Saturday, 14 January 2012

Dive Day One

TeKing's tour was worth every penny. At first I was disappointed that Kees
had chosen not to join us, but the beauty of impossibly perfect turquoise ocean surrounding us for as far as we could see was completely mesmerizing. Aqua so clear that coral heads, multicolored fish and one large sea turtle seemed to all fly by. Only pristine palm-fringed islands broke the horizon, exquisite emerald gems strung on invisible sand strands. Paradise!
We made our first stop at buoys that marked a small fishing boat wreck amidst coral and masses of fish. TeKing went through his safety talk, entertaining us with quips. He then asked one honeymooner the color of her husband's skin. She admitted that it was rather white. TeKing held two slices of white bread up and dramatically tossed them in the ocean, claiming that the fish don't like "brown bread". The water boiled with activity as small zebra striped humbug damsel and bright yellow thread-fin butterfly fish devoured the food. He was able to hand feed them later on.
Gina and I dove in to water as warm as the air. Visibility was about 10 meters, not perfect due to wind and wave action, but quite fine for us. Corals were not as colorful as I'd hoped. We saw dozens of fish species ranging from humbug damsel, six bar wrasse, 3kinds of parrotfish, oodles of butterfly species, unicorn fish, sugeonfish, triggerfish and one honking huge giant trevalley, well over a meter long. That one turned out to be a pet, not afraid to pass us within inches, just for that sweet white bread. It was rather unnerving to have schools of fish swarming as bread was tossed near me at the end of my swim. As I approached the boat's ladder, I'm sure my squeaks and squeals that came trumpeting through my snorkel kept TeKing and the others quite amused.
Our second dive was also amidst corals and zillions of fish, but this time we anchored near a farm of giant clams, sponsored by Australians who hope to help repopulate the lagoon. These clams also lacked the colors that I recalled fro diving these waters 30 years ago, but a trip to the marine reserve later in the week answered many of my questions ( different species have varying colors and shells). We stopped at a pristine sand bar near Honeymoon Island and waded for about 20 minutes under blazing sun to reach the boats again, which carried us to nearby Maina motu for a wonderful fresh feast of island foods and tuna steaks. Very impressive! We loved the tropical fruits and salads, grilled veggies and delicious tuna. All utensils and plates were reuseable, all foods were served on palm leaves or giant clam shells and all bottles and cans were removed from the island. Scraps were buried or burned, so we left with hardly a trace. Again, very impressive!
Our third dive site was a marine reserve, where I saw deep purple corals, many fish and one remarkable porcupine fish, about 700 cm long, but very shy. He was hiding under a ledge that I had to dive down to, at about 2 meters. Fun! He had small blue streak cleaner wrasse friends giving him a nice wash.
We had time to visit and stomp around 3 other perfectly picturesque uninhabited islands that day and had fun snorkeling a bit around in the currents of the sandy beach at One Foot Motu. We saw another sea turtle from the boat and I saw crabs and a flounder as well. After getting our passports stamped, we were ready for deadheading straight home, as the lagoon was quite rough due to a rising wind.
It was absolutely one of the best days of my life.

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