(Ngarumoava Village, Raroia, Tuamotus, French Polynesia)
There is a very short list of sounds I like to hear emanating from the person’s snorkel who jumped into the water before me. It starts with “Ooooo” and ends with “Awwww”. Sounds I do not like to hear are screams, yelps, or Greg’s maniacal laughter dotted with “put you mask on you have to see this”. The last bit, though, is exactly what precluded Greg and I both face down, butt up, over the side of the dinghy looking down at the most sharks I’ve ever seen anywhere period. And that includes any snippet from any BBC documentary I could recall at the time.
We had dinghied out to the pass to get some more of the amazing-ness we’d experienced yesterday only to be completely blown away. Yesterday we had done a drift dive of the outside of the reef. We started well north of the pass and ended about where the pass began. Today we just drift dove the pass itself. The tide was filling in and the dive exceeded any other I’ve ever had. Not only was there the indescribable pit of sharks that we circled pack to and drifted over four mind-boggling times, the pass was an overflowing smorgasbord of landscape, life, and spectacle.
The ocean floor was etched into remarkable hills and valleys. Long grooves ran parallel to the pass bustling with every type of ocean critter. At the start of our drift we were looking down on schools of barracudas, sharks, and jacks in 50 feet of dark blue water, and by the end we were in a veritable, life-size aquarium. The depth had risen to a mere eight feet, the water was crystal clear, and the colours were more than a rainbow could bear. I could have easily counted more species of coral than my fingers and toes could register, and the vibrant reef fish were almost too abundant to take in. Iridescent parrotfish and wrasse moseyed about in brilliant turquoise, purple, and red. Yellow and black striped angelfish graced the waters trailing their long, wispy dorsal fins. Coral trout strutted about in neon-red polka dots, while marble grouper roamed clad in military camo. My favourite are always the divided fairy basslets, a tiny little fish split right down the middle with a plum-coloured front and a lemon-coloured back. Then there’s always the hoards of gleaming blue damselfish, big-eyed soldierfish, and cheeky red snapper. Not to be left out, yes the sharks were also there. Though they were few and far between and stuck to the perimeter of the party.
In conclusion (wow I just flashed to highschool essay writing nightmares there, let’s go with it though), in conclusion the diving in Raroia is beyond reproach. It can awe the most seasoned diver with its abundance and variety, while instilling a grand sense of wonder and magnitude in your average amateur. I know this because my own feelings of glee and reward are matched, if not surpassed by our new friends Chris and Jess who have dove the world over.