We didn’t see the 200 sharks that I talked up in my last post. It turns out that the ‘wall of sharks’ is deep in the trough of the pass and so not visible to our surface eyes. But they’re all down there and are what make this pass so famous for scuba diving.
We did, however, see over 50 sharks. Plenty in my opinion! It was absolutely spectacular.
On Tuesday afternoon we tied up our dingy at Annabelle’s pension dock and waded out a few steps to where the coral begins. It is shallow near the edges of the pass and then drops off quickly, all the way down to around 150 feet. None of us had ever seen anything like it; the vivid colors of the coral, the patterns of the fish, the size of the fish (massive Napoleons that are 4 feet long!), and the close encounters with sharks. Will and Ben used up a whole underwater camera battery doing a photo shoot with them.
When we started snorkelling it was slack tide and so we swam south, toward the open ocean. By the time our lips were pruning and puckering from the salt, the tide had turned and the current began pushing us back towards the pension dock. It was an easy ride over the underwater wonderland.
Our first snorkel was followed by hinano’s on the dock. We relaxed in deck chairs and listened to music with our new friends as the sun went when down. And long after.
By contrast, yesterday was a work day. Not boat work as you might assume.
The only people who live here are those at the pension and Manihi and his family. Manihi is a Fakaravian who has lived at the south pass for over 30 years. Aside from the pension, his nearest neighbours are over ten miles away. What was once just a coral motu is now his home, built by hand, with 8 bungalows, a dock that extends 100 feet along the water with berths for two or three panga-type boats, and an outdoor eating area and kitchen.
We met Manihi a couple of days ago when he dropped by Hydroquest to give us a ‘proposition’: Dinner in exchange for four hours of work. It sounded like a good deal, especially since our provisioning in the Marquesas was not as extensive as it should`ve been.
Half an hour into our shift yesterday Katy proclaimed, “Wow. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever done manual labour before”. Our job was to lug heavy fallen tree branches from the compound out to a pile on the rocks which would later be burned. Somehow Will got the easy job of carrying baskets of pine needles. It was hot and we were sweating buckets and covered in flies, but rather happy to be getting a long overdue workout.
Dinner in the evening was pizza: pizza du poisson. Manihi’s wife had caught the fish that afternoon and we understood that the type was ‘bec du canard’, translated as ‘duck beak’ fish, although we’re not sure if it has another English name. Pizza du poisson – a first for all of us. We ate it in the open air kitchen with the high tide water lapping against our feet while laughing about stories of ‘Eto’, Manihi’s shark-hunting dog.
This morning Will is eating leftover pizza du poisson for breakfast. Hmm.