Tuesday, October 19, 2010


DAY 27
We are awake before the wake up call, but are already anchored in the large lagoon inside the Rangiroa Atoll or ring of coral, off Avatoru Motu. Rangiroa means "large sky" in Polynesian and is a true atoll made up of 240 motus, islets, separated by 100 hoa, tiny channels. It is the fourth largest atoll in the world. The lagoon is more than 43 miles long and 16 miles across. Actually you can not see across the atoll from sea level and up on deck 8 you could barely make out the distant tree line.

We ordered a room service breakfast last night as we have to meet the Cruise Critic group in the Oceans Lounge at 7:45AM. We all tender ashore at one time to meet the two tours that are scheduled with Ugo. There are thirty of us, eighteen are going to the blue lagoon and twelve are going to the Pink Sands Beach, both over an hour’s boat ride away.

Things go very smoothly and we are all on shore by 8:45AM. Unfortunately things fall apart on shore.

Ugo is there and wants the 18 people for the Blue Lagoon first. He puts eight in a very small boat with NO shade cover for an hour long ride to the lagoon. Then he puts the other 10 in a larger covered boat. He keeps telling the rest of us we will go in the next boat and hops in the boat he just loaded and tells us our boat, for Pink Sands, is on the other side of the pier as he is leaving...we turn around and ask the guy, but he says, "No, Ugo told him, Blue Lagoon." He has a nice little sign all written in English to that effect with prices. He also has a list of five couples off the boat that Ugo had given him..two couples on that list are already in the boat. He tells our group he will take us to the Blue Lagoon, but not Pink Sands. After some discussion six of our Cruise Critic group pay and get on his boat. The five couples on the list had evidently made separate arrangements by internet with Ugo. Three others are no shows on the next tender so the ten of us head out. The boat captain speaks very little English, so we hope for the best, but at this point our little group is under the impression, we will meet up with the rest of the Cruise Critic group at the Blue Lagoon.

It is a rough, almost 90 minute, ride to a very beautiful lagoon surrounded by small motus. We see the rest of the Cruise Critic group, but they are on one of the other islands. So, we are on our own. The boat anchors but we are still some distance from the island. We hop out (Carolyn sort of falls out) as there is no ladder offered. We wade ashore and the guide starts to unload the supplies. There is another boat with four French couples, already on our motu, that turn out to be part of our group too.

Once we are all ashore and have a small snack and drink, the guides start a cocoanut husk fire in the grill and we are ferried across the lagoon in a small motor boat to snorkel around some coral heads. The Lagoon is really beautiful but there is very little sea life. There was an invasion of the crown of thorns star fish a few years ago that killed all the coral. It is growing back but the lagoon bottom is a desert. We do snorkel and enjoy finding what we can and playing with the huge blue and purple lipped clams. We wade in the shallows among a huge nursery of black fin sharks and other reef fish. Carolyn does a little shelling.

After about an hour or so we are ferried back to the first motu where another boat has arrived with five more people off the ship. They bought the tour once off the tender and were about forty-five minutes behind us. The guides have fixed a barbeque of fish and chicken, cevieche, rice salad and a wonderful coconut bread. There are four guides now and three play and sing for us as we eat.

Then we play in the water, feeding the baby sharks, snorkeling or just laying on the beach. One guide picks a baby shark up so we can feel it then shows how to put it to sleep!

We load the boats about 1:30 to begin the trip home. After moving out into deeper water the boats stop and the guides feed the larger sharks. We can swim with them...some do, but we pass on the swimming and just watch. These sharks are four to six feet long and there is at least one big lemon shark (third most aggressive variety) in the mix. At this point the guide for the boat of Frenchmen swims over to our boat for a huge fish head which he holds out of the water as he swims back to his boat. He feeds the sharks there and actually catches one about four feet long and hauls it aboard for his guest to see!

While all this is going on there is a bit or drama on the third boat. The five guest from it are on our boat for the shark feeding as their boat wouldn’t start...there had been some problem with the motor on the way out...now it is dead! After watching the shark show we start back about 2:00PM, the extra people still on our boat. Two guides stay and continue to work on the other boat motor. We assume someone will come back to help them.

It is an even rougher ride back as the swells are even higher and we are heading into the wind. Finally we are back to where we can see the ship and are close to land. We turn away from the ship and every one is a bit disturbed...remember we don’t speak French and the guide doesn’t speak English. Actually this turn is for the Tiputa Pass to see the dolphins running with the tide and is a bit scarey.

The current is creating really high swells and we are in a really small boat which is full! We do see some dolphin, but have visions of capsizing as the boat runs with and across the current! Exciting? Yes! Will we do it again? No!

We come out of the pass, make one stop to shift around coolers, leave the boat of Frenchmen and head back to the dock where we catch one of the last tenders. After cleaning up we have a cocktail and mull over the day and watch a very nice sunset.

In conclusion, I would not recommend Ugo for a tour. The trip is very expensive, $100+ per person, and he delivered the promised tours for ONLY 10 of the 30 Cruise Critic people even after months of planning. The 10 that went to the Blue Lagoon in a covered boat were the winners. The others did not get what was promised: neither a covered boat for the nearly three hour round trip to the Blue Lagoon nor the promised trip to the Pink Sands Beach. BUYER BEWARE!!!

If you dive or have snorkeled in other areas of the world you are better off waiting and taking a tour from the ones offered on the dock or just walking to one of the nearby beaches. What we saw we had already seen the on the other islands with much less hassle and a lot less money. Many people just went to the beach and thought it was great. As we sail out of the lagoon we could see that beach area and it is a very nice sand beach. We have a nice dinner in the Main Dinning room and visit with the neighboring table about our day. They went to the beach and had a great time.

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