It is about 3 am and we are on Tikehau a remote island in French Polynesia. After multiple dreams of people crawling in through our deck windows – the deck that faces the boardwalk – I heard some flip-flopping in the water. I can’t stay asleep and pretend any more. I have been dreaming about someone splashing in a bathtub but we don’t have a bath in our room.
Triston later told me he had also put the splish splosh sound into his dream but someone was playing with water in the sink. He mocked me and said even his dream brain knew the room didn’t have a bath. I said it was more concerning that his brain came up with a plausible plan but he didn’t get out of bed to investigate. My dream had nothing of actual concern in it. Anyway, that was a different day so another story.
I got out of bed to see what it was and now that I was awake I needed to go to the bathroom. As I passed by the glass floor I saw a big shark. I went to the bathroom and then told Triston that the shark was much bigger than the one we had seen during the day. Like twice the size. He got out of bed and we walked around to try and find it so he could see it.
I saw the shark again. Triston was looking the other way. He couldn’t hear my attempt to get his attention over the waves crashing on the reef. When I looked to see what exactly he was doing – he was pulling a Homer Simpson and scratching his butt.
Tikehau shark envy
Triston, now annoyed that I had seen the shark twice and him not at all, decided to take photos of the stars. The stars were the culprit for his distractions while I was shark spotting. A worthy adversary.
There were a lot of stars in the sky but at 4am and not really planning to be awake neither of us set the camera up properly. The photos didn’t come out great. Fun to take. Happy to be awake together but nothing great.
We saw the sunrise which put an end to our stargazing. Our sunrise photos were much better than the star photos. Just a few photos and then back to bed. It has been an eventful night.
Hopefully asleep in time for a decent amount. I want to be ready for what the morning brings. Sleep is difficult. I am starving! I just can’t wait for breakfast time to arrive. Triston set his alarm because he didn’t want to miss breakfast. Lucky he did, otherwise I doubt we would have roused. The alarms went off and there is nothing louder than an obnoxious phone ringing in the tranquillity of nothingness.
OMG finally, breakfast time!
Our first breakfast at the resort. We both head straight for the pastries. I get the chocolate filed ones and Triston gets plain croissants but picks up some Nutella on the way. We both have water and Triston has black coffee.
There is bacon, eggs, sausages and hash browns along with different types of bread, cheese and meats, a selection of fruits, yogurt, fruit juices and condiments for breakfast. The buffet is small but caters to just about everyone.
After breakfast, for some unknown reason, we decide to grab a canoe and row ourselves over to a sand bar. Triston joined the rowing team at uni in his final year, so he is an expert. He tells me to sit in front as the back steers more and then rather than either of us call out which side to row on, he will yell at me when he does it wrong and our paddles clash. It is a long and annoying row over to the sand bar.
Did we really just decide to Canoe?!
We arrive and find at the end of the sand bar is an island with a house on it, so it isn’t even a deserted island. It is someones home. We stick to the sand bar end and snorkel. Initially, we snorkel on the inner side of the sand but the current is flowing that way and while it is a lagoon it is 746 square kilometres of lagoon so getting sucked into the middle wouldn’t be great. Not wanting to fight against the current we head back to the sand bar, walk to the other side and swim towards the lagoon wall and then float back to the sand bar. It is on this side we come across large coral formations with lots of fish and a shark.
We saw a shark before snorkelling yesterday but not while we were in the water and we are quite far from the hotel and our bungalow so it was unlikely this was our night time shark. Triston has the camera, I try to get his attention and point out the shark. I hope he understands and takes a photo because this is the first time, to my knowledge, I have snorkelled or swam with a shark.
Shark!! (Yes another Tikehau shark)
It is possible others have been nearby but I have not been aware of them so this marks a big moment for me. I did not freak out, ok I might have slightly. I tried not to look like a struggling seal ready to be eaten, I am sure this shark is too small to be eating seals anyway but I stick to floating and not swimming and soon I lose sight of him again.
