really have no idea what the rush was.

I liked all the spots for this tour. Just try not to get the boat with the chairs bolted to the floor. And don’t walk around the boat in just your dive socks. Get your swim shoes back on.

We were both ready for a hot shower and a couple of Tylenol.

Travel Trivia

Fakarava, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia

Fakarava pronounced FAH-kah-rah-vah

Fakarava is an atoll in the west of the Tuamotu group of atolls in French Polynesia.

Fakarava means “beautiful”

Fakarava is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954) would claim that colors were for setting oneself free. The artist visiting Fakarava, became inspired by the infinite variety and shades of blue of the lagoon. This discovery was such that it triggered a new creative artistic move for Matisse called Bleu Matisse.

Fakarava is home to one of the first Catholic churches in French Polynesia. Built in 1874 with coral, it is very well preserved and decorated with garlands of shells.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia and Holland America Line documents.

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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