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.