|The Mountains of Moorea|
After watching many a beautiful sunset over the island of Moorea from our anchorage in Tahiti, it was time to find out if it could actually live up to the hype. This would be the most popular tourist destination we had gone to yet and we were curious how the hotels, cruise ships and tourists would affect the natural surroundings and our interactions with them.
|Spinner dolphins like to leap and spin - hence the name.|
|Sailing school made this a busy bay!|
|Heavy winds made for lots of fun sailing!|
One of the coolest parts of taking a trip like this is you get to see places that very few people get to travel to. While there are many other boats doing what we are doing, if you add us all up we’re likely less than a 1000 people traveling to some incredibly remote areas. So when you arrive in a known tourist mecca, it stands in stark contrast to the places we’ve seen and it makes you a little sad to see how the people that live there have compromised their lives and their surroundings in the quest for the almighty dollar.
Now before people think I’m some sort of tourism Nazi, let me try to explain. I have absolutely NO issue with vacationing tourists and have been one myself MANY a time! In fact – I am still a tourist everywhere I go – doing it by boat certainly doesn’t change that. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to visit amazing places like this and to stay at fabulous beach front hotels if they can afford it. In fact – I would HIGHLY recommend a visit to any one of the Society Islands as they are incredibly beautiful and definitely would make a “dream vacation” for anyone willing to take the long flights involved to get here.
What bothers me however is seeing the nature of the area changed to create a “tourist attraction” when it’s completely unnecessary. Let me give you an example that has made a strong impression on me….
|Lots of turtle sightings in from our boat.|
But when you have 1000’s of tourists in one small area, it can’t help but change the ecosystem to some extent. For the hotels around Opunohu Bay, one of the big attractions is swimming with the sting rays. Sounds really cool right? And let me be the first to tell you – IT IS COOL! It’s amazing in fact! You stand in this shallow sandy area and you are literally swarmed by sting rays. They swim around you and even shimmy right up the side of your body, back or even your chest, rubbing against you almost like a cat!
|Feeding the sting rays...|
This is a perfect example of how the local ecosystem has been completely changed by the tourist industry. It is not normal for sting rays to come up and rub themselves against you. Normally they have a very healthy natural fear of human beings! But here in Moorea they are so used to being fed that they actually recognize the tour guides, putting on a show worthy of Sea World – even taking food right from the tour guides mouths.
|"Swimming" with the sting rays...see how it's rubbing me?|
Several days later Brett and I were snorkeling in Huahine and came across four beautiful sting rays buried in the sand. As we swam a little closer, they unearthed themselves and silently glided away in front of us – absolute poetry in motion. Watching them as they are MEANT to act was so much better than our previous interaction that I just had to write about it. It makes me want to convey (my personal opinion) that it’s not natural (or good) for us to modify nature in this way or to support tourism that creates this sort of environment. Trust me that swimming with sting rays FOR REAL – is so much better than a manufactured experience! Why must humans always try to “improve” on something that is already perfect?