Paradise found

11 Apr 2018 Richard Galapagos to Marquesas

We have travelled well over 10,000 nautical miles since leaving the UK. There have been times when we’ve questioned whether it was really worth turning our lives upside down, leaving family, friends and our beautiful home far behind. Not least because there are so many places closer to home to explore. The past four days have totally changed our perspective; we’ve arrived in paradise. It is difficult to put into words just how beautiful this place is, even photos don’t do it justice.

We’re in Fakarava, one of the many atolls that make up the Tuamotus. A series of elongated islands enclose a massive lagoon, some 30 miles long by 11 miles wide. Most of the gaps between the islands are just shallow channels, where the water from the waves breaking on the fringing reef washes through, but at a couple of places the islands are separated by deep passes where the water floods into and out of the lagoon with the change of the tides. It was through the southern one of these that we entered the lagoon. The islands are covered with tall palm trees and dense undergrowth and so once inside all is peace in tranquillity; the waves pounding on the fringing reef seem part of another world altogether.

The water is crystal clear, the colour changing with the depth, from blue to turquoise to almost white. Within the lagoon are isolated patches of reef that provide a home for a myriad of stunningly beautiful fish. Natural section seems to have a clear aesthetic bias; there are no ugly tropical fish. The closer you look, the greater the intricacy of pattern and colour. It’s like snorkelling in a tropical fish tank on steroids. The highlight of each day is taking the dinghy out of the pass just as the tide starts to flow in, then jumping in the water, holding onto the painter (a rope attached to the dinghy) and then drifting with the flow back into the lagoon. A wall of spectacular coral on one side, home to Nemo and his many friends (actually we haven’t see a Clown Fish yet, we have to go further west for those), on the other the deep, dark depths of the channel. An ever-changing kaleidoscope of colour and form drifting past. Shoals of small blue fish that sparkle in the sun, fish with elongated noses like small trunks, long, slender fish with a tail, and then another tail and then a long, thin whip, sometimes blue-grey and sometimes bright yellow. The more you look, the greater the abundance and variety.

The only slightly disconcerting thing is the plethora of sharks. Thankfully only reef sharks, but sharks nevertheless. They are everywhere. With the water temperature close to 30 degrees Centigrade, I’ve got used to leaping over the side to check how the anchor has set. Vanessa was slightly alarmed on this occasion to see her husband having a close encounter with “Jaws” as he followed the anchor chain into the depths. We had dinner on a friends boat the other night and they threw the leftovers over the side and the sea boiled as the waiting sharks hoovered up the scraps. They eat anything, well almost anything. Vanessa had made an apple and peach crumble to take for desert; it was really scrummy. Someone left half a bowlful that was dutifully thrown over the side. There was a wild swirl as a shark grabbed the crumble, but a moment later it spat it out again! Sharks clearly don’t have a sweet tooth, so if you find yourself bobbing in shark infested waters, smear yourself with honey.