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Explorer Jon Bowermaster sends dispatches from the deep South (Pacific).
Dispatch 4: Manta Rays and Black-Tipped Sharks
October 1, 2002
[Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit field dispatches.]
We left the beach on Fakarava at about 4:30 a.m. in the morning under moonlight, paddling across the 14-mile [22.5-kilometer] lagoon of Fakarava to the west side. We wanted to see what it was like to try to navigate a little bit by the stars and to watch the sun come up over this big lagoon. Fakarava is the second largest atoll in the Tuamotu chain. It would take us four or five hours of paddling.
We then spent a few days on a tiny motu, a tiny little sand spit on the far ocean side called Kirea where we had an incredible aquarium just off the beach and on the other side of the reef in front of us. It was filled with manta rays. Alex [Nicks] had six of them swim by in one day and [photographer] Pete [McBride] had what he called "a religious experience" as three of them played with him as he photographed. All of this was a little nerve-wracking only because there was always at least a trio of black-tipped sharks watchingwhich, even though we know they're safe or non-aggressive, is still a little bit intimidating.
The only small hitch in our plan was one night we had big winds come upsomething we hadn't anticipated. Fortunately Pete was up early making pictures and prevented our tent from blowing into the water, because neither of us were sleeping in it.
Another day we paddled down the western coast and then portaged the kayaks up and over the reefs out towards the edge of the ocean. The hydraulics here are incredible in regards as to how the water flows in from the ocean, over the reef, and then back out the opposite the way. Then we rigged the boats in a trimaran and sailed them back up the interior lagoon along the ocean side, which was quite beautiful.
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