8/2019: Moorea


The winds came down somewhat over the night but waves were still a good size. Conditions were more manageable, especially as we got some shelter behind Tahiti, and we put the main back up and continued on towards Moorea. We arrived in the early afternoon, lots of cruising sailboats sailing around and the main anchorages were packed with boats. The back of Opunohu was relatively quiet, though, and we headed back and anchored away from shore to try to avoid problems we’ve had here in the past with bugs. It was a pretty hectic environment compared with what we were used to, but still nice to be back at Moorea and get a good night’s sleep.


In the morning we went out diving at one of the buoys on the outer wall. Very nice to be back here, great visibility, a few visits from one of the lemon sharks, several turtles and so forth. Most of the coral looked healthy but much of the acropora, especially acropora hyacinthus (I think), was bleached or dead. There was a bleaching event recently in Moorea and Tahiti and it still seems to be ongoing to some degree, despite the water being really cold for the area (had to wear a wetsuit for the first time in several months).


I left at first light to go surfing at Haapiti, 45 minute dinghy rides each way from Opunohu but very worth it. The wave was on the small side but there were some good sized sets. It was very quiet, with just a few other people out for the two hours I was there. I ended up getting 13 rides, needing time to readjust to this wave and having issues with my legs feeling a little sluggish and imprecise during the popups. All in all though this was a great time. I was doing popups at the proper time and got several really excellent rides, and several more where I started the popup at the right time but didn’t stick the landing and wiped out. Towards the end I got raked over the reef a bit after wiping out, leaving some scratches on my back but not too bad. After getting back to Magic we went to shore to do the Magic Mountain hike we did earlier in the year. It was drizzling or raining much of the way to the top but we persevered, feeling very comfortable (nice to not have the sun beating down, really). The weather cleared up a bit as we headed back down and back to Magic.


We went diving in the morning at one of the buoys, having a pretty similar experience to last time with a lemon shark sighting and several turtles. Afterwards we hung out on the boat most of the day, with some nice paddleboarding in the late afternoon.


I went surfing again at Haapiti in the morning. Things were big, bigger than expected, and after getting a couple rides my board broke in half as I went under a wave and it caught the board. Oh well. Another surfer got the front half and returned it to the dinghy, then I went back to Magic. This was my new 7’4″ mini-mal, and while I’d like to be able to use a longer board on a wave like this, I just need to accept that I need to be using a smaller board that is easier to manage in the surf. After getting back to Magic we went ashore and jogged out to the banyan tree up the valley and next to the main road, doing some swinging and then returning to Magic. I repaired the board and otherwise hung out on the boat.


We went diving in the morning, looking for the anemones we saw here earlier in the year. The anemones at the shallower location seemed to be gone, but we found the anemones at the deeper location (75′ or so). They were looking rather bleached and sickly, though the anemonefish and dascyllus seemed healthy; I wonder if the shallower anemones died in the recent bleaching event. Otherwise, we saw a couple turtles and a couple blacktips kept cruising by, looking for handouts maybe. In the afternoon we went to Pangaea, who had just arrived in Opunohu and would be leaving tomorrow, for sundowners. We had a really nice time catching up and talking to them and their guests, then headed back to Magic for a quick dinner and bed.


I went surfing again at Haapiti in the morning, bringing my 6’8″ short board this time. The wave was a little smaller than two days ago but still pretty intimidating, and at first I was having trouble because I kept getting swept out by the ebbing current to an area where I had to get on a wave in order to make my way back in. I was the only one out for a while and it was rather spooky, but then a few other people showed up, the sun came out, and the waved seemed to mellow a little more. I ended up with 10 rides, feeling pretty good with the short board but most of the rides were further in and not very long. Later in the day we went ashore to the shrimp farm in Opunohu. There are several big ponds here, one of which was drained and had a few guys (and some birds) collecting shrimp from the remaining puddles. We walked through the mud to talk with them a bit and pick up some shrimps ourselves, mellow creatures that didn’t react until after being in the air for several seconds. I ate a couple raw shrimp, and we got a kilo of them to take back to Magic, very tasty dinner.


