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Rangiroa Dive 1: Barracuda Point
Sh... Sha.... SHAAAAA....
Two minutes into my first dive in Rangiroa and there are sharks everywhere! At least a hundred, possibly two, Grey Reef Sharks two metres long, circling and wheeling all around and between us. A larger ghostly shape cruising at a distance is a Silky Shark.
Straight after hitting the gin-clear, luminous blue water, we could see a huge dark shape hanging above the reef - huge enough that my first thought was: 'It CAN'T be a whale...?!?!?'. As we crept closer, it turned out to be a dense shoal of countless tiny black baitfish, being scattered and harried by hundreds of Barracuda, Napoleon Wrasse, Red Snapper and Tuna.
And sharks. Lots of sharks.
We are in the thick of this circus for most of the rest of the dive. Though there are fishy teeth everywhere, the sharks pay us no particular attention, and it is far too fascinating watching the shoal swirling and reforming like a desperate storm cloud around the predators to be scary. In any case, at this moment, the sharks could HAVE my right leg if someone would hand me a loaded video camera.
The time goes by in a flash - back on the surface, even the dive guide is grinning all over her face - she says it's been the dive of the year. It's been an amazing privilege, and one of the most magical things about it has been there has been no feeding, no staging, no artificiality. This was just nature going about her awesome business.
Dive 2: Shark cave to Tiputa Pass
30.1 metres, 45 minutes. Viz 50m+
Rangiroa is the world's second largest atoll - from any point on the rim the lagoon might as well be the sea - it is impossible to see the other side, and it is the formidable currents created by the tide roaring into and out of this vast lagoon through narrow channels attract all the marine life. When the tide is flowing out, diving is done on the ocean side of the reef. When it is flowing in, like this afternoon, diving is done drifting with the current into the lagoon.
Getting down to the reef at thirty metres, and clutching a handhold in the current, another crowd of Grey Reef Sharks cluster close by, and a larger Silvertip Shark does several close passes til he decides we are neither a threat nor edible. A gigantic Moray, his sinewey body thicker than a supermodels waist, coils in a crevice.
Then letting go, it's off into the drift. It is impossible to fight, all you can do is go along for the ride. The water is staggeringly clear - possibly even fifty metres visibility, and it is awe inspiring being swept past huge submarine buttresses of coral into the lagoon.
Dive 3: Barracuda Point
Same site as dive 1, not quite as much intensity to the underwater cat and mouse game today, but still a fantastic dive by anyones standards. At the end of the dive, get to join a couple of Turtles browsing on a coral garden, and Dolphins jump and play in the surf as we power back in the RIB.
Dive 4: The Big Blue to Tiputa Pass
33.9 metres, 65 minutes. Viz 50m+
The first twenty minutes of this dive are spent hanging in the infinite blue, thirty metres down and far away from any solid ground. Dull? On the contrary: the usual squadron of Grey and Silvertip sharks check us out soon after rolling off the boat, followed by a huge shoal of silver Barracuda, arranged so regularly against the blue they look like windows wallpaper. Even at this depth the surface is clearly visible, making a shimmering ceiling to the blue world.
For a couple of minutes, the water is full of giant jelly creatures - like swimming through plankton under a microscope - surrounded by small fish gorging themselves.
In open water with no reference point you can't feel the current, though it already has us, and finally sweeps us to within sight of the entrance to the channel. Even faster than yesterday, if feels like falling down a vast blue canyon into the lagoon. An Eagle Ray slips by, then, heartstoppingly, out of the blue about 20 metres below, an enormous, magisterial Manta Ray ripples efortlessly past.
On to Travel Tales - Rangiroa