We took the dinghy into a channel between the motus, which is called a “hoa”, until the dinghy ran aground; I dropped our anchor to keep it secure; and we kept walking along the rocks and coral rubble to the ocean side of the hermit’s motu. A pretty bay greeted us.
Inside the atoll, the lagoon can have silty water — which means 15 to 30 foot visibility underwater. Outside the lagoon is another story: the open ocean has no silt or sediment, except what is kicked up by wind or swells. Typically there is between 60 and 150 feet visibility underwater. It can look so clear that fish appear to be floating in air.
Some places have underwater life that is lackluster. Exploration pays off. Despite its small size — only about 400 feet across — we found a big difference between one side of the bay and the other. The right side was a little boring, with only small numbers of fish, and ok rocky formations underwater. The left side, however, was exploding with life.
The coral formations were brightly colorful and pronounced; rocky overhangs and little caves harbored dense masses of red soldier fish; large schools of parrotfish, unicorn fish, surgeon fish, picked at algae as if nibbling on a Las Vegas Buffet, then floating intoxicated in the water column. Occasionally blue jacks and crevalle jacks patrolled the area; as did black tip sharks, cautiously maintaining their distance. Rainbow runners appeared and disappeared in a flash.
There is a nearly constant stream of sea creatures going by, entertaining our attention in any one field of vision; and if that becomes mundane, and curiosity is piqued for a closer look, the coral formations themselves are like surrealist sculptures, their mystique and detailed beauty changing and increasing the closer one gets. An hour or two goes by as we watch this underwater world in its full glory.
The diversity between the right and left side of the bay was astounding, and made me wonder: what is the rest of the perimeter of this atoll like? The 36 mile circumference of Tikehau must hold many secret zones. They are probably like the undiscovered places in a city, which may be hip and cool but invisible except to those who venture into their ungainly corners. We are re-energized to keep exploring the different corners of this wild Aquarium.