Written by Cathy Siegismund
Moorea is another one of the Society Islands, a short sail from Tahiti in French
Sunset over Moorea from our anchorage at Maeva Beach, Tahiti
After almost five weeks in Tahiti, we finally left for Moorea. We decided to
head out the smaller pass to the west of the anchorage at Maeva Beach. It is
marked, but can have fairly large breakers on either side. It was a relatively
calm day, but there were still large waves, with local surfers enjoying them.
The popular Maeva Beach anchorage on Tahiti
Breakers on the west side of the pass and Moorea in the
South side of the pass, with a surfer enjoying the breakers
Our route through the Windward Society Islands
We left Tahiti heading for Moorea. The winds had been quite calm in the
anchorage, so we mistakenly thought we would have a light air motor across to
Moorea. We had been at anchor a bit too long; when this happens, we cruisers
turn our boats more into homes and less into vehicles. We thought we had
adequately stowed the boat for our little day sail. However, as soon as we got
out of the lee of Tahiti, the winds increased, and short steep beam on seas soon
has us chasing our belongings around the cabin. I also, foolishly, had not taken
a Stugeron for our little day sail and was soon lying below feeling queasy.
Despite our disorganization, we were soon comfortably motorsailing along
Moorea's spectacular coast. Moorea is the most dramatically beautiful island
we've visited to date. Two deep bays mark the northeast coast of Moorea, Opunohu
Bay and Cooks Bay. A point of trivia is Cooks Bay is a bit of a misnomer, as
Captain Cook actually anchored in Opunohu Bay when he was in Moorea.
Approaching Opunohu Bay
Anchored behind the reef in dramatic Opunohu Bay
We met Layla and Eleftheria, another Northwest boat with Milo and Kimberly
aboard. We enjoyed hanging out with friends and Kimberly, Vernita and I made a
long dinghy ride down the reef to the Beachcomber Hotel, where we enjoyed a
little luxury at the spa and had massages.
A highlight of our stay on Moorea, was a trip down the reef to feed the sting
rays. There is a shallow area inside the reef, where a school of sting rays
congregate to be fed by tourists. As soon as we dropped the dinghy anchor, the
hungry rays swarmed us. The water is only about four-feet deep so we could stand
next to our dinghies. We brought raw fish and fed and pet the rays as they swam
around us and crawled up the front of us begging for fish.
The hungry rays start to descend on you as soon as you drop
the dinghy anchor
Ray hovering near the bottom
Pair of rays coming in for lunch
Vernita swimming with a ray
Rays climbing up the front us looking for food
More Pictures in the Sting Ray Photo Gallery
After a few days in Opunohu Bay, the weather started to turn and it was very
overcast and rainy. The weather was forecasted to have heavy rain and high winds
with sustained 25-30 knots and gusts to 50 knots. We decided to move the boats
to Cooks Bay which is better protected and had more room to anchor further from
The morning we moved the boat, we woke to torrential rains, cold
temperatures, and a light fog. It felt like a sailing vacation in the Northwest.
Ken looking for the pass markers to Cooks Bay in the pouring
We were wet and chilled by the time we had the hook down in Cooks Bay. I made
some soup and hot chocolate - not one of our usual meals in the tropics. Layla
came into the bay and anchored behind us, just after we finished lunch, so I ran
the rest of our soup over to them.
Cath on soup delivery in the pouring rain
Cath returning from Layla on a cold and rainy day
Green Ghost, with Nick and Jen, from Vancouver had arrived from Huahine at
about the same time and we were all securing the boats for the big expected
blow. Although we had a record rainfall - even for the tropics - the big winds
never hit our snug bay on Moorea. That night we had a birthday party for Vernita
on Layla with Green Ghost and Eleftheria.
Milo and Drew in Layla's galley preparing dinner
Kim showing off a canvas bag she made for Vernita
Jen and Nick showing off their beautiful homemade birthday
cards. Nick's will be treasured, but Jen's are turning into collector's items
among the cruisers
Drew and Vernita left the next day for Tahiti. They still had to check out
and run some errands. We hung out for another day, waiting for the weather to
Weather finally starting to clear in Cooks Bay
The clearing weather did give us a fantastic rainbow within
On our third day in Cooks Bay, the weather looked promising, so Nick, Jen,
Ken and I headed to shore to find some scooters to rent. We had thought we would
have to hitchhike to another bay where the large ferry docks, but we lucked out
and found a scooter rental place about half a block from where we tied up the
Nick and Jen rented one scooter to share, but Ken and I being speed demons
and control freaks - each rented a scooter. We were off like a biker - gang to
explore Moorea. However, once we rented the royal blue and red scooters with our
matching helmets Jen decided they couldn't be called hogs, so she dubbed them
The roads on Moorea are good, but there aren't too many of them. There is a
coast road that goes around the island and then two roads that head from Cooks
Bay and Opunohu bay respectively up to a scenic vista called the Belvedere.
Looking down from the Belvedere to Cooks Bay on the right...
...and Opunohu Bay on the left
Nick and Jen at Belvedere
Ken and Cath at Belvedere
We headed back down the switchback road that lead us to the Belvedere to the
coast road. We had climbed quite high and were surprised at the fields and pine
trees. If you ignored the palm trees, it would have been easy to forget you were
in the tropics.
