Sailing into the bay of Moorea is one of the most magnificent sights you will ever have! We slipped through the narrow reef pass and into Moorea's Opunohu Bay at 7:00 am as the captain had promised. It was another beautiful day in paradise. We were really on a roll now with the weatherman! The mountains on either side of the bay - and go almost vertically up. Mel Gibson's movie "The Bounty" was filmed here, as were parts of "An Affair to Remember" with Annette Benning and Warren Beaty. There is a small road around the island, much like we've seen elsewhere. This island is very dramatic in appearance. It has many sharp volcanic peaks, lush plantations, white sandy beaches, and a surrounding coral reef. From the ship, the view is the best yet in French Polynesia!
We chose to do the "Motu Beach Picnic and Ray Feeding" excursion our first day on Moorea. We tendered ashore and then changed to a covered boat for the 15 minute ride to the private Motu Fareone on the northwest corner of the island. The boat had a small Polynesian group playing musical instruments that entertained us on the way to the island and while we were there. The channel is well marked and all of the boats stay within the channel when running the lagoon. You can see the bottom easily. It is pock-marked with coral heads with pure white sand in between.
The motu is located just inside the reef, and the surf was very strong. The reef protects the lagoon; however, making it even smooth enough for water skiiers. We saw one dive boat that had capsized earlier that morning on the reef. It had ventured near the reef for a shark feeding expedition. A rescue boat and two wave runners were out near the reef helping to rescue the divers and those on board the small boat when it capsized. We heard the next day that there were eight people on board the boat (none from the R3), and that some were scraped up, but none of the injuries were serious. In spite of what happened to the dive boat, our ride was smooth since we stayed in the channel and inside the reef. On the ride to the motu, we passed the luxurious Moorea Beachcomber Parkroyal Hotel. The hotel includes over-the-water bungalows, and a "dolphin experience" that allows you to get up close to these fascinating mammals. We were lucky enough to see one of the dolphins jump as we passed by. I can't help but wonder if that was part of the show!
The snorkeling at the motu near Moorea was the best we had in French Polynesia. (I heard from some fellow passengers that the "snorkel safari, shark and ray watching" trip on Bora Bora was superb snorkeling also, but we missed that tour because of the bad weather on our scheduled day. Some people were lucky enough to catch the excursion on the second day in Bora Bora when we had improved weather.)
The Motu Fareone on Moorea has shaded tables and chairs and easy access to the white sandy beach. Don't forget to take your reef shoes, though, because the coral can be sharp where you snorkel. We snorkeled between two motus, and the water was very calm. However, the current was strong. If you didn't have fins on, it was almost impossible to swim against the current. Most of us would walk to one end of the motu and allow the current to carry us down to the other end where the tables and bar were set up. Then we would get out and repeat the process. Easy! Some passengers swam across the narrow channel to the other motu and sat on the beach there to have more privacy.
The sting rays were a special treat at the motu. Several would come right up to us and rub against our legs. One of the guides fed them some fish, so they really liked him! They stayed around the picnic area almost the entire four hours we were there. We all got some good pictures, and got to "pet" them if we wanted.
The tour served a good buffet at 12:30. When we arrived at the motu at 10:00 am, they were already cooking the meat, and it smelled great. By the time we had snorkeled for a while, we were all hungry. They had smoked chicken, fish, sausage, and lamb chops with all the accompaniments. It was delicious. They had "free" water and punch, and beer and soft drinks for sale at about the same price as on the ship.
One of the nice things about the tour was that the times were staggered. We went at 9:30, and others came at 11:00 and stayed later into the afternoon. We all ate at the same time. After lunch some of the guides put on a show for us that included climbing a coconut tree and cracking a couple of coconuts for us. Everyone had a great time, and our boat left to go back to the ship about 2:00 pm, followed by the other group at 3:30.
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