Monday, September 8, 2014

Try the drift snorkel experience at Taha'a in the South Pacific

The Taha'a motu from which we did our drift snorkel.
After our cruise ship docked at the South Pacific island of Raiatea, Larry and I boarded a covered motor boat for a 30-minute ride along the west coast of Taha’a, sister island to Raiatea. We arrived at a small sandy beach on an uninhabited motu (small island) and disembarked with just our snorkeling gear to begin our Taha’a Coral Garden Snorkeling excursion.
Taha’a is an idyllic island north of Raiatea, only accessible by boat (shuttles run regularly). It is shaped like a hibiscus flower with four long bays cutting into its rugged south shore.  Taha’a shares a lagoon with Raiatea, but it’s a quieter island with few tourists. A beautiful beach and clear water made it a lovely place to snorkel.
Our guide, Matt, picked a hibiscus flower
to rub inside our snorkel masks to
prevent fogging.

We disembarked from the boat and walked on a path containing sharp coral to the place where we would begin our drift experience. “Drift” is a misnomer, since the strong current moved everyone along rather swiftly. That current and the coral underfoot made for a challenge as we removed shoes and put on fins in the water. It’s this current that will carry us snorkelers back to the beach and boat.
Larry makes his way around coral formations.
Although we’re advised to keep 10 feet of space between each other, the fast current moved us along quite rapidly. The idea is to stay prone with your face in the water for the entire 15-minute ride, but that was easier said than done, especially if you bumped into the person in front or had to dodge a pair of flipping fins.

The lagoon is somewhat shallow with low clearance over much of the coral, so we really had to pay attention to the channels and use our fins and swimming skills to avoid collisions with the hard, sharp coral. Stopping was not an option.

Colorful fish and coral were definitely worth going to see.
Still, we saw many kinds of coral--round, bumpy lumps; tube-like flowers; jagged, irregular shapes; purple, yellow, brown, tan, gray, and white—and a variety of fish close by. Underwater photography was hit-or-miss. After reaching the beach, we set out to do it again. The second run went more smoothly, partly because I didn’t try to take as many photos.
Our reward for a job well done--fresh tropical fruits
Back at the boat, our guide prepared a lovely plate of fresh fruit (bananas, grapefruit, coconut, papaya) that everyone enjoyed. We had free time to snorkel or swim, but most people were content to rest and reflect on the unique drift snorkeling experience just completed.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


No comments: