Underwater wonderworld Gambier

Today the long promised calm weather finally arrived, already in the morning the seas were mirrorlike calm, so we lifted the anchor (the chain was completely overgrown already after 3 weeks) and motored to the mountainous island Taravai in the west of the lagoon. At first there was still some cloud cover and even drizzle, visibility not so great for spotting reefs, but fortunately the charts for the Gambier islands are very accurate. We couldn’t believe how near the coral-covered bottom looked in the crystal clear water. 20m deep and every little detail of the corals was visible–incredible! Luckily the sun came out when we cautiously approached our anchorage in the southern bay on the western side of Taravai. We did several very slow rounds to check out the reefs within the bay and then dropped the anchor in 15m. What a view! An almost alpine-looking scenery, grassy hills, pine trees everywhere–only the sandbeaches and the coconut palmtrees spoil the illusion of anchoring o n a lake in the alps. The island smells pleasantly of tree resin and herbs–Leeloo’s little nose started twitching and she eagerly inspected the scenery from deck, stretching her belly in the warm sunlight (This is the first warm day after two weeks of cold, howling winds). Right after anchoring we got out our snorkel gear to check the anchor and the surrounding reefs and were surprised to see a rather big black tip reef shark who had apparently come to welcome us to Taravai :-) The reefs here are just amazing: because of the protection of the outer reef, no pollution or other damaging influences, the water is pristine, the corals are incredibly healthy and colourful and there’s big, colourful fish everywhere. They’re not shy and let snorkelers approach quite close. The reason for this behaviour is that nobody hunts them, because of a disease that’s quite common in subtropical and tropical waters: Ciguatera. Microscopic dinoflagellates that occur in reefs contain a toxin that is harmless to the fish that ingest them, but accumulates along the foodchain (larger predatory fish have the highest amount of toxin in them). Ciguatoxin’s very dangerous to humans (and mammals in general) though. It’s a nerve toxin and the symptoms reach from nausea, ting ling sensations in the extremities to cramps and death. People who survive a serious case of ciguatera may suffer from the consequences for the rest of their lives. Locals know which fish are safe, but it’s safest just not to eat fish caught within the lagoon. That’s unfortunate for the dinner plan, but guarantees a wonderful underwater world! We’ve just had a sundowner on deck and enjoyed an actual sunset at 5:30 In the anchorage off Rikitea on the easern shore of Mangareva, the sun disappeares already around 4 o’clock behind the mountains–cutting the already short days even shorter…

1 comment

  1. hermine hackl says:

    Schön – schöner – noch schöner !

    Das ist die belohnung für die k a l t e n 20 ° !

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