Hiking through the humid forest on Moorea, in the South Pacific. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Moorea, Part 2

At dawn, I met my guide and the young couple joining us for a day-long trek into the rain forest on Moorea, in the South Pacific. Moorea is a rugged, mountainous island, with jagged peaks surrounded by tropical greenery, encircled by a clear aqua lagoon and then the deep blue ocean.

We began hiking through the trails of Sister Island, gradually going higher towards the center, until we reached Belvedere Lookout, with a grand view of Cook and Opunohu Bays. It was a clear sky, hot and humid, with very muddy trekking, as you can see in my photo at the top of this post. We crossed three brooks: one had a foot bridge, but for the others, we went over on the slippery, moss-covered rocks.

Roosters run wild and are in the forests of all the nearby islands. I could hear the cock-a-doodle-do long before I could spot one. Little brown lizards with fluorescent blue tails scurried about the forest floor. Many types of trees, ferns, and plants covered every inch of the forest except the narrow trail. Fortunately there are no poisonous snakes, or poisonous spiders, or poisonous plants on the island. There are birds and I saw many, including the Tahitian kingfisher and green pigeons.

We zigzagged our way up to a ridge separating Mouara and Tohivea peaks onto Three Coconut Trail. We walked higher until we came out onto a rock outcropping and had a grand panoramic view of the island. It is 10 miles distant on each side, with a coastal road of 37 miles around the shoreline.  It was quite a picture with pineapple plantations below and the lagoon in the far distance.

On our descent, we passed through a bamboo forest. In parts of the forest, the trees form a high, dense canopy overhead, covering the trees with moss and lichen; the earth remains damp and the trail is muddy and slippery. We reached the trail head as the sun was going down—I was anxious to reach the village and get cooled off with a refreshing swim in the lagoon.

Tropical wonders on an undersea walk at Moorea, in the South Pacific. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Tropical wonders on an undersea walk at Moorea, in the South Pacific. Photo by Madelyn Given.

After my hike on Moorea, I was ready for one more adventure before leaving the island: I took an underwater sea walk. Three other people participated and we met our instructor for a quick briefing, before going off in a small boat to an area restricted for diving off the coral reef. The boat was anchored and we sat there while our instructor prepared an 80 pound helmet and air line for each person. When it was my turn to go overboard, I went down a ladder attached to the side of the boat, while the instructor lifted the diving helmet onto my head, with the weight resting on my shoulders, and the airline was attached. Immediately, I sank to the bottom of the sandy lagoon. I balanced myself on my knees for a minute or two, getting oriented to the heavy helmet. Then I stood and moved one foot slowly, then another, then took time to see the fish.

Our instructor brought a feeding tube filled with smelly bait. In just a few minutes, two large, beautiful sting rays appeared. I began to stroke each one as it swam around me while I held the bait tube. The hand print remained on the back of the sting rays, just like running your hand over a steamed-up window. The sting rays rub against you and I tried not to lose my balance and land upside down like a turtle with my feet dangling above me! Fish came up to my mask and brushed against my helmet. They were so colorful and all different sizes. I walked along the uneven ocean floor between the colorful coral. After the underwater sea walk, we motored around the lagoon looking for sea turtles. The next day, it was time to sail back to Tahiti and end my South Seas adventures.

(posted April 12, 2016)