We make a few more passes of the rocks and reef, swimming out and floating back before we decide to head back. At this point, we should have towelled off and applied more sunscreen. Hindsight. The row over wasn’t amazing so we try Triston in the front. He says the front steers more, I keep in time with his movements. I don’t always bother rowing.
The water is shallow so Triston gets out and walks as he thinks it will be faster. Then he tells me to get out and walk and pull the boat. He gets back in. I get out. I don’t really know how to get out so I tip it a bit on my way and Triston flips it over and falls out about 20 seconds later.
Triston says it was my oafish entry into the water. The delay was so long, I had already started walking and pulling the canoe with me. I think he wants to be in the water.
Time for a refuel!
Eventually, we arrive back to where the canoes get stored. We get ready and head for lunch. I had the lasagne and Triston had pesto pasta. These were both huge meals. The lasagne didn’t look big but I could barely get through it. Possibly the bread rolls filled us up but they were both very enjoyable.
By the time lunch is over it is clear we have both been in the sun too long without enough sunscreen. Luckily we have after sun and every other cream, lotion and tablet that might be needed in the room. We agree to do everything we can to reduce the damage once back in the room and rest for the afternoon.
Tikehau is amazing to snorkel
It isn’t long before I decide we should snorkel again, we can stay in the shade and just hang out under bungalow. Triston agrees but only if we stay out of the sun and we have to apply more sunscreen and wait for it to set in before getting in the water. Agreed. We set off from the beach and this time, trying to stay out of the sun, we swim in the shadow of the boardwalk. It is deeper and easier to get to our bungalow but there are some huge formations to avoid.
We snorkel a little and sit under our bungalow in the shade for a while, it is nice to cool off a bit. My skin is very hot. I have red skin, sunburn, in a lot of places. Triston managed to avoid sunburn for the most part.
We aren’t sure yet if my sunburn is still showing up or if this was the worst of it. The shade is a must for me now and the cool water feels nice against my skin.
I need shade!
The path in the shade takes us past the wall of fish. Slightly intimidating but it feels like you are swimming inside someone’s fish tank. A toxic schoolyard where all the fish have decided to hang out and gossip. They eye you up and down, some swim at you to check out what you are doing.
No one seems to care too much that you are there. Yet you are the hot topic. Everyone is going about the same business as before, once you have been looked over by a few. It is an interesting feeling being judged by fish.
After we finish, we sit by the beach. There are cute little fish at this launch spot. I take photos and a couple of them are playing about and getting really close so I leave my hand out. I dip my arm only slightly under the water and wonder if a fish will swim over it. One did, then another. It was kind of cool.
Fish are friends not food unless you are on Tikehau then they are both
I enjoyed the interaction and then with my hand still stretched out slightly, in a relaxed position, the fish that had been first to swim over my arm bites the tip of my index finger. In shock, I say, ‘ow’, and pull my arm back. No pain, I giggle. It was funny. I guess they were hanging out with me because they thought I was going to feed them?
Triston comes to the shore. He arrived before me and went to the toilet. I thought he was behind me, still exploring. I tell him about the fish and ask him to sit in the spot so I can get some photos of him and the fish.
He doesn’t want to sit. Standing and hovering near me while I tell him about my finger. Just as I finish telling the story, two fish dive in and nibble on my leg. I jump. Triston is intrigued.
Again, it doesn’t really hurt. It is a little funny, oh man, I hope these fish aren’t poisonous!
Triston sits down as he tells me that my plan was to have the fish bite me anyway. So it is my own dang fault in his mind. Seems like he feels left out though.
I take some photos. Pointing out that we are in the wide-open and bright sunshine, Triston suggests we get out of the water rather than get any more sunburnt than we already are.
Sunlight Sunburn all around me
So here we are, just a couple of days into our trip and sunburnt already. We are relaxed. Time feels almost irrelevant. It would be completely irrelevant if meal times here on Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort weren’t so dang specific.
