It all began with Devon watching “Jaws” with his cousin Lily, right before departing on our cruise. They decided to branch out to a new movie genre, picked “horror”, and found “Jaws ” to be highly rated. We only found out about their movie choice when launching the inflatable kayak at our very first anchorage of the cruise. Devon was terrified to paddle ashore in the calm, protected waters of Catalina Harbor. Much coaxing and cajoling later, he braved the shark infested waters of his imagination and made it safely to shore. I was shocked to see the transformation in my once intrepid snorkeling buddy. Now I had to be the brave one, despite the massive sharks populating my imagination, in large part a legacy of watching “Jaws” as a teenager. As the months went by Devon overcame his fears and jumped in the water for one adventure after another. The imaginary sharks continue to pop up (as you may have read), but thankfully they haven’t prevented him from enjoying the underwater magic of the cruise.
Today we have proof that “Jaws” was beaten back from front and center of our fears to a corner of our minds. We sailed across the lagoon (another blissful sail with Mark at the helm, me on the bow, and Devon popping up to help with the sails) to anchor off the western pass for a snorkel through the pass from the ocean into Tahanea Atoll’s lagoon. The timing is crucial, as we needed to be in the dinghy ready to jump in the water when the flood current diminished to a reasonable flow into the pass and hit slack. We timed our sail perfectly, anchored with bouys set to float above the coral heads, got the dinghy in the water with engine on in record speed, ate a quick bite and hightailed it for the pass, donning snorkel gear as we went. Pass snorkels promise crystal clear water when the current flows in, a diversity of sea life, and sparkling coral. Devon, Mark and I flopped into the water, each holding onto a line attached to the dinghy, and floated with the current. Coral gardens populated with fish slipped beneath us as we floated effortlessly along. Large groupers caught our eyes below and silver needle fish hovered around the dinghy just below the surface. We floated beyond the end of the pass, and Mark and I lumbered back into the dinghy, calling to Devon to join so we could power out for a second drift dive before the current turned. Devon lifted his head out of the water, spat out his snorkel, and said, “Quick, jump in the water! There’s tons of sharks!” I figured there was a good chance he was joking, but didn’t want to miss out in case he was serious. Mark and I plunged back into the water to see at least 10 gray reef sharks swimming just below the surface. We were surrounded by sharks as they all swam towards us to check out the biggest fish in the pass. We watched their 3 to 4-foot-long bodies snaking back and forth, their beady eyes staring right at us, swimming straight for us and turning only when they were ten to fifteen feet away. Instead of terror, we felt joy.
During all our snorkels in the lagoon, seeing a black tip shark or a grey reef shark was as much of a highlight as the brilliantly colored reef fish and healthy blooms of coral. Seeing more than one shark at a time upped the drama. This pass snorkel topped them all. We head to Fakarava Atoll tomorrow for the primary purpose of snorkeling the southern pass – reportedly the best pass to view sharks in the Tuamotus. Hopefully “Jaws” will stay tucked into a corner until that snorkel is completed.
Tahanea, July 5, 2017