Apparently They Don't Watch The Discovery Channel

Trip Start Sep 17, 2012
Trip End Nov 11, 2012

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Flag of French Polynesia  , Society Islands,
Sunday, October 7, 2012

Even though I grew up hundreds of kilometers from miles from any ocean, and I rarely watch the Discovery Channel or National Geographic TV, for as long as I can remember, I've known that it’s not a good idea to go swimming in shark infested waters. I also know that when sharks are in the area, you shouldn’t splash around or bring bloody smelly things into the water with you.

This morning we toured the lagoon around Moorea. The water is warm, crystal clear, and in many places only a couple of feet deep. Our small caravan of 3 two-person Cat-A-Jets followed our guide from the beaches of the Intercontinental Hotel out about a kilometer to a spot in the lagoon where hundreds of colourful fish were swimming about. Our guide hopped out of his boat into the waist-high water, telling us to do the same as he tied the four boats together. He then proceeded to splash his hands on top of the water while throwing pieces of bloody raw mahi-mahi all around us. Within a minute, several stingrays surrounded us, and then, while memories of Steve Irwin flashed through my head, a half dozen black-tipped sharks showed up.

Actually, walking around in warm shallow water while curious sting-rays, sharks, and hundreds of other tropical fish swam around us was absolutely amazing. The rays were particularly fun as they would often chase us, trying to get between our legs while we stood on the sandy lagoon floor. Sometimes they would come up to the surface and slap their wings against us allowing us to pet them. For those of you who are wondering what a sting-ray feels like, it is very similar to a dolphin. The sharks were less friendly (big surprise there), but they still managed to brush up against our legs a couple of times.

By comparison, the rest of the day was pretty humdrum, or at least as humdrum as a day in a Polynesian paradise can be. We toured the lagoon in our Cat-A-Jets for a couple of hours and then headed back to the tender dock for our next tour, a 4x4 tour around the island. We had an hour or so until our afternoon tour departed so we decided to have lunch. Most other ports we’ve visited around the world have some sort of dockside commercial center with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops ready to take advantage of cruise ship passengers. Here in Moorea, there were a few tents set up to sell local crafts and little else. Our only dining options were a BBQ cart offering a menu which consisted of hot dogs or grilled calf heart, and a tent with a table was set up with lots of sliced fruit. We each opted for a $6 plain hot dog, and a large assortment of free local fruit.

Our tour guide, Mario, from Torino, Italy showed up early and we jumped into the back of his 4x4 pickup for our tour. Barely a kilometer down the main road, Mario swerved to the right, and the truck headed up a mountain. The scenery was beautiful as the 8 of us hung on for dear life to whatever, or whoever we could, while squashed against the back door of the open-air 4x4. The truck came to a stop near the top of the hill where we got out, kissed the ground, and climbed the last few meters to a spectacular view. 

When we got back to the truck, Mario was talking about Moorea, with a population of about 17,000 people. Pretty much the only animals on the island are hundreds of chickens and thousands of stray dogs. (Exactly what was it that we had for lunch?). The rest of the afternoon was about the same: a bit of smooth road, climbing hills, screaming, praying, etc, etc.

One notable stop was at a local marmalade shop at the top of a hill. Since it was Sunday afternoon, the owner of the shop was anxious to go home. She prepared sample plates of her marmalades for us and then started to close up. Mario argued with her to stay open a little while longer as 3 more trucks of tourists would be coming along within minutes. Finally, the Italian in him took over as he went behind the counter, prepared smoothies for those who wanted, and rang up 4 truckloads of tourists’ purchases. Meanwhile, the owner sat back, interrupting her break only to tell Mario how much to charge for each item.

 The last stop before heading back to the ship was Marae Tetiiroa. Mario explained that this was an area where up until 1825, human sacrifices of warriors were made, followed by ritual eating of his heart and other body parts. (Once again, our thoughts drifted back to lunch.) Only first born males were warriors. When a warrior was captured, he was brought to this area, killed with a rock to the back of his neck and then eaten. Polynesians believed that eating his heart would add his strength to their own. The rest of the body parts were eaten simply because they were tasty. (Hey, we're only repeating what we were told.)

Enjoy the pictures!


Annette & Peter

Why did the cannibal eat the sprinter?

 Because he wanted to try fast food.
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