Toau atoll

Published on 20 April 2024 at 00:26

We're slowly working our way up atolls in the Tuamotos Islands, all very relaxing.


We left Fakarava, which is the biggest of the atolls (30 miles long) moving on to Toau, a much smaller atoll to the west. 


Each atoll is basically a very big lagoon, quite a few miles across, fringed by a reef - in most places sandy land maybe 50m wide, with palm trees growing, but in some places just below the surface. There are only one or two passes in each atoll where you can get a boat into the lagoon.


Whilst Toau is smaller, it is still difficult to see the other side of the atoll - you can just see what appear to be a few islands where there are higher points. We stopped one night inside the lagoon near the east pass, before a beautiful sail yesterday outside the atoll up to the north end, where there is a "false" pass , a very sheltered bay where we can see into the main lagoon and which looks like a pass - but reef just below the surface prevents entry.


We had been told how difficult some of the passes are to navigate, and had envisaged them to be very narrow. Actually they are quite wide, but can have fast currents at certain times, which cause rough water and significant standing waves. And it's a complete guess when currents will be strong and when slack water will be. We only have an estimate of tide times - but slack water doesn't just relate to tide time as it would at home, it also varies a lot with wind strength and direction, swell outside the atoll, and what the weather has been like over the preceding few days. So we take a guess at when slack water may be, but just have to have a look when we arrive.


Inside the atolls there are a lot of "bommies", small coral outcrops up to 2 or 3m high - which are a real hazard to navigation in shallower water. The colour of the water is amazing and usually gives a good indication of depth, with shallow water (where bommies may be close to the surface) being bright turquoise. But even in deeper water there can be very small patches of shallow water with bommies on the top which can be very difficult to spot unless the sun is behind you. But we haven't hit anything yet!!


We also have to be extremely careful not to get anchor or chain caught round bommies when anchoring (we don't want to damage them but could also lose the anchor), in fact we have to float our anchor chain using fenders. Another new technique we've had to learn!


The snorkelling continues to be amazing, with hordes of fish over each bommie, and around the coral reef. And still lots of sharks - beautiful to watch as they glide past, but every now and again one heads straight for you before veering off at the last minute - one did that today, circled around behind me, then did the same thing again, as if it were sizing me up. Very unnerving, makes you realise you have absolutely nowhere to go!


Some of the coral still shows beautiful colours but there are obvious signs of bleaching, and the water is ridiculously warm, much warmer than the Med. It is depressing to think about the effects that water temperature may have over the next few yeats, as the coral, tropical fish and sharks are all likely to be lost. Just trying to enjoy it whilst we still can!


There is some habitation on the atolls. In Fakarava there was a small town at one end (where the land was perhaps 200m across), where happily we were able to restock a bit - despite the cost of the beer! Here in Toau there is just one couple living in a shack they built themselves. They made a wonderful lunch for us today - lobster, fish and breadfruit all cooked on a big barbecue.


We move on tomorrow to Rangiroa, another larger atoll, which has shop and restaurant, then possibly one final atoll before our final sail to Tahiti.

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2 months ago

Looks simply amazing, what a trip you’re having. Tell Tom and Jayne to up their rate of blogging when you leave, else I’ll having nothing to read when you leave. Have already sussed out that you can fly to Fakarava but it would be an expensive option to visit that way!

2 months ago

Looks absolutely beautiful, enjoy the last leg xxx

Sarah Barnes
2 months ago

Really enjoying the photos and commentary, lovely to and hear what you are experiencing. The colour of that water though! So blue! It’s a bit mind blowing to imagine the settlements on the narrow strips of land around the atolls and even more so there being a restaurant… so amazing. I know that some of your travels have been challenging but WOW! An experience like no other! Happy sailing and lots of love xx

Sarah Godfrey
2 months ago

Wow - these pics are absolutely stunning - what an amazing trip. Hope you continue to enjoy it all - still pretty chilly in the uk. X