Moorea - World's Best Snorkeling
(San Diego, CA)
Hilton Moorea (Posted by Galen)
We actually googled "world's best snorkeling" while researching a place to go for our 20th anniversary (2005). Avid snorkelers, we no longer bother to take a vacation to anywhere we can't snorkel. Internet researching brought up some possibilities, including Moorea, and then a conversation with a well traveled neighbor furthered interest in Moorea, of the French Polynesian islands next to Tahiti.
We stayed in an overwater bungalow at the Sheraton (which is now Hilton). To be completely honest, I have to say that the snorkeling was, indeed, better than any we've ever experienced. A couple of steps down the ladder off our private deck into that shallow fish bowl was all it took for us to be wild about Moorea.
The corals were amazing. A head of coral about the size of a Volkswagon Bug would contain as many as eleven different types of coral, giant clams, and every kind of brilliantly colored tropical fish we could hope for.
The best part was that because of the barrier reef several hundred yards out, the lagoon area was very calm, and visibility was amazing. Schools of convict tang passed by, pairs of butterfly fish of every description flitted about, and eels of sizable girth waved their heads at us.
For the better part of a week we woke at dawn to enjoy our coffee in bed, taking in the amazing panoramic view of the barrier reef, then we'd slip down the ladder to get in an hour or two of snorkeling before breakfast. Coming out for baguettes, papaya, and pineapple juice would fortify us for couple of more hours of snorkeling, my husband hunting (with camera only, of course) for the best photo of the day. A break for lunch (a hamburger at the poolside restaurant) and perhaps a nap, then back into the water for the afternoon snorkel which would find me more content to just hang over a coral head trying to ignore the colorful fish and look for the less obvious creatures, always a fun plan.
Wow. Such a vacation we've never had, and we've snorkeled Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Hawaii (often), Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Cozumel.
Sound to good to be true? You'd think, why ever go anywhere else? Well. There were downsides to this paradise.
Nowhere in the hotel could we find any books on the fish or the dangerous creatures. Not until in the last couple of days did I dig up this information, and realized I could easily have died, handling a live textile cone shell. The lagoon was not the hotel's top priority, more attention being paid to the drink of the day and the evening dancers... The hotel was expensive, and though because of location, we thought, worth every penny, but the food was often NOT worth eating, a fact made only more frustrating by the very 'relaxed' service. We guessed, by the smell pervading the entire island each afternoon, that it is customary to smoke pot before/during/after lunch. As we're not smokers or drinkers, for that matter, we eventually decided to just stay in our cabin, and have room service. Finally, we rented a car, drove to a "magazine" (local market) and bought fruit, french bread, cheese, and canned milk so we only had to venture out for meals when it was too dark to snorkel. Shopping was enough to suit our needs, but would not have appeased our daughters had they been with us (but who takes kids on an anniversary trip?)
Now anticipating our 25th anniversary trip, we're again scouring the world for the perfect snorkel trip, and having more experience under out belt still think that though the dining/shopping/expensive hotel part of our Moorea trip wasn't top notch (but not awfully bad) the snorkeling will, in good likelihood, again take us back to Moorea. Even the local fellows who drove their boat over our snorkel grounds, and the kids spear fishing parrotfish and gathering urchins and clams while we snorkeled in front of our cabin still cannot keep us from wanting to get back into the water at that amazing tropical fishbowl.
We'd criss-cross the area in front of our bungalows, then head towards the barrier reef, stopping short of the place where the larger boats drove, and then catch the current and drift back to shore to the dock in front the the equipment rental shack, then swim back towards our bungalow and begin again, our excursions directed by how high the tide was and how much coral we could get past that was not too high to swim over. Even the few brief rain showers that would occur during some days did not cause us to get out of the water, we'd just laugh, watch the cloud as it tried to blow past the mountain it had hung up on, and soon the sun was shining again.
At night we'd look into the water with the lights under the cabin (the coffee table was glass over a glass window in the floor), and admire the young sharks that ventured into the shallows to hunt for a late night snack, hopefully, not our squirrelfish or wrasse friends.
Now we just have to decide when/how/what part of Moorea to return to. In the spirit of adventure, do we try somewhere new or should we not mess with a good thing, the best we've known?