We went diving in the morning at one of the buoys on the outside, having a nice time seeing the fish and turtles and so forth. A couple other groups of divers were in the water and some blacktips were a little excited, coming in boldly to check us out.


I left a little after 6:00 am to go hike up Mt Rotui. We did part of this hike earlier in the year and I’d wanted to get to the summit for some time. This ended up going pretty well, I did make the summit after 2:40 of hiking from the trailhead. The route up was nice, I felt like I made good time despite having to deal with lots of steep dirt climbs and side hilling. The summit had very nice views over to Tahiti, Opunohu and Cook’s bays, the mountains of Moorea and some sections of the west coast, including the break at Haapiti (lots of surf today due to a heavy swell, hiking seemed a better idea than going surfing). I got very worn out on the way down — the dirt was tricky to walk down, I was low on water and trying to hurry (2.75 liters was only barely enough), and my bare shins were getting really scratched up by all the low lying vegetation along the trail. It took me 2:05 to get down (4:50 total RT from the trailhead), after which I was pretty exhausted. After getting back to Magic I rested for a few hours, then felt pretty strong again, it’s nice to be able to bounce back like that. Still, it felt good to relax the rest of the day.


We went diving in the morning on the outside, starting near the furthest buoy and drifting almost all the way back to the first buoys on a gentle flood. Nice and mellow dive, we had a brief sighting of a lemon shark in deeper water towards the end, but not much else of note.


I went out surfing in the morning at Haapiti. The swell had come down and was in a nice range, though I had the wave to myself for the first hour and a half (it’s been quiet here lately for some reason). I was feeling pretty strong but was having trouble catching rides at first, eventually getting a really awesome ride where I was positioned correctly on the wave, did the popup as soon as I got onto it, stuck the landing and went on to have a pretty amazing five or six seconds. I’m going to start calling rides like these quality starts, where I have the right positioning and popup technique, and these are the kinds of rides I want to focus on getting. Things improved after that and I ended up with 12 rides in the end, talking to some tourists who came out to surf towards the end of the session and having a nice time. After getting back to Magic, in the late afternoon we went for a nice jog on shore, exploring some quiet side roads going through some fruit plantations.


We went diving in the morning at one of the outside buoys, kind of a short (~35 min) and shallow (less than 40′) dive as Lisa’s pressure gauge was acting up and reading very low. We saw a bunch of turtles, trying to swim alongside them and get photos. Usually they were very friendly and didn’t mind us, though we didn’t chase after them if they swam off. Some amusing fish behavior: we found a triggerfish trying to break into a scallop, I went in to photograph it, it swam off, then circled back after we left to grab the scallop and take off with it. Towards the end of the dive I saw a surgeonfish that seemed to be trying to court a very confused pinktail triggerfish. Afterwards we dinghied over to Cook’s bay for gasoline and groceries; the ride back took what felt like nearly an hour as we were pretty loaded down with stuff and couldn’t get up on plane.


I went out surfing in the morning at Haapiti. The wave was a little large and hard to manage with some reflections and slop making it hard to assess the waves. I ended up with 9 rides in 2 hours, but 2 were quality starts (the most I’ve gotten here with the shortboard), which was nice. I had the whole wave to myself the whole time, a mixed blessing as it’s nice to see where other surfers are taking off from instead of ending up too far inside and getting steamrolled by large waves. The conditions seemed pretty challenging for other people too; a boat with several surfers arrived about the same time as I did, but they spent an hour watching me with only one guy going in once for a single ride. Some other folks showed up around when I finished, but they seemed wary too, except for one local who went right in and quickly got a great ride on a big wave. I spent some extra time at the wave as the dinghy anchor had come off the line while I was surfing; the line had wrapped itself around some coral so the dinghy didn’t go anywhere, but it took about 20 minutes to locate the anchor. Back at Magic we went out diving, nice conditions at one of the outside buoys and several friendly turtles let us get pretty close for photos.


