I wake Triston, he is mostly awake anyway as the light is hitting him in the eyes, and we sit on the deck, in the shade, and watch the rest of the sunrise. We have breakfast as early as we can, which again Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort has very set times for meals so that probably isn’t as early as we would like.
Triston gets ready for diving. He is a little stressed as he has only been on 5 dives and it has been a number of years since his last one. The signals and procedures are all a blur and he is hoping to re-learn everything in the 20 minutes before he leaves for the tour.
I tell him to stop. He will confuse himself, just identify himself to the instructor and ask for help. We have been told the dive tour is full, maximum is about 12 people but when we arrive at the meeting point (our hotel reception, which is also the boat dock) the instructor says the afternoon dive is full. This morning dive is just him and 3 divers. One of the divers is a divemaster, one is highly experienced but might not be certified and the other is Triston.
I have friends! will you be my friend?
Diving is best in pairs, the instructor says that he and Triston will be buddies. Everyone is a little surprised that such an inexperienced diver is on board. It seems that most people coming to Tikehau are experienced divers or those who will not dive at all and just enjoy the snorkelling and serenity of the atoll. My mind is put to ease, the instructor will be Triston’s dive buddy and he will be well taken care of. He has booked on two-tank dive experience. This is two dives in one trip.
They offer different experiences and I think the others had signed up for 10 tanks, over multiple days. The diving itself was cheap compared to what we remember the pricing being in Australia. We have only paid for the PADI course and we were going to pay for a dive at Reef World on the great barrier reef but we did the Reef Sleep instead and at that time, one dive each was included. During the PADI course, it became clear I was not compatible with diving so I was not able to dive at reef world or here on Tikehau. I probably could do it but more than likely I would drown so it is put in the ‘not for me’ basket and no one has to worry about death.
Open water certified diving
Triston, being inexperienced and out of practice, sucked the air back like Homer Simpson eating a hot dog. The instructor let Triston use some of his air. His one tank per dive ended up about a tank and a half per dive and his dives were still over 10 + minutes before the others. He really sucked it back. With more experience, you don’t waste so much air or energy but he isn’t at that stage yet. There were two different dive spots. The boat went through the Tuheiava pass on Tikehau and the first dive was outside the lagoon. Down at about 20m, Triston said if I think there are hundreds of fish at the hotel there must be millions out here near the pass. It was more fish than water.
Trying to take photos proved to be a challenge. There is so much gear and he was not confident. The camera was tied to his belt and he could not get it to his face to look properly so he just kind of pointed and pushed the button and hoped he got a photo of what he was looking at. Triston sees one turtle and a single manta ray, one shark but more fish than he could count. At one point a large school of barracuda swam in and the dive crew hid. He was told to hold on to rocks and keep as low as possible.
Hiding from fish wasn’t something he was expecting to do so he found that fun. Later he asked if they are really so dangerous that you need to hide. In a group, probably not but on your own, with a school that big, you are safer to hide. As a tourist group though it is better to be safe and hide. Starfish that looked like rocks and black fish that were blacker than he thought black as possible. He doesn’t really remember if he was diving through the pass or just once out and once inside of it. Either way, all the fish were there. Not many sharks and not many rays but all of the fish.
While Triston was having the dive experience of a lifetime, I was sitting in the bar area, avoiding the sun, using the internet. The hotel doesn’t have internet in the rooms and the common area internet is slow as soon as more than one person uses it. Having said that, on occasion we managed to get internet in the room, it was slow but it worked. Generally, we haven’t used the internet much nor watched tv. We have watched the waves, sharks, fish or sky but not tv. The discussion was, I would do nothing because I needed to let the sunburn settle and that is what I am doing. Nothing.
Sunburnt and frustrated on Tikehau
I enjoy the view and breeze. I write up the blog post from Sydney to Tahiti to Tikehau and manage to add photos so I post it. There are a few mistakes, most of my posts have some, and I notice a couple straight away but the internet is now too slow to edit them. It takes a few hours. I spend longer looking at photos than I need to. I enjoy it, I wonder where certain photos are. Things I thought we captured are missing, are they on my phone or Triston’s or had we missed the moment. I wasn’t sure so I searched my phone for a while. It is easy to get distracted when your only job for the morning is ‘do nothing’.
Sick of the internet, I head back to our room and stare out into the expansive nothingness that is our view. Reef, lagoon wall, ocean and sky. Never-ending ocean and sky. Less than 10 minutes later Triston is back in the room also.
I am surprised that it took me the whole time he was diving to do one thing, the blog post and happy he is back, alive and unscathed. Triston says he will tell me about the trip over lunch.
Triston is too excited to decide how to tell the story. Lunch arrives. We try again. He tells me what happened. No photos. Yes. Ok. Dive relived. lunch enjoyed. My lunch was a sandwich and Triston had the pesto pasta.
Cooling down, in the sun
We have an after-lunch nap. My tiredness is either from the tablets or boredom. Today has been boring for me compared to the others. Triston is worn out from excitement I think. My nap is longer, hours in fact. I do feel better for it. My burns are hot but as long as nothing touches me that isn’t burning. We put the aftersun gel on as often as I need it. I feel my core temperature rising and drink as much water as we have in our room and take a tablet.
