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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 3 - The Magic of The Atoll


photographer in tide pool
photo @moore_rachel

4/6/23

We decided to sleep outside again last night. Josh made some sort of comment before bed apologizing that we were basically camping. I assured him I liked it and not to worry.


And I wasn’t lying. I was enjoying feeling the breeze brush across my face as my eyes got heavy. After all I’ve never had a hard time sleeping anywhere.


I distinctly remember falling asleep at the Gator Invitational swim meet. It was hosted at the University of Florida indoor swimming pool. The facility would echo everyone’s whistles, cheers, and yelling against its walls, multiplying them tenfold. At some point during the meet I had fallen asleep and missed my race. My parents were upset and I got a nice lecture from my coach. Now when people ask if they are too loud when I am sleeping I am always reminded of this unforgettable spot that I somehow managed to sleep through.


The sunrise was quite nice this morning. The sky looked like sherbet, tie-dyed with pastel pinks, oranges, purples and blues. The sun peeking out from behind brightly lit clouds.


Our day yesterday started off similarly but with a more ominous sunrise. There were fluffy clouds surrounding our little motu. They were lit nicely at sunrise but promised tougher weather later in the day.


The flood tide was an hour later than the previous day so we had a bit more time to relax in the morning. Can’t say I relaxed very much as I rushed around to make everyone a smoothie and quickly clean my camera housing so it would be ready for the day.


Having an underwater camera is like owning or being in charge of a pageant queen. They need their beauty rest before they perform and the batteries must be fully charged. The day of the pageant her dress needs to be clean and wrinkle free. All the hard drives offloaded and formatted for the day. She will do her elaborate hair and makeup ensuring every little detail is in line, not a hair out of place. You have to clean o-rings, ensure no dust or particles are in the housing, and carefully piece everything together. After a pageant a beauty queen needs to thoroughly wash her fact to make sure there’s no future breakouts. And you housing gets a shower too. Really, it’s a lot of annoying work just to be ready to shoot for the day.


We went out towards the ledge first. As we drifted along we noticed there seemed to be way less life compared to the day before. I wondered if it was our timing or if maybe the full moon changed something. For a moment, I thought maybe there was a larger predator around.

spearfisherman over reef

I focused on shooting some coral and getting shots of everyone over the reef.


Josh was throwing his flasher but not really attracting much other than some cool shiny, blue fish. I dove down to film them but he scared them away.


He ended up shooting an uku. That’s when the shark appeared. However, they were a little late to the party as Josh had already managed to get his fish in the dingy.

spearo with fish

A couple of silvertips shot up from the bottom. I’ve decided I love these sharks. Their attitude and the way they swim is infectious. It’s just fun.

silver tip shark over reef

We stopped to see the baby sharks and did a drift or two through the pass. Not much to report. Just as beautiful as the day before.


We were going to take a quick break for lunch which ended up being the end of our diving day. A couple of solid squalls came pushing through. It was a nice way to rinse off the salt without wasting any of our fresh water reserves.

rainstorm from sailboat

We went into shore for Josh to clean his uku and Rachel and I played around shooting. With the crazy squalls the sky was a dark grey but the sun was lighting up the water to an almost electric, neon turquoise. The contrast between the two lead to some crazy shots.

man cleaning fish with sharks circling

Rachel made some ceviche with the fish from the day before. It’s been so hot that some cold, fresh veggies and fish was perfect.

stormy ocean

After lunch, we set out for the Southeast part of the atoll. The wind had shifted direction with the squalls and out current anchorage would’ve left us with a bumpy, unpleasant night.


As we made our way across the lagoon the bow was met by choppy seas that slowed our progress. Ocassionally, I would run to the bow to help spot for coral baumys disguised under the surface by the angle of the sun.


We made it to our new anchorage in a few hours. There may have been some sort of spawning event as the water had a milky, green color apparently atypical of this spot.


Everything was quickly arranged and we headed into shore for some beers and to watch the sunset. Some buddies met us on the sandbar but my shell collecting endeavors left me anti-social. I found a beautiful piece of dried coral, some patterned cone snails, and a few colored cowries. Rachel keeps ensuring me we will go somewhere with even better shelling but I can’t imagine that.

sunset beach hang with friends

The stormy clouds let out flashes that struck the distant ocean. They were silent either by distance or because God forgot to appoint someone to man the drums. The dark masses were broken apart by a pink fire along the horizon. As it tried to burn brighter the deep grey layer above would increase its weight. They battled against each other one burning brighter and brighter, the other deepening and darkening. The little pocket of fire illuminated our little oasis of broken corals and sand until eventually the moon came and settled the dispute.


As the moon rose higher, inching above the palms, we talked with new friends (Ollie, Matilde, Theo, and Naela) and watched their cats explore the island. Their fully white bodies bounced around barely visible like little ghosts sprinting under the dim light.

moonrise over beach

Once back on Agape we settled in for the night. Exhausted from the long day but filled to the brim with excitement for what the next day would bring.


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