We went ashore midday to get some more shrimp from the farm, and then did some jogging. It was very hot and we weren’t feeling very energetic, but had a nice time and relaxed on the boat the rest of the day.


I went to Haapiti in the morning. It was the start of a long weekend and there were 10 people on the wave when I arrived at 6:40, but everyone was nice and it was a fun time out. I ended up with 11 rides, one of them quality, mostly hanging out on the inside where other people weren’t hanging out and good sized waves were still breaking with some consistency. Afterwards we went diving on the outer wall, dragging the dinghy and drifting around, lots of nice macro life including some exotic groupers and some nice groups of purple queens. We found the shallow group of anemones, which are still alive but are looking pretty bleached.


We went hiking ashore, going through the side roads we’ve found in the fruit plantations and then trying a new route back. One of the roads crosses the valley’s main stream at a couple points, and we started at the upper point and followed the creek down to where the road crossed again. Despite being so near the main road in the valley, this felt like almost a world apart, very pretty sights with wading and creek-side walking, lots of fun. The best sights were a half dozen or so eels that we encountered, as long and thick as my arm. In the evening we went to Kiapa Nui for dinner and to hang out, having a nice time.


We went hiking around Opunohu valley, checking out some new trails. We were trying to get up to the main trail leading to the 3 coconuts pass, but took some wrong turns and ended up on a different trail. This was still very pretty, and took us up to a road which the other trails connect to, which we were able to follow back down to the valley floor in a loop.


I went to Haapiti in the morning, but the wave was very sloppy with large southerly swells breaking on the west side of the pass and then reflecting over to the east side. After watching some waves breaking right next to the dinghy I retrieved it and anchored further in, but still had trouble getting onto much. I was out for an hour and got one ride, but it was still nice to study the wave and watch how the currents around it interacted. Back at Magic we went hiking ashore, repeating the stream hike we did a couple days ago. We were watching for eels closely and ended up seeing 17 of them! It seemed like every pool had one or more eels in it when we looked closely, resting on the bottom or concealed under a log or mat of leaves. We had some great encounters with them. My favorite was when standing in a waist deep pool and looking around, a very large eel swam over and started nosing at my foot, just checking it out, before swimming off. Its head was as large as my foot and I got a good look at it as it swam about. Several other times I would see an eel and try to guide it around with my hand; they didn’t react strongly when I blocked their path, just kind of nosed around looking for a way around me. Very peaceful creatures, it was lots of fun seeing so many of them.


We hung out on the boat all day.


In mid morning I dropped Lisa off on shore, and she went to Tahiti to get eggs (none of the stores on Moorea ever seemed to have them, and we were getting desperate) and have a nice lunch. After dropping her off I went down to Haapiti and spent several hours there, surfing a total of 3:30 hours and getting 30 rides, with 5 quality starts. It varied between pretty busy (12 or so riders) and very busy (15-20) but I usually had the inside to myself and was having a lot of fun on the wave. My riding seemed to improve over the course of the session. I felt like to make the popup when just getting onto the wave I needed confidence more than anything: my body knows how to get up on the wave quickly, and I just need to go for it and not hesitate. Eventually, though, I started getting worn out and headed back to Magic, arriving there around 4:30. Lisa got back about an hour later, I picked her up from the beach, and we had a nice evening.


We went diving on the outer wall in the morning, seeing lots of nice creatures. One of the big lemon sharks passed right by us at one point; I looked over to the side and it was cruising past me (they like to approach from behind). Several turtles, visits to the two groups of anemones, several hundred redtooth triggerfish in the water column which we watched on the safety stop, just a nice time all around.