The last thing I want is the boring, non-activity day for me to be the one I get heatstroke on. We decide to snorkel so I can cool down. After days at the hotel, we have just found the spot where we can get into the water from the bungalows. Not our bungalow but the boardwalk for the bungalows. We don’t have to walk all the way to the beach, we can launch in over the water so we decide to give that a try today.
I swim straight to the part of the boardwalk where the ice machine sits and take photos of the fish. Triston thinks I am recording so he swims through them, rather abruptly. They dart away, usually, they would make a slight break and then reform around you but this time they more than just avoiding being run in to. With this sudden movement of fish, two sharks break out and swim off.
The Tikehau sharks are hiding
It seems the fish had been harbouring some shark fugitives and it is a little funny to watch. I swim after one to try and get a better photo than we have already but it is gone too quickly. They both went in the same direction. I try to flip the camera to record but it is more difficult than you would think. By the time I am finished playing with the camera settings one of the sharks comes back around. it appears to have done a loop. So I wait and hope to catch one of them on their next loop. I am in the sun. Not the best plan.
I film the shark and some fish and then find Triston. I tell him he should have let me know if he was going to swim into the wall of fish because I would have filmed it and I didn’t get a chance, the camera is difficult underwater to change between camera and record. He thought I was filming not just taking photos, that’s the whole reason he did it. Oh well. It surprised us all including the fish and sharks.
Shade glorious shade
We try our best to sit in the shade but there is always something new to see so we end up in the sun more often than not. This time it is Triston that gets burnt. A slight burn on the back of his ankle.
With the daylight fading, we head back to land and to the pool. The pool is freshwater so it is nice to cool off in here after a swim over the reef. We rinse off under the poolside shower before hopping into the pool and hang out for about half an hour. Sometimes you want to be in the water without reef and fish and sharks.
Below is a video I took after. It is a different wall of fish, yes Tikehau has many walls of fish. I was so sad about missing it when Triston did originally that I filmed what it looks like as you swim through. We are in love with this place.
I may be telling our tale in a boring manner, we really didn’t do a lot. We spoke to hardly anyone, no guests, rarely staff. So there isn’t much to report on that front. Everyone was friendly but the reason we went here and not somewhere else was the pink sand (debate still raging about what shade of pink or orange you might call it) and the abundance of fish. The trip has been wonderful to experience, even if I can’t do it justice in the retelling. I didn’t expect to see walls of fish or swim through them every day!
Lamb for dinner
Tonight dinner for me is the lamb shank. It is very tender. Served with pasta and Neapolitan sauce. I enjoy it. Triston has the steak, the same as his first steak. He enjoyed the first one better but this is better than the second one. It’s the kind of steak he prefers of the two options we have.
On our way back to our room after dinner, in the water, we see 4 or 5 sharks. There are definitely four sharks as we see all four at once but one of the sharks looks as though it has come from a spot none of the four had swum off too so it could have been a fifth but we aren’t sure so we call it four. One is really big compared to the others.
I don’t know if we have seen this one before, I feel it is the one I saw under our room on the first night. The others all look ok sized when on their own but with this big daddy around they all look like babies. There is a second largish one so it might be the Mumma shark. I would say one large, one medium and two or three small. The small ones, I am sure, are what we are usually seeing in the water.
Let’s swim together
We watch for a long time because they are interesting. They aren’t eating, just swimming back and forth and around in circles. Large circles, not burnout circles. They aren’t circling and getting ready to eat something, though I really want to see one eat something. Our assumption has been they are well fed but I haven’t seen one eat anything yet so I really can’t be sure. Maybe they are starving. They will take a bite out of us if we give any indication that we are in trouble.
I have always been afraid of sharks, without ever seeing them. I don’t believe in culling sharks on the coast though. We often hear of a shark attack in Australia and then a shark cull. It is becoming less common but it was happening a lot and I really didn’t like it, even though I was afraid. I just don’t go into the water. If I don’t want to risk a bite or shark attack, I don’t swim where they live. Simple.
I knew these sharks were here and was hoping not to be attacked but was still adventuring in tot he water so if I was attacked it was my fault and that would be it. I wouldn’t want any of the animals killed because of it. Seeing these 4 sharks swarming, circling, I do get a little more afraid. The big one looks big and they are refusing to let me see that they eat. How can I be sure they are well fed if I never see them fill their bellies?
How long should I boil the undies for, Hun?
I don’t remember what happened after we watched the sharks. I feel it is likely – apply lots of cooling gel, drink water and take tablets. We have been boiling water in our room to refill the water bottles. I really hate plastic water bottles so try to cut down on our usage of them. It wasn’t too long ago that I decided, and Triston agreed, glass or can, no plastic.
Here we have very limited choice and rather than buy more and more water in plastic bottles we boil tap water, cool it and then fill the same couple of bottles we already have. We end up with a new bottle each lunch and dinner time but this feels less bad. We did boil and clean the kettle first. I have read of people using the hotel kettle to boil their underwear, in an attempt to clean them.
Like putting their dirty undies into the kettle. I just don’t understand. If you wanted boiling water, surely you could pour boiled water into the sink and using some soap – possible even before the boiled water goes in – wash them that way? Why do you need to boil them in the kettle? Anyway, my guess is, I was gelled and Triston boiled some water and I drifted in and out of sleep all night. It wouldn’t have been anything too interesting for me to have no memory of it, it’s not like we were kettle boiling undies.
Tikehau day 4 was 30 March 2018
Updated 27 September 2019