Close Calls and Creepy Creatures

(Bay of Virgins, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia)

The massive blowhole south of our anchorage has become a favourite spot of ours to frequent. If only I took the camera with me on this morning’s paddle, I would have an unbelievable shot of Gregory’s scared and scrambling face. Which, no one would be surprised to learn, is a huge toothy smile ear-to-ear.

We paddled down along the coast watching the dinghy-sized manta rays do graceful loop-dee-loops through the water. Exposing their radiant, white bellies in turn with their glistening, black backs. The goats continued to make a ruckus up on the cliffs. The baby goats seemingly always getting left behind, painstakingly calling after their elders to please wait up.

When we arrived at the blowhole I took my viewing position at a safe yet exciting distance, while Gregory paddled straight for the exploding pool’s mouth seeing just how far he could push it. The first couple attempts were graceful, if not a little impressive. He’d paddle into the pool as things were calm, then as the big wave was mounting to erupt in the back, Gregory would ride the ebbing wave out the front to a triumphant explosion behind him. That was in the beginning.

It seemed in the short time we were there the waves grew markedly. What used to be a more subdued blowhole morphed into a boisterous geyser thundering into the air.

With his previous successful attempts in the bag, Gregory’s confidence grew and the depth he entered the pool, along with the time he pushed staying there, grew. It was during one of these deep and lengthy stays that he got caught. The wave crashed in and he was behind the exiting swell.

It should be noted that this particular blow hole has multiple layers of explosions. It hits and then keeps hitting for about 10 seconds. So as the first explosion went off nipping at Greg heels he dropped to his belly and starting paddling with his arms, surfer-style, with a fever.

He was quickly out of harm’s way, but to watch him scramble in the churning, bubbling white-wash could only make me buckle over in laughter. Obviously not the reaction expected of the typical concerned girlfriend, but we’re not talking about the typical boyfriend either. Gregory came out plastered in his easy smile and we both shared a good laugh.

Paddle boards home, we set out in the dinghy again with masks and fins in tow. We dove along the same coast we were paddling and watched the bustling world below sea level. Actually, I watched the fish of every colour and reef of remarkable construct, while Greg shot things. He bagged some small fish for chumming the water later, and speared another octopus as I watched.

At first I thought he’d simply just shot the ocean floor. A metallic ting travelled to my ears and I watched as he attempted to pull his lodged spear from the rock. Eventually he had to leave the trapped spear and attached gun floating below as he came up for a breath. When he returned to the depths he freed his spear, and to my surprise, there was an octopus on the other end. A severely pissed off octopus that let out a large plume of ink as Gregory towed it to the surface.

On the swim back to the dinghy Gregory carried out the reverse manoeuvre I described yesterday and just like that, the catch bucket was one octopus heavier.

As if the capture of an octopus wasn’t creepy and crawly enough for one dive, we went back to catch sight of a 6 foot, nasty, snaking eel! I’ve become almost accepting of sharks (small, small sharks), but eels, eels are too much. They slither through the water with their large pointed mouths gaping. They do nothing but elicit a spine-shivering, repulsive reaction from me. The fact that they can easily hide their formidable bodies in unknown recesses, leaving nothing but their horrid heads sticking out waiting for a quick bite does nothing to help their cause. We watched as this particularly hefty, loathsome creature slithered through the open water and deposited itself deep in some hole. Greg took this opportunity to shoot a small reef fish for its feeding pleasure. As the dead fish floated down towards it, the speed it snatched its treat from the open water was grossly effective. Doing nothing for my intense dislike of the vile, moray eel.

Moral of this story. I hate eels.

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The wind stopped howling out the valley and Oceanna turned tail on the bay’s rock spires. Best view I’ve seen out of this cockpit!

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Octopus and associated ink plume coming up from the coral bottom.

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Prior to the reverse manoeuver. Working our way back towards the dinghy.

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Guess it’s octopus for dinner.

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One step away from the catch bucket.

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A school of pompanos hanging out by the cliff side.

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I got Greg to balance gun and camera for a minute. Not much longer.

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I just love the colours of all the little reef fish. They’ve got real style.

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Just take note what Greg has stuffed down his pants. And I have to share a bed with this guy!

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This evenings catches. A beauty of a coral trout and a colourful wrasse. Ciguaterra is supposedly real common in these islands so we plan on taking these in to the locals tomorrow morning to get the right info. Hopefully we can trade for some fruit!

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Greg says a mean mouth means good eating. For the fish and us!

One comment

  1. Say hi to Greg for us ,,I find your blog fascinating,,as a child who spent many years in Africa and on the Indian Ocean this brings back many memories ,,please write a book about this whole adventure, graham davis

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