Rangiroa is not a place where I would make a long term real estate investment. Suzi and got up at 6 this (Sunday) morning and turned on the TV to look at the bow channel. We wanted to be on deck when we entered the “Tiputa pass” from the pacific to Rangiroa Lagoon. It’s a tricky navigation, narrow with strong currents. The ship goes from what the islanders call the “wild ocean” to the “peaceful ocean.” The island is very low. The TV screen could have had the warning on auto side mirror: “Objects are closer than they appear.” That was the case here, the island was low on the horizon until, all of a sudden, we were there. And it was still low on the horizon.
Nuka Hiva claims to be the French Polynesian island with no reef, just mountain. Bora Bora claims both reef and mountain in the middle. Rangiroa is all reef — no mountain. It’s the second largest lagoon in the world. At sea level you can’t see across it. As the ocean rises with climate change I do not think the residents can count on isometric rebound to save them. (Sitka’s Baranof Island is losing weight as glaciers melt so it is rising faster than the sea, considerably faster.) But until the sea level rises, Rangiroa is beautiful. The reefs are a divers and snorkelers paradise. The island industry is just that, diving based tourism. Cultured pearls make up a part of the economy and the island has a new vineyard producing Polynesian wine.
It was humid and hot when we sailed in. The lens filter on my camera fogged. But soon we had a sudden, refreshing, cooling and dehumidifying rain followed by a gorgeous rainbow. Like on Nuka Hiva, the tenders provided a surfing opportunity for local teenagers in their outrigger kayaks.
There were two ships in port, Amsterdam and a Windstar sailing cruise ship so we seriously outnumbered the locals. Fortunately the visitors disburse to diving, snorkeling, and swimming sites, or to the pearl farm. This is a nutrient rich lagoon because the reefs, the currents in and out and the differences in water temperatures create mixing zone that stirs things up. On the dock booths sell local crafts, many made with cultured pearls. There are different classes of pearl. Many of these were “craft class,” used in handicrafts and not fine jewelry.
We walked to the “wild ocean” where dolphins were surfing in the breakers. Back across the island we hopped on a glass bottomed boat to look at fish, sharks and corals. The boatman took Suzi’s waterproof camera down for a dive to get some pictures of fish for us. (See post Octopuses Garden – No Octopus for pics.) After a swim in the lagoon, a beer under palm thatch and another cooling rainstorm we returned to Amsterdam.
Tidal currents were running high when we left Rangiroa Lagoon through the Tiputa pass. The Captain had to take the Amsterdam deeper into the lagoon, away from the pass, turn it around, aim it at the pass, with its roiling seas and dolphins still playing in the breakers, get the ship up to 11 knots to shoot the pass blowing the ship’s horn to warn fishermen. (He describes this in his blog with charts, he also posts a video of the dolphins playing in the Amsterdam’s bow wake. http://captainjonathan.com/)