October 2006 - Leesa Wiesner and I dove off of the Tahiti Aggressor. We had dove on this boat previously when it was based in at the Island of Rangiroa and the diving was in the Tuamotus Atolls. Diving at the Tuamotus was exciting because it was most pass/fly diving. Pass/fly is actually a term coined by the Aggressor crew to describe diving in the channels of the atoll during incoming tides. When the tide comes in it rushes to get through the narrow pass restrictions of the atoll. The result is like no other diving I have ever experienced. The divers are dropped at the outside of the pass to catch the current that carries them into the center of the atoll. In addition to giving divers a free and very fast ride, these currents carry with them hundreds of fish. The fish attract sharks who probably consider the event quite a buffet. During our pass/fly dives we encountered hundreds and hundreds of sharks feeding on the fish brought into the lagoon by rising tides. These were actually very exciting because we were truly diving with sharks in their natural habit rather than in forced shark-feeding excursions offered at a lot of dive sites around the world these days. The dives are swift and exciting and the Aggressor crew took a number of safety precautions. Each diver was equipped with a reef hook, a surface signaling device and each buddy team with a transponder/beacon should be become separated from the group. Although some buddy teams did get away from the main group during the dives everyone surfaced safely and found the tender boat close at hand.
Unfortunately the pass/fly diving was considered by the Aggressor management to be too strenuous for a large majority of their customers. The problem with provisioning the boat in these remote outposts was also becoming a real concern. The week that we were on the boat they were unable to get fuel at their regular dock. The captain had changed the itinerary to accommodate for this resulting in our docking at the end of the trip on an island where there were no restaurants open on Friday night. This was pretty critical because Aggressor boats do not provide dinner on the last day of their cruise. The relief cook tried to make up for this by serving extra appetizers and lots of popcorn that night.
On this trip there were also a lot of problems with the boat. So many that a lot of us complained – hence the September trip that I am now reporting on. After our complaints the boat was dry-docked and all of the problems were corrected and those of us who wrote with our concerns were given an invitation to return on another visit compliments of the owner.
After dry-docking, the vessel was moved south to Bora Bora. I was pretty excited to hear about this move because in my mind most people have at least heard of Bora Bora where many have not heard of Rangiroa. Apparently supply situation on Bora Bora was not the greatest either because just three weeks before our visit the vessel was moved again to the island of Tahaa. Fortunately, for us we had booked our travel with a very well connected travel wholesale and they handled the change in tickets.
Because of the air line schedules we stayed overnight in Los Angeles on the way to Tahiti and then again overnight in Tahiti before flying to Tahaa. Even if the air schedule would permit direct connection I would recommend these stops. The flight from LA to Tahiti is approximately 8 hours. And if you combine that with the time it takes one to get to LA you end up with a lot of time sitting in cramped airline seats. In Tahiti we had our agent book us at a downtown hotel because we wanted to see a bit of the town in a walking tour. Our hotel was Le Mandarin and it was indeed local. My very limited French got severely over used. But we were just three blocks from the harbor and definitely within walking distance of all the shops and the local market. Early in the morning we found a local café for breakfast and then strolled through the market. Later
Leesa opted to rest for a while and I decided to take a walk. New Rule: Always take a map with you when you go strolling in countries were you are not real comfortable with the language. I did make it back to the hotel, but only after wandering around until I finally found the farmers market that we had seen earlier in the day. From there I was able to figure out how to get back to the hotel.
Our flight from Tahiti to Tahaa was a local flight and had some luggage restrictions. That is until we read the note on the counter that indicated an extra 10 kilos (about 22 pounds) for scuba divers. Checking in at the Tahiti airport we noticed other Pink Aggressor Fleet baggage tags and were able to connect with some of the other passengers on our charter.
As expected we were met in Tahaa by several Aggressor crew members, given a warm welcome and transported to the boat where Captain Allan Roberts showed us around while the crew busied themselves with bringing our bags to our rooms. After a boat briefing and introductions to the rest of the crew we were served the first of many excellent meals and then everybody settled down to finish unpacking and bed down for the trip to our first mooring site near the island of Huahine. Monday we dove at Raiatea and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Bora Bora. Friday morning it was back to Raiatea for our two final dives. If one is a novice diver they will not be disappointed by the dive sites in the area. For those of us who have dove in the Tuamotus it was a bit of a let down. We realize that the sites were new to the Aggressor crew and by the time you are reading this they will probably have developed some better sites. (Actually because of many complaints the boat was eventually moved to Palau)
Highlights of the diving:
At Bora Bora there is a large and very friendly napoleon wrasse. This is also a site where they did a bit of shark feeding and we got up close and personal with some excellent lemon sharks. Dive guide Marek took Leesa and me to explore a couple of caves where we found a number of lion fish as well as a few morays hanging out.
We did see a few eagle rays, a lot of Butterflyfish, eels, Nudibranchs, triggers puffers, Scorpionfish anemones with their resident clown fishes and lemon sharks.
Our flight back to Tahiti was not scheduled to leave Tahaa until 4 p.m. so Leesa and I decided to do a bit of walking in the down town area. When we had seen the whole town in about 2 hours we reported back to the boat and got a taxi to a hotel where the boat had a day room reserved for some of the rest of the group. Then we flew back to Tahiti and then directly on Air Tahiti Nui to LA. Thank goodness we had arranged for a room and a night of rest in LA before returning to Ohio. Forget about the plans we had for doing some sightseeing in LA that day. I hit the room and slept all day. Got up and ate dinner and then went back to sleep.
Summary: Tahiti and her sister islands are simply beautiful top side. The diving is great and the people are very friendly. We would recommend it as a prefect dive vacation – but take some extra time to explore some of the other islands top-side scenery. And nothing in Tahiti is budget priced. – Carol Kender
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