We spent only 2 nights in Fakarava due to its price tag- we stayed on the cheapest place on the island at $120/night which was basically a small room with 2 beds and a roof. Brutally basic- luckily, we didn’t go for the accommodation! We were greeted with beautiful weather on arrival and met a lot of other travellers at the pension as we settled in. The bonus of our little bungalow was its location right by the sea.
We spent the afternoon checking out the town and sorting our dives for the next day. The main town has only 2 shops so we grabbed a very simple dinner of pasta and sauce and joined two other couples for the evening.
The local grocery store- no fresh things in here, just tins of meat & veg, pasta, rice, beer and water. And baguette of course!
Next day, we were picked up by our dive guide, Max. The first dive was just us and was a very relaxing reef dive. The pass is on the other side of the island so it took about 30 minutes by boat to get there. I think Max was checking us out in order to determine whether or not we would be OK on the advanced pass dive which was planned for the afternoon! Everything went great so we got a pre-briefing on the afternoon drift dive and headed to lunch.
A school of snappers with a parrot fish and angel fish amongst the coral:
Here was our drift dive briefing:
The drift dive is intense and starts with a quick descent to 32m in the blue. You have a few minutes to find the shelf of the reef before starting the drift with some strong current around 12-15m. Then you get to a canyon where there is no current and loads of fish and sharks loiter here to break. It is only here where divers are allowed to take photos- no time before!
Unfortunetely for us, after our quick descent to 32m and swimming around for 3-4 minutes, the dive was aborted. The currents weren’t right and the guides couldn’t find the shelf so we surfaced. Not all was lost though, Max suggested we do a shallow reef dive in a spot he doesn’t usually go- I will call this place the SHARK TANK. It was awesome. It was so full of sharks and other fish it almost felt like an aquarium. We enjoyed getting our fill of sharks for about 25 minutes then found a canyon and did a relaxing drift dive back to the blue for boat pick up! What an amazing spot- couldn’t ask for a better “failed dive”!
A sleeping 2m nurse shark we snuck up on at the start of the dive:
We just rested on the sandy bottom and watched about 25 sharks swim around:
Me looking at other sharks while missing this one completely:)
What a lovely last dive- on the boat ride back, we saw some disruption on the surface, several hundred birds hunting something in the water. So we went to check it out and discovered about 40-50 mobular rays! We quickly grabbed our masks and jumped back in the water.
Mobular rays swimming together at about 2m hunting:
Mobular rays are similar to Manta rays but are more brown and smaller in size. They were hunting as a group, pushing small fish together and forcing them to the surface. The birds benefit from this as they swoop down to grab a snack of their own. Meanwhile, a layer under the small fish, large tuna swim around, probably feeding as well and under them John spotted a shark! Wow- the foodchain right in front of our eyes. What a random surprise on the way back from our dive.
After such a great day in the water, we needed to grab a beer and enjoy the sunset on the beach.
And since we saved so much money the previous night on pasta, we splurged and ate at the nearby roulotte for dinner- steak and frites:) It turns out Fakarava does not have an ATM so we had a very strict budget!
All in all, we enjoyed Fakarava and had an amazing experience in the water, despite the aborted drift dive. I feel like more time spent here would have been great and we would have seen some really special things diving. I would definitely put Fakarava on the “to return” list but we will have to stay in much nicer accommodation!