Tag Archives: Island of Tahuata


Our friends in Vaitahu told us that there are both manta rays and dolphins at the next village/bay south, Hapatoni. They said it is a breeding ground for the dolphins, and they are there nearly every day. This morning we motored there (all of about 2 miles). The hills were very steep, and the water depth dropped off quickly. We anchored in about 40 feet, but it felt like we were almost on the rocks. And the wind coming down the hills kept changing direction, so sometimes it was blowing us toward the rocks. We not would want to spend a (sleepless) night like that, but Bill planned to remain aboard, so Tim and I felt safe going exploring in the dinghy. (Later we moved back to our first anchorage further north on Tahuata.)

We went out to the mouth of the bay, where we had seen some black shapes from a distance. But when we got there – nothing. So we headed further south along the coast. And what a coast! Hills more steep and rugged than we had seen, lava cliffs and gullies and chutes and seams down to the waves, caves and odd shapes carved into the lava walls by the sea. Atop the cliffs were shapes that looked like tikis, but I think they were just natural lava protrusions. Either way, the spiritual forces seemed strong and present here. We motored around a point to the southernmost bay on Tahuata (unnamed on our chart), and it seemed we had arrived in the Bay of Eden. Hills and valleys and coco palms and clouds spilling over the mountain tops and cliffs and caves and green and blue…and not one sign of humanity. Well, no, there were some hard-to-make-out letters painted on the rocks, perhaps the name of the place. But no huts, no boats, no buoys, no gardens, no clearings, no trash, no engines… I said to Tim, “If I were a dolphin, this is where I would come to mate.”

We went into the bay just to explore its edges – natural rock carvings; one cave in particular attracting our attention. And then as we turned to go, there were dolphins nearby. I slipped into the water, and there they were — looking up at me from 30 feet below, swimming up to the surface, and swimming away. There were maybe twenty. They mostly kept their distance, and calmly swam in several groups, though twice we saw individuals leap out of the water. We would come close to a group, and shortly after they would disappear. A minute later they would reappear 50 yards away. At one point they seemed to be swimming in a circle about 50 feet in diameter. Was that herding fish to the middle? Was it a defensive stance against us? Was it a way of relating to each other? Or was it just by chance? I don’t know what they were doing or thinking, but it was a treat to be in their midst, an honor to be allowed to view them for a little while in their Eden.

Manta Rays

It was with some reluctance that we left Hiva Oa yesterday. Two of our fellow crews had just arrived, several made a first stop at Fatu Hiva and thus we had not yet crossed paths, and one was still at sea. But enough of hanging out in the Big Town — we had things to see. We had heard that at the neighboring island of Tahuata there are manta rays, and you can swim with them, and watch their magnificent slow flight through the water. Tim said if he could witness this it would make his trip!

So in the morning we went shopping. One mango excepted, I think everything we bought was imported. The beer was from Tahiti only 700 miles away, but the frozen meat came from New Zealand, the brie and other cheeses from France.

And then off we went. It had been suggested that we go to a particular bay on the west side of Tahuata, but there was a town there, and I thought it would be fun to stop in one of the more remote bays a few miles north. We spoke on the radio with another crew that had hired a boat/guide to bring them here, and they said there were mantas near the north end of the island, so that settled the matter. The first likely cove had two boats anchored in it. Although there was room for a dozen more, we decided that was too crowded, and we pulled into the next cove, which we had to ourselves.

We had been warned, and we quickly saw for ourselves, that the wind gusts coming down from the hills ashore blow very strong over the anchorage. “Williwaws.” No problem, though. The worst that would happen is we would drag our anchor, and that would take us out to the open sea, and we could just come in and try again. Sometimes with the wind comes a quick rain. The clouds and the sun (or full moon) and the winds are quite a show; I could sit and watch for a long time.

We saw no mantas on the way in. I swam ashore to see if I might speak to someone in one of the two structures visible, but no one appears to be around. We switched our focus to dinner — experimenting with cooking breadfruit two ways, along with some tuna that another crew had given to us. The breadfruit was good, but I think we can do better with a little more experience. At nightfall we watched divers with underwater lights apparently scouring the rock edges of the cove, but for what we could not tell. There are sea urchins and a blobby form of star fish; maybe they were collecting urchins.

In the morning I took the dinghy around the point to the cove that had the two (now three) boats anchored, and asked them about mantas. Yes, there had been mantas at the mouth of that cove two days before, but not yesterday and they had not seen any this morning. I learned that you spot them by their “wing tips” which they poke up out of the water a few inches when they are near the surface. On my way back to the boat I thought I saw a rock ahead as a rounded the point, and then realizing there couldn’t be a rock there (the waves would have been breaking on it) I thought it must be a shark fin. And then I realized this was what we were looking for — the wingtips of a manta ray. I saw two, close to the surface, just a few feet away. On to the boat to rally the snorkelers!

When we came back to the spot some time later, sure enough, we could still see wingtips here and there. Into the water we went, and WOW — these animals are sooo cool! Massive yet graceful, not in any hurry, not much caring about our presence, they slowly flap their wings and fly along. They have huge “mouths,” wide open, taking in water and filtering out the plankton as their food. The water flows out through slots on their undersides. Their backs are black; their bellies are whitish with some black spots; their mouths are white and look very ominous when coming directly at you, wide open. They bank when they turn, like an airplane. You can dive down below them and look up at them flying overhead. Awesome…magnificent…

Our goal achieved before noon, we are “just sitting” at anchor enjoying being in an amazing place with no one around.