Moorea has to be one of the most beautiful islands in the French Polynesian archipelago and it epitomizes what you may picture as paradise.
Yesterday was a quiet day of snorkeling the reef close to where we are anchored after surviving the big squall of the night before. The fish are too numerous and varied to describe but go to the local aquarium shop and look at the salt water fish then multiple that by miles and miles and that describes the reefs around Tahiti and Moorea. Most fish are much bigger here than I remember seeing off of St. John's in the Virgin Islands a few years ago when we went snorkeling there.
Today we took the dinghy for a 45 minute trip to a place where the tourist boats feed the Sting Rays. It was a shallow (5 feet deep) sandy reef where the Rays come right up to you and are looking for food handouts. We brought a can of tuna fish but apparently their taste is much more in the sardine or fresh tuna category than the canned variety. They still swam right up to you (we had put our Steve Irwin inspired Sting Ray repellant prior to going in) and are very docile curious creatures. Their topside skin feels like suede and the underside like velvet. Most of our visitors were 4 to 5 feet wing to wing and 1 or 2 were over 6 ft. Overall their length was almost twice their width and the "stinger" on their tail was always very visible. The most surprising thing to me were the numerous backed tipped reef sharks (4 to 6 ft) that were swimming right up to us and were as curious as the rays around people. I did not feel threatened but maybe I should have! Sharks are such interesting creatures.
In the afternoon a walk along the perimeter road was in order. The vegetation, flowers and tropical plants are everywhere and the people live simply but are very happy. Each small house had solar panels and a solar water heating system on the roof. All the electric cables were buried underground so as not to obstruct the beautiful views all around. Around every turn there are postcard views of towering green peaks and sparkling Pacific waters. Pictures will follow when we get a faster internet connection.
Finally, meals aboard Astarte have been fabulous. Breakfast this morning was banana and walnut pancakes (previous breakfasts have been eggs, pork chops, croissants, and baguettes) Dinner's have included turkey, the best New Zealand lamb chops I've had in a long time, hamburgers with homemade baked beans, and tonight's shrimp, artichokes and pasta.
Bravo Zulu to Barbara for terrific meals.
Tomorrow, we will take a guided tour of Moorea visiting the archeological sites, the agricultural station, pineapple plantation and most important, the distillery.