The sun and time are different on Tikehau. It is daylight and hot sun right up until, at most, 60 minutes before the total darkness of night. There isn’t much of an in-between. It is either day or night here. Well, it would be if the moon wasn’t so full and bright. The light from the moon keeps the night a nice shade of ‘I can still see’.
Out of the water and keeping out of the harsh sun we head to the pool for a cool down and then as the sun starts to set, knowing we have about an hour of daylight left, we get ready for dinner. It is about 6pm and dinner doesn’t start until 7pm. So, we decide to walk out to the ocean. Along the reef, rocks and sand that we have been staring at since our arrival.
Today the Tikehau sun is my enemy
The sky is bright for our walk out to the edge but the sun is setting. We know the light will dim very quickly but the path is far more treacherous than we imagined. It is slow going. A walk we expected to take more than 15 minutes there and back, allowing time to take in the waves, has taken us 30 minutes to get most, not all, of the way out there and the sun is now behind the horizon. We have to rely on moonlight to get back.
Moonlight wouldn’t be bad if the walk was not full of ankle-twisting boulders, sharp and discarded coral, rocks, shells and the cute little hermit crabs. Hermit crabs aren’t going to hurt us but we really don’t want to kill any. The ground is crawling with, itty bitty, teeny weeny, hoping not to die today hermit crabs.
Insistent on making it to the edge – we had come this far and it has taken so long, we should keep going so we don’t need to do it again – we press forward. Arriving at the end of the rocky outcrop we have been navigating, we find there is actually a deep river between us and the lagoon wall.
The waves are closer to us now than they were when we are in our room but they seem much farther away in this moment. All this effort, no reward, and now a walk back in the moonlit darkness. At least dinner will be ready by the time we return. Happy to have gone as far as we could but disappointed it was not to the edge of the world as we know it. Sorry, distracted bu a song. We’re disappointed not to make it to the edge.
Dinner time, today is over fast!
Bellies rumbling like the waves crashing against volcanic rock, in the elusive but short distance, we head back.
Dinner tonight is beef tenderloin for Triston and Carbonara for myself. I enjoyed the lasagne so I decided on pasta again. Both were really enjoyable. We had a starter, bruschetta. It said ‘raw ham and cheese’ on the menu. I was interested to see what that might mean. Was it a translation error or did they really mean raw ham? What we received is unlike any other bruschetta I have eaten before. It was quite nice, not at all what I would expected.
Worn out, we head back to our bungalow shortly after dinner.
Our bed has a mosquito net hanging from it. The first night, it would touch me in the breeze and I would get annoyed awake from it tickling my skin. Tonight, I have tucked it in so it is taught and won’t touch me in the breeze. I am also reasonably badly sunburned on my arms and back so I have to sleep with my arms out. Usually, I sleep with an arm under a pillow but to have anything pressing on my skin is painful which puts that out of the question. I do wake up many times because I am uncomfortable, in pain or in my sleep I have put an arm under the pillow and the pain of that has woken me up.
And just like that, I can’t sleep
I am restless and trying my best to sleep. A huge storm blows in. My mosquito net is billowing in the wind, even though I tucked it in nice and taught, the whole net is moving so much that at times it is free to touch me. Currently, I am too tired to care about the storm but I am bothered by the net touching me so I get up. We have all of our cabin windows open, both doors to the balcony open and it is raining sideways. Trade winds. These are strong winds. I close windows, Triston brings the items we have on the balcony inside and closes the balcony doors. Lucky we got up because the wind was strong enough to blow our stuff away and it would be a shame. Not to lose the items but we wouldn’t want our stuff polluting an area like this.
With the wind tamed, the net calms down and I settle in for more of the same uncomfortable, not quite sleeping. My restlessness keeps Triston awake so he offers to put some cooling gel on me, in the hopes I won’t continue to keep him awake. The gel is nice and works well but I am too uncomfortable so do not return to sleep.
Tikehau day 2 was 28 March 2018
Updated 22 September 2019