I went to Haapiti in the morning and surfed for two hours. I was trying to spend more time out at the lineup than I have in the past, which worked pretty well. I ended up with 10 rides, but 4 of them had quality starts; I got all four in a little over an hour, then spent a while trying to get to five (my goal here in Moorea), with a couple times when I was positioned right and started the popup at the right time but didn’t stick the landing. Oh well, I need more practice but it’s nice to see the progress and feel more confident with attempting the quality starts. There were a few whales hanging around outside the pass, and while waiting at the lineup we saw tails and spouting several times, very nice and it’s great the whales are finally here (they seemed to have arrived late this year).


We went diving on the outer wall in the morning, visiting the bleached anemones to get some media of the clownfish hanging around in them. This was nice, and there were some turtles and other critters around, a nice dive.


I went to Haapiti again in the morning. The wave was very sloppy compared to the last two sessions, though. The swell was a little bit bigger but the problem apparently is that there is a system generating south winds not too far offshore, leading to a lot of chop mixed in with the swell which made the wave hard to ride. In about 1:15 of surfing I was able to get 9 rides though, most of them short but one very nice ride with a quality start. I had a couple issues, though. A leash I’d just replaced on the board broke (not sure if it was due to poor board positioning or a problem with the leash itself), though the board got washed into the lagoon and I was able to take the dinghy over to get it (scraping against the bottom several times, tricky to maneuver in the shallows). I reanchored and continued surfing, but not long afterwards noticed the dinghy was too far on the inside and some of the waves were washing water into the dinghy. I got back in the dinghy and wrapped up the session, then talked to Kiapa Nui a bit (they came down a couple days ago hoping the southerly winds would allow for some wave kiting, though alas the winds did not reach far enough north) before heading back to Magic.


We hung out on the boat all day.


We went diving on the outer wall, looking for turtles. We found several in the mid-level parts of the reef where we usually see them, but they weren’t interested in hanging out with us and swam off. Later in the dive we visited some shallower parts of the reef, which have less coral and more algae, and found a couple turtles feeding on the algae. They weren’t bothered by us at all and we watched one of them for a while. It would grab a wad of algae with its mouth and then use its front flippers to pry the algae off the reef. It looked like it was mostly eating the club-like macroalgae we see in a lot of shallow areas around here. It only looked like it was interested in the holdfasts at the base of the algae, which is interesting as we see a lot of this algae floating around in the lagoons and at sea. I wonder if that’s because the turtles are feeding on it so much. Later on we went paddleboarding around the anchorage I think, which was nice. Critters like a shark, stingray, and turtle, though there was little coral and lots of macroalgae on the rocks in the shallower areas near the anchorage.


We went diving on the outer wall, at the furthest buoy. Before descending, we could see one of the lemon sharks circling around on the bottom below us, and after descending we spent nearly 10 minutes with it as it lazily swam around, keeping a certain distance but coming in close enough for a good look. Very cool. After it left we kept seeing it and a smaller lemon shark during the dive, neither of them threatening. Very cool to see so much of them.


After doing some work on the boat in the morning I went to Haapiti to surf. The wave was a little sloppy but not as bad as last time, though no one else was out. Several times I was in a good place when getting onto the wave, but I wasn’t able to stick any of the popups. I ended up with a few rides in an hour or so, one of them pretty nice, and then broke my leash and had to go fetch the board. I decided to call it then and started feeling kind of sick on the way back to Magic, where I rested the rest of the day.


I was kind of sick and hung out on the boat all day while Lisa got it ready for our guests arriving tomorrow.


Our guests, Heather and Julie, arrived in the late morning and we spent the rest of the day on the boat, talking and hanging out.


Lisa and Julie went diving in the morning, while all of us went ashore in the afternoon to go hiking, seeing the fruit plantations, banyan trees, and doing the eel hike on the way back. We saw 24 eels this time, which was really cool. The neatest was right at the beginning actually, as we did a little bit of walking and the eels just came out from their hiding places to check us out, five big ones nosing around gently.

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