Snorcheling with stingrays and sharks
Moorea’s “Lagoonarium” is sited at a “motu”, a little island close to the Moorea reef. Every guest is assigned with his own little hut, snorcheling equipment and a pair of those pretty plastic sandals – stepping onto a poisonous stonefish is said to be a very unpleasant experience. Every hut has a view of the sea, the adjacent bar area is formed like a ship and everything, even the bathroom (which is equipped with a flushing toilet!) is tiled with shells. Several buoys are fixed to the reef area, all connected by a rope, allowing guests to safely make their way around, as the current is quite strong. At 10 am there was no one else in the water and I enjoyed fabulous views of the underwater world with plenty of fishes. But the real adventure started with the 11am feeding session! The guide arrived with a bucket full of (dead) little fish. Attracted by that, a growing number of large stingrays already made their way into the shallow water. He fed them like riding a donkey with a carrot: by holding the fish close to their mouth he lured them around and the soft stingrays touched us gently while passing by. They even seem to enjoy being padded. This is not a zoo, though. And even though the animals are obviously used to being fed and touched by humans they are still wild animals. I found it a bit scary, but I must admit that for the most part I was simply amazed! After a white the guide asked us to make our way along the rope from the shallow 1,20m into the deeper water (about 5m deep). There he rode the stingrays by holding onto their front with a fish in his hand – sourrounded by at least ten 1,50m long reefsharks, anxious to get their piece of the cake. Obviosly, there were plenty of colourful fish, too. It was truly spectacular! The downside is that these beautiful animals get used to being fed and might thus lose their hunting skills, being increasingly dependent on humans.
I tried to stay away from the sun, as far as possible, and protected myself with a t-shirt to protect me from getting burned. I “only” have a factor 50 sunlotion, which I constantly applied to my body until it was empty. I’ve now learned that the locals use a factor 110 (!) sunlotion, which is indeed very useful in this kind of sun. The UV index is 14! A UV index higher than 11 is considered extreme. In Brisbane, for example, the current UV index is 12, whereas german summers usually don’t see anything higher than 8.
Making my way back to the B&B was a bit tricky. Taxis are rare and strangely enough the drivers don’t seem to like far drives. Their names and numbers are listed in a leaflet and you have to call them directly. One of the Lagoonarium’s employees kindly lend me her phone (my smartphone does not accept any of the local providers and is thus useless as a phone). But after I was turned down by two and couldn’t reach a couple of others I decided to hitchhike instead. That’s not a big deal here, as there is only one road going around the island. Luckily, a local in a crappy Peugeot soon stopped, though driving the other way. He was going to pick up a parcel at the dock, thereafter returning to Haapiti, which is exactly where I wanted to go. As it turns out, Nico (coincedence, that he’s named like my brother?!) picked up a box full of mangos and handed one to me as a present. I love mangos! Needless to say I indulged in the sweet fruit right after he dropped me off at home.
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