I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bora Bora's Finest

Face to face with Bora Bora's finest.
(Photos by Andy McKaskle)

Bora Bora is a stunning place. We are anchored below a towering peak covered in thick, green foliage, that is often shrouded by clouds and framed by the occasional rainbow. The water is a deep blue that fades to turquoise (I know you have heard all this before, but I am trying to re-paint the picture) which fades to white on the coral beaches. However, my favorite part of Bora Bora thus far has been the huge, ferocious-looking lemon sharks that live right outside the pass.

For the past few days I have been snorkeling, free diving, and buddy diving with Mark and Yuka on the reef outside the lagoon. We take the dinghy out, tie up to one of the moorings, gear up, and jump in the water. The sharks are frequently fed by tourist dive boats, so when they hear the sound of engines they swim around. The water out there is about 35-60 feet deep, and clear enough to see the detail of the shark's fins from the surface.

The first day I snorkeled while everybody else did a dive (is the past tense of dive "dove" or "dived"?). I wore weights so I could dive down holding my breath, and got to about 35 feet. It is pretty exhilarating to dive down deep, stop to look around, and see the surface 30 feet above. However, it is not quite as exhilarating as meeting those huge lemon sharks face to face.

According to my fish identifying book, "The Lemon shark (Negaprion brevieostris) grows up to 11 feet. Large Specimens can be dangerous, and they have been implicated in attacks on humans." I would not go so far as to call these particular lemon sharks that we swam with domesticated, but they are obviously very well fed (not on humans) and used to people swimming around them. Regardless, seeing a 10 foot long, 6 foot in girth shark swimming directly at you, regardless of how "tame" it is, is pretty damn scary.

Yesterday when we went for our snorkel/dive Yuka offered to let me use her octopus (spare regulator) for a few minutes so I could dive with them. Of course I accepted. As we dove down little butterfly fish swarmed around us, expecting to be fed. We did not have any food but I was amazed at how tame and unafraid of people they were. We were not to the bottom, about 60 feet down, for more than a few seconds before the first shark emerged from over the other side of the reef.

It is a much different experience for a shark to come into view from above, as opposed to below, which is how sharks appear when snorkeling. No, we were on the bottom and this shark was a few feet above us. I saw those nasty rows of teeth sticking out every which-way, that evil little grin and those cold, reflecting eyes. As the shark swam directly at us I was telling myself, "be calm, be calm, it's okay, be calm," and sucking in huge amounts of compressed air. Of course the shark veered off as it got about 10 feet away- about the length of its body. Yuka, who is fearless, started swimming after the sharks and I, who was attached to her, kept trying to keep her back without being too obvious about it.

Andy, who is an ex-Navy SEAL, is also a professional underwater photographer. He has an awesome underwater camera (looks like something for NASA) and is also quite fearless when it comes to photographing sharks. He has no qualms about swimming up to a shark and flashing a camera in its face. Here is one:

A big ol' lemon shark with Yuka and me behind it.

After a few minutes of the huge sharks circling around us (I think there were 3) I headed back up to the surface. It was quite thrilling. When we were all finished diving and swimming, we headed back to Merkava where we drank beer and rum all afternoon. There is something about diving with sharks and then decompressing afterward on a boat below a beautiful mountain peak in warm, inviting water that goes hand in hand with drinking rum all day.

P.S. For those of you who are not Facekooks, I uploaded more photos that you can check out:

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