Our ship left Tahiti at 3:00 am and cruised westward. It arrived to the gorgeous island of Moorea in three hours. Moorea is only 11 miles away and can be seen from Tahiti. There is even a ferry boat service between Tahiti and Moorea.
Moorea is primarily a honeymoon destination. There are not, relatively speaking, many hotels here and those that are located here offer the famous "overwater bungalows". They extend out into the clear water lagoons. Some of the bungalows also have their own small private freshwater pools. You can reserve a one bedroom bungalow for a mere $1,000 per night. Need more space? No problem. A 2-3 bedroom is only around $5-8 thousand per night. The price depends on which hotel you select. If money is not an issue, then they also have bungalows with additional rooms. For what you pay per night, you might as well travel with all the members of your familia!
We were only going to be here for eight hours and I had to be at the port by midday in order to get my boat for my two-tank scuba dive. What this means is that we would dive twice in two different nearby sites. On this trip only 9 of us went out. Everyone had experience diving in deep water. Trini thought about joining me on this trip, but I thought it was best that she didn't go. She has never dived in deep waters and it is quite challenging. Trini instead joined Bob and Judy as they went on an exciting safari jeep excursion to the center of the island.
As we were reaching our first dive site I was matched with my diving partner from Topdive named Philippe. He knew that I had had my refresher diving course in Tahiti and asked me if I had done any deep diving.
I did my first deep water diving in Catalina Island in California. We had gone down to 40-60 feet and I still remember how cold the water was back then. My best friend and high school buddy Philip Herrera, and his brother Robert, encouraged me to join them in getting certified. Back then, we scuba dove in Catalina and Ensenada. I recall us drinking a few "suds" plus talking and dreaming about diving out here. We would look at diving magazines and drool over the pictures of the Polynesian area dives. Now I was getting ready to make that dream come true.
Philippe went carefully over the instructions and meticulously checked my equipment. He informed me that we may see some eels and turtles and, of course, the blacktip reef sharks. They have prominent black tips on its fins. They are abundant in these warm tropical waters. The research I did on these shark is that they are basically timid and skittish. I sure hoped the black tips also read that report.
As we started our first dive I could feel my masks pushing into my face due to the water pressure building up. Although we were going deeper the water temperature remained comfortable. The water visibility was great. What I needed to adapt to was the mild currents that kept swaying me. I kept trying to overcompensate instead of moving along with it. I was using a great deal of energy and valuable air trying to counterbalance.
Philippe quickly approached me and reminded me to simply relax and to kick my legs slightly to use the fins and move through them.
Once I settled in I started to look all around me. The view was spectacular! We turned slowly downward and swam toward the bottom. All around me were mounds of colorful tropical fish and coral. We took our time going up and down the coral mounds and seeing the different marine life. I spotted my other diving companions at a distance where they had encountered a turtle and were following it. It was clear that the turtle could easily out swim them. As we continued our dive I began to see blacktips swimming around us. They swam nearby and I was not alarmed. I reminded myself that I had entered their home and that if I respected them, then we have a basis to coexist.
I was beginning to settle in with the foreign watery environment. Philippe approached me to double check my air supply gauge and informed me that it was time to return to the surface. What seemed like a few moments was actually close to 40-minutes.
When we got back on board and took off our equipment, we started to talk about the dive. It was then that I began to feel a sense of heaviness. Moving through the water currents with all that equipment puts strain on muscles you never knew you had. Besides that, I also felt excitement and exhilaration. As we recovered our anchor and prepared to move to a new diving site, I reminded myself that I needed to rest and be prepared for the second dive.
After about half an hour we reached our next site. Once we suited up again and got a fresh air tank, we double-checked the gear and we were set to go. This dive was going to be a bit deeper, thus we had to be additionally mindful and careful. It was going to be demanding and an exhilarating dive.
Underwater we viewed some caves, but did not enter them. We continue to see the sharks joining us. I couldn't sense any aggressive move by them (they arch their bodies as a sign of aggression). At one point Philippe pointed and directed me to swim over a coral mound. As we were reaching the top I suddenly saw a moving shadow in from of us. What happened next completely took me by surprise. As we were reaching the top we encountered a large lemon shark and it swam close by right above our heads. We reached and encountered each other at the top at the same time. What I focused on as he gracefully was passing over us was was his light brown eyes.
When we first encountered each other, my heart skipped a beat and I stopped breathing for a few moments. Once it passed by, I started to refocus and concentrate on my breathing and reminded myself to stay aware of my surroundings. During the dive we spotted other large sharks. They were swimming mainly underneath us and close to the bottom. After the dive we discussed the experience and he estimated that it was 12-15 foot lemon shark.
Being that it was my second dive, I was more relaxed and I tried to look around and enjoy the environment as much as possible. I wanted to continue experiencing and remembering this extraordinary adventure.
We all got on board safe and sound. We were exhilarated and quite tired. Even with our equipment off, we had to find the energy to climb the ladder to get back aboard. It's not easy given that your arm and leg muscles are tired and you are trying to climb several stairs on a boat that is rocking on the surface. Those many hours of working out in the gym are paying dividends.
The nine of us had shared a unique endeavor and we agreed that we would soon return and do it once again. Again, I am very grateful to our diving guides for insuring my safety in Tahiti and here in Moorea I thank Topdive for making the exploration a memorable one.
Once we returned on board our cruise ship, all I wanted to do was to take a long warm shower and simply rest. We took it slow and enjoyed the scenery as our cruise ship picked up its anchor and set out toward open waters. The view of Moorea, with the afternoon sun in the background, was truly a memorable million dollar image. Cameras simply cannot capture all the majestic beauty. There is so much to sense that they are quickly overwhelmed. We looked at Moorea until it was gone over the horizon. We now turned our attention to our next destination.
We were looking forward to visiting Bora Bora. We would be arriving there the following morning and would have the day to explore.