Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Stingrays... Soft and Cuddly?

In Moorea, Society Islands of French Polynesia, we got up close and cuddly with stingrays.  These rays are used to being hand fed.  Surprisingly, their skin feels like velvet.

These are the first underwater shots Elliot took with his new camera, Canon G11 with underwater housing.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Surfin' Tonga

Friday, 27 August 2010

Crown of Thorns Starfish

Underwater photograph by Elliot.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Tonga, Islands in Paradise

New Zealand has sheep but Tonga wins the prize for the most pigs.  We love the pigs, so cute!
S/V Asolare ghosts past us on our first morning in Tongan waters.

Reef walking on Nuku island, Vava'u

Beach walking Kapa Island, Vava"u

Euaiki Island, Vavu'u.  A short stop before our overnight to the Ha'apai Group.

Three islands in the Ha'apai Group.  The volcanic, cone shaped island, Kao, is where the mutiny on the Bounty occurred.

Perfect waves, no crowd in sight.

Kelefesia Island.  Ashore is a fishing camp, occasionally used, plus healthy resident pigs and their piglets.

Kelefesia Island, Ha'apai Group

Tungua Island, Ha'apai Group.




Coconut grove, home of many pigs

Gerbera Daisy flowering in the Tongan winter sun

What was the name of that rugby team?

Tongan fan made of plant fiber and pearl shell
Polynesian double hull sailing canoe

Friday night races Neiafu harbour, Vava'u

Kelefesia Island, Ha'apai Group

Bristol Rose at anchor in Ha'apai Group, Tonga

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Anchorages... Fakarava, Tuamotus, June 3, 2010

The north anchorage of Fakarava is off the main town, giving cruisers access to fresh baguettes and internet if you sit outside the post office.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Underwater, Creatures from the deep

Crown of thorns star fish

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Tongan Update from Ha'api

Current Position
19 56.484S
174 42.877W
We are currently cruising the Ha'api group of islands of the Kingdom of Tonga. We expect to be in the Capital of Tonga, Nuku'alofa, by the weekend.
Tonga is special, a crazy cruising destination, awesome anchorages, stunning scenery, spectacular snorkeling, wonderful whales, remarkable reefs, smoking surf, vicious volcanos, yes vicious! Almost forgot, and friendly folks.
Each cruising area or island group is very different, Va'vau is very pretty, deep water anchorages are only miles apart and very popular with fellow cruisers, divers, and charters. Ha'api is like sailing the Tuamotus. You need to be good at navigating coral reefs and coral studded anchorages. Islands are further apart and you most often have the anchorage to yourself. In fact most days we don't see another cruising boat. We've seen more whales than cruisers in these parts.
Today we are staying put, off Ha'afeva Island, as a slow moving front is passing by, bringing the most rain we have seen for some time. Visibility is reduced drastically. Another boat has come to join us, Two Oceans. We expect the rain to clear by tomorrow and we will move further south.
Cameras have been very busy both above and below the water. Look out for the Tonga pictorial very soon, when we have wifi and are not reliant only on SSB updates.
Posted by SSB radio through "winlink".

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Anchorages... Anaho, Nuka Hiva, Marquesas. May 22, 2010

We hiked from Anaho Bay over the ridge to Hatiheu where we explored the archaeological sites.

A highlight of Anaho for us was our snorkel with manta rays, gentle giants. We have fond memories also of the great beach party we organized for the whole anchorage.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Paradise. Some things don't change

You'll find no trouble here - unless you brought it with you. Some people like to pack trouble with their toothbrush for an Island get away.
Vava'u group of Islands, Kingdom of Tonga are the model pacific islands for an escape. In the delightful port city of Neiafu many transplanted westerners have set up businesses along the waterfront. You don't need to be in Vava'u too long before you sense the tension between various groups on the island. Mainly because they like to air their disagreements over the air (channel 26 for the morning cruisers net and contact).
At the center of the tension is conflict between those who make their business in "Whale Watching", those who like to take their own boats to watch the whales, and those who simply want to ensure the welfare of the whales in Tongan waters. Interestingly enough, as the various groups squabble, I did not sense that any of the Tongan people had a "dog in the fight". Rumblings seem to be limited to the expat community.
So what is it all about? Frankly after a week I witnessed lots of emotional energy and words flying about but I was unable to get to the issues. One whale watching outfit did a nice job of presenting some research one evening at a restaurant. The invitation had gone out over the cruisers net to anyone interested in the issues to come along. Many cruisers showed up, along with the business owners. Any attempt to seriously "debate" issues was silenced with a carefully worded written statement and a walk out by key players. A power play if ever I saw one.
Each Southern Hemisphere winter Humpback whales travel from the Antarctic to Tonga to breed and calve. Tonga is also one of the few places where you can snorkel with the whales for a fee. At T$250 to T$275 per person, Whale Watching can be a profitable business in Tonga.
Of course commercial Whale Watching operators must be licensed. Non-licensed operators cannot take paying customers on whale watching trips. There may be guidelines to help control the industry although no one seemed to be able to produce them. There don't appear to be any laws outside of licensing. We were told that the guidelines regarding cruising boats warn not to approach whales any closer than 300 meters. However, commercial operators we saw did not observe the 300 meter guideline. Certainly placing customers in the water to be able to swim with whales required boats to get very close. We observed the commercial operators following the whales for hours as we moved from one island to the next.
All parties profess interest in the welfare of the whales. Who would not be interested in protecting the mothers as they calve and nurse their babies. I do wonder about the conflict of interests between short term personal gratification, be it profit or adventure, and the long term welfare of the whales. Although they appear to be curious, at what point do the whales feel threatened or crowded? How does all the attention affect them? Can we trust ourselves to be the guardians of these wonderful animals or should stronger controls be imposed to protect the whales of Tonga? Perhaps the subject should be open to debate.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Underwater, So Serene

Underwater photographs by Elliot.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Tikis in the Marquesas

During our time in French Polynesia we found tikis old, new and even underwater.  Some had been moved to sites in towns and some were in their original places around historic sites.  Others were modern works.  The above is a modern piece probably from the 1980's (much more intricate than the original works).  Modern sculptors have the advantage of modern tools.

An original tiki, in situ, part of a me'ae.

Above two are modern works.

Modern works underwater, Moorea

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Anchorages... San Cristobal, Galapagos. April 3, 2010

Rounding the reef as we enter our first Galapagos anchorage at San Cristobal. A promise of things to come - see our Surfin' Galapagos post.

*Part of a series of images highlighting our favourite anchorages.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Underwater, Not for My Table

We've seen some interesting reef fish for sale in the markets in Papeete. Not for us. We don't catch or eat reef fish in these parts for a couple of reasons. The risk of ciguatera poisoning is too real and how could we kill any of these beautiful jewels of the reef. We'd rather take their pictures.

Underwater photographs by Elliot.