Day 12 – Rangiroa

Wednesday 9 March 2016 – 7200 steps

6:30am Aranui enters Tiputa Passengers

7am Aranui Anchors

7:45am – 9:30 Barges to Shore

Pearl Farm Visits, Top Dive Scuba Diving (Visit Pensions), Handicrafts at the Beach, Swim & Snorkelling

12:30 Last barge back to Aranui

12:30 & 1pm Lunch

2:30pm Q&A about freight with Tino

4:30pm Drone Videos in Lounge (Deck 5) Normand Schafer

6pm Meeting to discuss stop in Bora Bora

7:30 or 8:00 Dinner (We were late and went at 8)

9pm Aranui Band – Veranda Bar (Deck 6)

** Water shoes (Stone fish & Coral), water, sunscreen, hat (watch for falling coconuts) **

I don’t think I was paying attention at the presentation the evening before. I thought we would be entering Rangiroa’s Tiputa Pass at 6am when it was actually 6:30am. Kirsten was up at 5:45am and out on our balcony at 5:45am and so I forced myself awake to take in the excitement of the morning. Rangiroa is the second largest Atoll in the world and it has two two passes by which boats can enter the inner lagoon. The easiest and most popular is Tiputa Pass, a pass that frequently has Dolphins swimming along to greet the ships as they arrive. When the currents and tides are at their fiercest to push water to enter or exit the lagoon, the dolphins can be seen jumping and dancing in the waves.

Most of the early risers were up on the top deck in search of dolphins. Unfortunately, however, the sky was overcast making it difficult to see anything in the water. On the previous Aranui 3, this was the only time they would let anyone on the freight deck to look down from the bow where the dolphins would congregate and swim just under the surface of the water. After entering the pass, however, Kirsten and I spotted one dolphin as it went on back to return to the pass where it likely hangs out most of the time.

While the boat was anchoring well off of the shoreline, Kirsten and I went for a quick 10 minute bite to eat. We had wanted to be the first off of the ship to go exploring the island. As we were about to disembark, however, we looked through the door where everyone was entering the tender to go ashore and we noticed that the overcast clouds were now pouring down with rain. Everyone was frantically trying to get their raincoats on.

I decided to ask one of the cleaning ladies with her cart for a few extra garbage bags to wrap myself in and my camera bag. I did not want it to get wet and was not prepared for the rain. Kirsten and I also decided to wait it out for the second or third barge which was a brilliant idea. The squall that had come so quickly, left almost as fast. By the time we were getting off of the ship 20 minutes after the first barge, the sky was clear and the sun was coming out.

With the change in the weather, the grey and dark blue water started to change colours. As the sun came out to shine on the shallow water of the inner lagoon, thirty shades of blue and green started to shine on the surface of the water. The lagoon of Rangiroa is truly incredible on a sunny day and reminds me of the typical tropical paradise with beautiful white sand or coral beaches, palm trees and the beautifully coloured water.

The Aranui drops its passengers off on a private stretch of beach where we could snorkel, walk to the neighbouring dive shop or take a shuttle to the local Paul Gauguin pearl farm. Everyone seemed to be doing something different or combining the various activities in a different order.

The snorkelling in this area was beautiful although the fish were limited and surrounding the various coral outcroppings in the water. The sand stretched along the beach and entered into the shallow sections of the beach. A vendor was also at the beach selling jewellery, handicrafts and fresh cold coconuts to drink from.

The pearl farm was about 10 minutes away by shuttle bus. Of course the pearl farm is happy to pick up and bring anyone to its location. Here they show the entire three year process that is involved in developing the traditional Tahitian black pearls. There are not only photos of each stage of the process but also displays of the clams and how they are protected throughout the 2 year process. On site a number of employees were hard at work processing the clams, pulling out pearls and re-inserting new nucleus into the best clams in an attempt to get a larger pearl in the coming 2 years from an older, more mature host.

The day in Rangiroa was very short. We had to be back on the last tender by 12:30 in the afternoon. This gave us just enough time to walk onto the ship before we had to eat for the last seating of lunch in the dining room.

Following our meal and some great conversation with an elderly German couple, I went to the lounge to take part in a Question and Answer session with Tino, one of our guides. Tino has worked with the Aranui since the first ship over 30 years ago. He mostly worked in the freight area of the vessel over the years but now is a guide. He answered all sorts of questions such as to tell us that on our cruise we had transported cars, firetrucks, copra, fruit, toilet paper, refrigerated items and so much more. He also talked about some of the unique items they transported such as a helicopter and live animals including horses. He went through everything from dangers and accidents that have taken place to the differences between the various Aranui ships over the years. It was an extremely informative afternoon.

Due to all of the video and photo footage I had collected over the course of the past week and a half, many passengers had asked if I would share some of the scenes I had captured with my drone camera. So the day before, I was added to the schedule of presenters on the ship. At 4:30pm, I presented to a packed house of English, French and German speaking passengers in the lounge. Almost every seat was filled. After a 15 minute explanation on the type of drone I used and how it worked, I showed a 30 minute compilation of unedited videos I had captured as we were travelling through the Marquesas Islands (and Rangiroa earlier in the day).

I was pleasantly surprised by the encouraging comments from the others and had about 50 requests that I inform them once the video editing was completed so that they could look at a copy of the videos.

The evening ended with an information session on what to expect in Bora Bora the following day, Dinner at 8pm (we were late for our regular 7:30pm seating time) and then a lively evening of entertainment from the Aranui Band in the Veranda Bar.

It was a beautiful yet long day, but one thing I will not forget, was the incredible colours of the Rangiroa lagoon. A beautiful, remote and off-the-beaten-path paradise.