Grazing fields with one of Moorea's peaks in the background
Jen, Nick and Cath -- The Piglets
Cath in her best biker-pose
Back on the coast road, we headed to the Beachcomber to check out a dive
shop. Nick and Jen are certified divers as well and we were all considering
signing up for a dive. We parked the piglets at the Beachcomber and explored the
lovely resort. We stopped to watch the Dolphin Quest - a similar program to what
I did in PV. We then went to Bathy's Scuba Shop. It seemed like a really first
rate dive operation; and after a great deal of indecision, we all signed up for
a two-tank dive for the following day. As I recall, we made a unanimous decision
to do a 8am shark feeding dive, followed by a 10:30am dive off the reef.
However, there seemed to be some buyers' remorse on the part of Nick and Ken, as
they realized they'd signed up for a shark dive. They claimed I'd employed some
sort of coercion. This is of course untrue!
We stopped at at a roadside restaurant for a great lunch of fresh tuna (Ken
had a cheeseburger), before the piglets continued their circumnavigation of
Beautiful turquoise water inside the reef on Moorea
We had to make a stop at Cathy's Pareo shop were Nick, Jen and I made
Ken, Cath, and Nick on a quay that jutted out into the water
Ken and Nick - the biker dudes: Nick showing off his very
cool Polynesian tattoo and Ken... his Polynesian weather induced freckles
Fisherman's nets hung in a tree on a small bay
The east side of Moorea overlooked a small motu with Tahiti
in the background
View down the coast of Moorea
One of the many hotels that offer private bungalows over the
water -- if anyone's interested they seem to range from $250 - $500/night
The turquoise water inside the reef, the deeper blue
outside, and Tahiti in the distance.
As we were coming down the homestretch to Cooks Bay where we returned the
scooters, we stopped at one more Pareo shop, an ice cream shop and took a few
more pictures of this wonderful island.
The White House Pareo shop
Some very tall palm trees and a lovely view up one of the
valleys - yes, this a view from the side of the road!
The day on the Piglets exhausted us, and the fact that we were going to pick
Jen and Nick up in the dinghy at 7:15am the next day to go diving, we made an
early night of it.
The next day was even nicer. We picked Nick and Jen up in the dinghy and
dragged all of our dive gear over to a dock by a mobile station, where the dive
shop had agreed to pick us up and take us back to the shop. The dive shop was
really professionally run. The gear Ken, Nick and Jen rented was very nice, as
was the dive boat. Every 5-6 divers had a divemaster to lead them around, so we
weren't diving in huge groups.
The first dive was the shark feeding dive. The visibility was great at over
100 feet, and the water was in the low 80's even at depth. I had done a shark
dive before in the Bahamas, where the feeding had pulled in up to 30 reef sharks
and nurse sharks, but little else. This dive was actually prettier, though a
little less 'sharky'. We all sat on the bottom in about 80 feet of water, while
one of the dive masters held an enormous dead tuna. A number of small black tip
reef sharks and hundreds of other small colorful reef fish came in for a nibble.
It was like being in a crammed salt water aquarium.
On our next dive, we went just off the reef. The visibility was still about
70 feet. We saw rock fish, several lion fish, Napoleon fish (which is an
enormous type of wrasse), clown fish, parrot fish, trigger fish, banner fish,
etc. The highlight of this dive were three moray eels. I'm not sure of the type,
but they were brown with a beautiful black pattern along their bodies. Nick and
I even got to pet one. The last one we saw was huge. Hugo, our divemaster, said
she was the largest moray around Moorea and was 10 years old - which I gathered
was old for a moray - and she was completely blind. However, she was still a
capable hunter, as they use their sense of smell as much as their vision.
After a great time diving, the shop gave us a ride back to Cooks Bay, where
we all had cheeseburgers in paradise.
That night we celebrated our second birthday in Moorea. Wendy from Velella
had her birthday. Nick and Jen hosted on Green Ghost and we celebrated with
Wendy & Garth (Velella), Milo and Kim (Eleftheria), and Paul and Suzette
(Altair). It was a treat to spend some time with Paul and Suzette, as we hadn't
seen them since Zihuatanejo.
The next day we had planned to head to Huahine, but the convenience of
Papeete called to us, and we were sucked back one more time to Tahiti. I wanted
to do a last minute shop at the great supermarket there, and one of our propane
tanks had run dry on our second day on Moorea. The great fresh meat and produce
of the supermarket, the ability to have our propane tanks filled easily (not all
places can fill tanks with US fittings), and one more stop for Ken at McDonalds
made a one night stop in Maeva beach irresistible.
Although it required a four hour round trip in the opposite direction from
Huahine, it was good to make one more stop on Tahiti. We said some goodbyes to
some cruising friends we may not see for a while who where finishing up their
cruise in the Societies (Terry & Gayl on Tamarac II) and Tina and Dennis (Alli
Kai) who are laying their boat up in Tahiti for the cyclone season and picking
up here again next year.
The next afternoon, August 3, at about 1400 Layla and Felicity motored out of
Tahiti, for an overnighter for Huahine.