Chasing the sunshine
Leaving a complete deluge in Tahiti, we boarded our little plane and headed to the atoll island of Tikehau, the first on our trip to the Tuamotu Archipelago. We arrived at the airport terminal to what can only be described as a large shed.
Our camping spot was only 2 minutes away on the beach of Pension Justine – Wow what a spot! Less than 10m from the gorgeous turquoise waters of the atoll lagoon. Tent set up for the first time and guy ropes fastened, we went to explore Tikehau on the free bicycles provided by the Pension.
Tikehau has approximately a 2km sealed road and a few side roads the rest gravel. That’s it. Although the atoll is big, the majority of civilisation is found on the largest land mass. We cycled around in the sunshine and discovered quickly exercise is pretty darn difficult in the heat.
We went to book diving with Plongee Tikehau for the next day and then grabbed some food for the evening from the miniscule convenience store in the only Village of Tuherahera. For our whole bicycle ride everyone, everywhere (except Justine whose pension we were staying at, and who seemed to be the most miserable woman on earth alongside the lady who runs the local store) were so friendly. Ia Orana! Ia Orana! It’s a really beautiful place!!
Making new friends
We first met Pascal, who was camping whilst working as a handyman at our pension, in the communal kitchen. He was starting to cook dinner for himself and Christoff another camper. We literally said hello and he immediately and kindly invited us to join them for dinner and with a mix of their food and our food, he cooked up a treat. He could not have been happier to cook and share a meal with travellers like us. We shared stories and from then on we ate all our meals together, the best of the best being Pascal’s absolutely incredible, poisson cru. Poisson cru was something I’ve always avoided eating my entire life, raw fish…Yuk, but I was told Polynesian raw fish was the best of the best. So I tried and I have never tasted anything so delicious ever!! Washed down with a Hinano beer = Our life is awesome!!
Later that evening, bellies full, we headed to the jetty in the village where we were told 2 manta rays just play and pirouette under the lights of the port. Thinking this happens once in a blue moon we decided to try our luck. First night – 2 mantas just playing and spinning for over half an hour! It was incredible to watch. The visibility wasn’t the best but you could still see their shapes and white bellies under the light.
Diving in paradise
For our first full day in Tikehau we went diving. We did 2 dives located out in the pass between the sheltered atoll lagoon and the big crazy Pacific Ocean. Once in the boat we needed to pick up more clients. It was a really great way to see the other motus (small islands around the atoll). We covered almost 3/4 of the atoll just picking people up. Eventually we got to site and down we went in a group of 4, led by the lovely Melo.
The first thing that hit me was the visibility. I’ve never been diving in such clear waters = Incredible. The second was the number of fish. Turn 360, look up, look down, look everywhere. It was amazing. Coral wise it was like a carpet covering the sea bed. Yes there was an incredible amount of bleaching but it was still beautiful. Melo had explained how this year’s El Niño has had catastrophic effects on the state of the coral. The water temperature was a whopping 2 degrees warmer that it should be and some ridiculous percentage of the coral was now bleached. Here’s hoping the temperature cools down ASAP.
On a positive note I forgot to say – We saw Mantas! Not bad for the first dive!
The second dive – more beautiful fish and stunning coral. At one point we waited in a mini underwater amphitheatre for the resident hammerhead shark that very so often makes an appearance. No hammerhead but we were rewarded with another manta ray! That will do we guess! With the diving bug back in full swing, we purchased one 10 dive pass that could be used for 2 people in over 16 islands in French Polynesia, saving us a nice amount of money. Not all dive centres take the pass but we’d already used 4 in a day so we’re sure we can find nice dive centres on another paradise island.
Exhausted from diving and the sweltering heat and after having been told by all the locals we’d met and even the metropoles from France that we should limit what we do after diving we ate, chilled, chatted to the other guests in the pension, chilled, swam, chilled and chatted. To be honest you can’t really do too much in this exhausting heat. 37 degree heat, 100% humidity = slow and sleepy tool trip team.
Camping in paradise isn’t the same as in England!
The first night in the tent was so so. There was a breeze coming straight off the water keeping the mosquitos away and cooling us a little bit. Second night…… Ouffffffff. It’s was so hot. Way too hot in fact, it was like being in a sauna dripping wet. Horrible. We were up at 4.30am to try and get some fresher air but there was not one puff of wind. Instead we took showers to cool us down.
5am, 40 degrees in the tent, 36 degrees outside, 90% humidity = HELP!
30 degree water temp didn’t exactly cool us down either. At 6am, before breakfast, still all hot and bothered and knowing it was only going to get hotter we decided to cruise around the lagoon on a kayak, watching all the sharks and rays in the water, it was beautiful but sweaty work! .
The rest of the day we cycled to the main village and island stopping a lot to take on lots of water and stand in the shade. Octopuses, sharks, crabs, golden sand beaches, pink sand beaches, motus, volcanic rocks, palm trees, fresh bread, fresh coconut and fish for lunch! We were living the Polynesian dream.
We hate travelling! It’s such hard work!
Another incredible dinner with Pascal, another Hinano, and our final day on Tikehau was brilliant. It is paradise. We came across maybe 10 tourists at the most and most of them were on the dive boat. The locals were crazy friendly, just as friendly as the Filipinos, if not friendlier, which we didn’t think possible! I love this place. We are very excited to see the next island of Fakakava, an island JM visited 10 years ago and where he did his first and best dive in his life! Wahooooo expectations are high.