August 11, 2009 - Moorea

Lon, the captain of the charter boat Askari we met last year, told us we need to get out to the dive site early to see the lemon sharks, so we weighed at 0815 & Loren & I were in the water just outside the pass to Opunohu by 9. BB is still refraining from diving, so it was just us two.

Water clarity was better than it’s been - probably 75' - but the coral was mostly gray & dead in this area, unfortunately. We did see a couple lemon sharks, but it was anticlimactic. I thought they were grays until Loren informed me otherwise after we surfaced. Lemons have a larger second dorsal fin than grays, he said, & our fish book confirmed it.

About 15 minutes into the dive, I pointed out a turtle about 40’ away from us & Loren headed straight for it. I expected the turtle to squirt away, but it was busy foraging & just kept on digging its snout into the coral looking for spongy bits, even when Loren began petting its head. I couldn’t believe it! I took pictures, amazed that the turtle was so unconcerned with our proximity. I was still sure that if I came too close, it would swim away, as most turtles do. Meanwhile, Loren was busy helping the turtle by turning over loose bits of coral to look for the parts he sought, which had the turtle following Loren around. He handed me a dead piece of coral with some brown sponge on it, which I then held so the turtle could tear off the food. Hand feeding a turtle! Imagine! The turtle surfaced for air, coming right back down to where we had moved, clearly beseeching us to find him more choice sponge bits. We obliged - how could you not? Those limpid black eyes looking right at me - what an incredible feeling. He let us pet him, feed him & be as close as we wanted for almost an hour. He was so close sometimes that he'd whack us in the head with his flipper, nearly knocking our masks off trying to get at the spongy pieces he seemed to love.

I hated to surface – I could’ve spent hours enjoying this amazing experience - but Loren was out of air. I still had over 1000#, even though I was breathing unusually hard with excitement over this incredible close encounter with a turtle. What a fantastic dive.

When I later told Lon about the turtle, he told me her name is Jeanette, & she loves divers. No kidding!

There were half a dozen black tips circling under the boat where BB was still cleaning the bottom when we surfaced. Although we’ve become pretty accustomed to swimming with sharks now, he said it was a little scarier having so many around when he was alone since we usually snorkel or dive together.

Philip & Leslie on Carina had invited us to the Soiree au Spectacle at the Hilton in Opunohu, so we anchored with 20 other boats near the hotel where the dancing would be. Far too crowded, but we wanted to see the show.

We met Carina, Babalu, Sedna I, & Anima ashore & we all walked to the hotel together. The show was truly lame - made me feel better about not having seen any of them thus far. For some reason I thought we were missing the best of the best dancers, but they weren't that great, & certainly had no more enthusiasm than any of the dancers in the Tuamotus we've seen. They were simply going through the motions.... The show was mainly about incorporating the guests into it - having them dance & make the coconut milk, wear pareus, leis & tiares.

The best part of the night was hanging out with the cruisers. After the dancing, we ate tiramisu in honor of Leslie's 50th birthday, then went around & told two truths & one lie about ourselves, which was a good way to get to know the people in the group we hadn't yet met. This game was BB's suggestion - he always has such good ideas.

says ADR