After Ali Baba Canyon, we were all so excited about Fakarava diving that we decided to stay at the Fakarava North Pass one extra day to dive the Pass one more time during slack tide. Loic explained that at slack tide, the sharks hover near the coral for twenty minutes or so, open their mouths and let the little fish clean their teeth. Sometimes, the sharks get a little woozy because if they stop swimming for too long, they won’t get enough oxygen moving across their gills and they will essentially start to pass out. When the tide starts to shift, the sharks form a line heading in the direction of the pass where they can sit in the current and breath deeply without having to swim so much. Loic says it looks like a shark highway. It’s not to be missed.
So, instead of tidying up and getting ready to go, we head to town and find dinner at a little cafe on the beach overlooking Fakarava’s tranquil turquoise lagoon. We enjoy a savory crepe with thin, Paris style cured ham, cheese and an egg with a rich, bright orange yolk. We also order a panini with mozzarella, tomato and chorizo - also good. For desert, Crystal and I share a butter and sugar crepe topped with banana ice cream. The grains of the sugar crystals remained fresh in the butter sauce, so when you put the bite in your mouth you taste the rich melted butter and the texture of sugar crystals. The French, what can I say? Andrew ordered a nutella crepe with dark chocolate ice cream, topped with whipped cream. I shared his crepe, too. So, I really got the best of all worlds. The sugar/butter crepe was better.
The wind was piping all night, and the wind generator kept me awake. It sounded like I was trying to sleep under spinning helicopter blades. Nonetheless, I was so excited for the Shark Highway that I popped out of bed at my 6:00 a.m. wake up call. Back at the dive shop, Andrew and I take a Nitrox test so we can continue to dive using Nitrox 21% Oxygen/79% Nitrogen rather than just regular compressed air for the next two dives. I complain the whole time because I am “on vacation,” but I pass anyway. We gear up and head back out to the pass.
Wetsuit, weight, BCD, regulator in my mouth, goggles on face, roll back, sink, go. Pretty soon we are on the bottom again. This time, we spend a good amount of time on the coral ledge outside the pass. Early in the dive, Kevin starts banging his tank and pointing skyward. I follow his hand and see a sailfish! Sailfish are like marlin or swordfish, only they have a large sail-like fin on their backs. They were so far away we didn’t get a good picture, but it was still awesome to see. I will insert a google image for your reference.
Loic was right, the sharks were stupendous! Even more numerous than yesterday, they line up swimming in thick, floating lines just like the Jettsons in their hover cars. At slack tide, I watch the sharks sit with their mouths open. One sits so long that he suddenly wakes, thrashing about just like a human does when we have a dream about falling. He swims away.
We find a giant colorful fish eating a white starfish, and a group of little “Nemos” (the same kind of fish from the Disney movie Finding Nemo) snuggling down in an anemone.
Soon, I feel the current shift and where the water was still and quiet it is now blowing past my face like a stiff breeze. My goggles feel like they could be pulled off in the wake. I am hanging onto Andrew’s hand with my right hand, and my left hand is anchored on the coral. Andrew’s right hand is anchored, too, and both of our legs are flying backward. Loic says it is time to go.
Even faster than yesterday, we wiz along just above the coral. My body is sideways to the current, I am pushing Andrew along. We drift into a valley with a coral ledge, and an arch. Sharks are everywhere. A few get so close that I can see the white of their eyeball and the diamond shaped pupil in the center. Their mouths smile from the underside of their body. Sometimes they seem curious about us, but never aggressive.
Another giant Napoleon approached Loic who is swimming just in front of Andrew and I. When the Napoleon is only about ten feet away, his thick shapely lips pucker together and his cheeks puff out. Then, he opens his mouth and spits several shell fragments out. He swims right in front of Andrew and me, eyeing us wryly. “What?” He seems to say and continues on. I am laughing through my BCD and giving Andrew the “Did you see that!?” crazy goggle eyes.
I did not get a good photo of the Napolean either, but google images to the rescue so you can imagine what I am talking about. The Napolean looked just like this.
Our dive lasts 54 minutes, and when it is time to go we let go of the coral and fly into the abyss. We slowly ascend while drifting very quickly over the reef. I hold Andrew’s hand in my right hand, and dangle down like a rag doll. I feel like I am the star character in a video game, and I am flying over multicolored hills of an alternate universe. I hang from a rope dangling from a hot air balloon (Andrew) swept forward in a blue windstorm. I’m pretty glad we stayed to do this last dive here.