Jan 292012

Sure, you’ve heard of Fiji, Bora Bora, Aruba, Bermuda & Maui.  But have you heard of Anaa, Makemo, Starbuck (no, not the coffee shop), Orona or Upolu?

Starbuck Island - Photo Courtesy of NASA

They’re all real islands, and you can find them listed in the image based encyclopedia of islands at oceandots.com.

Oceandots.com covers all of the world’s oceans, ensuring that island junkies will no doubt get their exotic island fix.

I’d love to know who is behind this awesome site, but an “about us” section is conspicuously absent.

What is the most exotic island you long to visit?

Jan 252012

The Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa, French Polynesia is legendary for several reasons.

Divers and snorkelers are in on the secret.  They know it as one of the most famed dive sites in the world. Called “Shooting the Pass”, you’re dropped off via Zodiac into the ocean side of the atoll, and you drift through the pass.  You’ll likely see many reef sharks and lemon sharks and perhaps even a hammerhead or two. Some divemasters have reported seeing tiger sharks in the pass.  You may also spot manta rays, large javanese eels, Napoleon wrasse, large titan trigger fish and even bottlenose dolphins.

Sailors may know the Tiputa Pass as 14.973°S 147.629°W or as a force to keep them waiting outside of the atoll.  There are only two passes, or entries, into the atoll of Rangiroa – The Tiputa Pass and the Avatoru Pass. These passes can only be navigated at certain times due to their strong currents, and usually this is 2 times per day (just after high tide and just after low tide).  It’s often reported to be a white knuckle ride.

Tiputa Pass at High Tide

And still others know that the Tiputa Pass is home to one of the most amazing “dolphin shows” that nature has ever produced.  And no, I’m not referring to captive dolphin shows which I think are a travesty (that’s another topic altogether, one that I may tackle sometime soon).  I am referring to the once daily occurrence when the dolphins gather in the pass to frolick in the waves produced by the strong current flowing into the lagoon.  Here you can stand and watch them jump, flip and play for almost an hour.  And what a sweet hour it is.

A Calm Moment at the Tiputa Pass

Here’s a short video, shot by Mr. Reeftraveler, that shows the Tiputa Pass in action.

And here is an underwater video by Mr. Reeftraveler of Manta Rays “shooting” the Tiputa Pass.

I read alot of trip reports on Tripadvisor and other sites.  I’ve read reports of travelers claiming to be bored in Rangiroa and those that have said three days is enough.  Each to their own, but this I can’t fathom.  Perhaps if you aren’t an ocean lover and need streets lined with glossy gift shops.  Ok, I could see then how Rangiroa may not be for you.  But oh how I long to revisit this unspoiled paradise.

Jan 212012

We did two all-day boat charters with Stormy Petrel  on a recent family reunion trip to St. Thomas.  Stormy Petrel accommodates up to 12 guests, so we hired her for a private charter.

Stormy Petrel is a 42′ power cruiser, and she’s perfect for island hopping.

On our first charter, we visited Norman Island and its famous snorkeling sites, The Caves and The Indians. Both sites were spectacular, but The Indians was the standout.

The Indians – Normam Island, BVI

We had a boat full of experienced divers who have dived all over the globe, and we were all impressed by the coral and sea life at The Indians.

Stingray at The Caves on Norman Island – Photo by Dave Schnoll

Afterwards we hit Sandy Spit, Sidney’s Peace & Love for lunch and White Bay for an afternoon of Painkillers. Everyone on the boat had a spectacular day.

Soggy Dollar Bar – Jost Van Dyke, BVI

White Bay – Jost Van Dyke, BVI

On our second charter, we visited The Baths on Virgin Gorda, Cooper Island for lunch, The Wreck of the Rhone and The Indians.

Not surprisingly, we had another awesome day on the water. Captain Galen and his first mate Rachael expertly led us through The Baths, with Galen telling pirate stories along the way. They were amazing guides, and their stories really enhanced the experience.

The Baths – Virgin Gorda, BVI

The Baths

Stormy Petrel is a very well maintained boat. She is spacious, provides adequate shade and is very comfortable. We were very fortunate to luck into a captain like Galen. He is not only an experienced (and professional, yet laid back) captain, but he will put you at ease with his jokes and stories, and you will learn a lot about the islands from his impromptu history lessons.

You can go here to reserve Stormy Petrel for your next trip to St. Thomas or St. John.

Jan 162012

Last year I showed you my collection of aerial island photos.  To my surprise, that post became one of the most popular posts on Reeftraveler.  So, instead of going underwater, we’re going back into the air in today’s video.

Here we are flying over the atoll of Rangiroa in the Tuamotu chain of French Polynesia.  First, you’ll see us flying on the inside of the atoll.  Then you will see a break in the atoll – The Avatoru Pass.   And finally, we come to the ocean side of the atoll as we land in this surreal paradise.

What is your favorite aerial view?


Jan 142012

I’m an island located on the east coast of Australia.  I’m a World Heritage site, and the largest sand island in the world.

I have rainforests, beaches, eucalyptus woodland, lakes and beaches.  Below is a photo of my most famous beach.

Who am I?