Monday, July 16, 2012

Anaho Bay

July 7-10, 2012

Silhouette at anchor in Anaho Bay

I held my breath in disbelief as we rounded the entrance into Anaho Bay. I could see no other sailboat masts, but the most protected part of the anchorage still lay hidden behind a small point. As we came around the point---I couldn’t believe it---there were still no other sailboats! We had an anchorage---a huge, beautiful one at that---all to ourselves for the first time I could remember on this voyage. Patrick seemed to remember a night in Ensenada Grande, back in the Sea of Cortez, where we had the anchorage to ourselves for one night.

Anaho Bay is drop-dead gorgeous. Its massive rock wall, fluted basaltic spires, and deep green bring to mind a Marquesan Yosemite or what one might see in the South China Sea:  only in the South China Sea, the geography would be dotted with monasteries instead of palm trees. 

Massive basalt wall in Anaho Bay

When I say we had the anchorage to ourselves, I do not mean the bay is uninhabited---just that there were no other sailboats. A few villagers live in Anaho and while we were there, a camp was in session for school children on holiday. Not many people live in Anaho Bay because the only access is by boat or horseback:  There is no road connecting Anaho to the rest of the island.

Polynesian home in Anaho village
 The walking path running along the beach was beautifully maintained and landscaped.

Landscaped walking path

Falling coconuts are a serious hazard for travelers in the tropics

A unique combination of cactus and coral garden

Paepae planter
At low tide, I saw my first sea snakes in the shallow water along the beach in Anaho Bay! These sea snakes were less than a foot long, so they were not too intimidating. Their pattern reminded me of a corn snake, except their skin was lavender and white instead of rust or ochre. Most sea snakes are venomous, but the ones in the Marquesas reportedly have teeth to small to puncture your skin---and judging by their shyness---they wouldn’t come close enough to bite you anyway.

Low tide in Anaho Bay-coral reef visible just under the water
Although the visibility again wasn’t as good as we’d read, there was wonderful snorkeling in Anaho Bay. (There seemed to be a huge plankton bloom in the water while we were there, as well as runoff from rain, both factors which may have affected the visibility.) One of the nice aspects about snorkeling in Anaho Bay is that the reef is at the head of the bay, not along the sides like at Hanamoenoa or other beaches in the Marquesas, so you can snorkel without constantly fighting the surge. The best snorkeling I found was on either side of the small boat channel (a convenient pass where coral doesn’t grow due to freshwater ingress). At low tide, you can float over the reef in three to six feet of water, watching the multitude of fish going about their business in the coral. There were some massive coral formations in Anaho Bay:  one, which I liked to call the “wedding cake coral.” It consisted of many tiers which the fish were constantly darting in and out of. There were also more invertebrates in Anaho than we’d seen elsewhere in the Marquesas:  fist-sized top snails with mother-of-pearl shells, a type of box crab, and three or four different species of sea urchins (all huge!)  On the beach, there were more of the burrowing crab we’d seen at Hanamenu.

From Anaho Bay, we launched excursions to the two neighboring bays. We walked over the mountain in the old way to the village of Hatiheu (most people either take a boat around ride on horseback today.) From the pass between the two villages, we were able to get a panoramic view of the spectacular region. 

View of Anaho Bay from the pass-Silhouette is a speck in the left lobe
Pandanus trees on the way into Hatiheu
A cow hide being dried in the village
Hatiheu was a beautiful seaside village with a bit of a European feel due to its benches facing the sea and the artwork along its waterfront. The village was guarded by some striking sentinels of its own. 

Arrival at the seaside village of Hatiheu

Spires guarding the entrance to Baie Hatiheu

On the spire at the far left in the above photo, you can barely see a white speck. This white speck is a statue of the Virgin Mary that was hoisted 300m to the top of this rock pinnacle. We had also seen a shrine to the Virgin Mary in the rock wall at the entrance to Hanamenu. Here is a closer look at the one from Hatiheu:

Mary atop a pinnacle

Waterfront tiki

We specifically came to Hatiheu to view the archaeological sites in this valley, but they were of a different tone and deserve their own post. 

The road home

Patrick on the trail over the mountain
We also walked in the other direction from Anaho Bay to the nearby bay of Haataivea. Patrick had read that it was a big, open bay full of flotsam and tried to prepare me for a sight that might not be pretty; but I had been staring at the bay’s basalt spires since our arrival, and they beckoned to me. We also thought that we might find some “treasures”---such as pretty shells or Japanese fishing floats---among the flotsam.

The valley is expansive and is uninhabited. 

Haataivea valley
However, the first thing we came to was a large vegetable farm. Both traditional Marquesan crops such as papaya, banana, and taro, were being cultivated here, as well as those such as eggplant, tomato, and squash, that were  suited to more Euro-American tastes. We wondered if this was where the vegetables for the Saturday market in Taiohae were grown?  

Row of papaya trees in vegetable garden

Crops of eggplant, squash, taro, and tomatoes
The beach was enormous and would have been amazingly beautiful if not for the flotsam. 

Patrick walking in the dunes at Haataivea beach

 Unfortunately, today’s “flotsam” consists of mostly empty plastic containers:  an unhappy reminder of the problem of plastics in the world’s oceans. Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Flotsam on the beach
We only looked for “treasures” on the beach for about five minutes before hordes of black nonos descended on us, sending us beating a hasty retreat. Even though my limbs were covered in monoi oil (a local remedy consisting of a blend of coconut oil and in this case, citronella) with Deet-containing insect repellant on top of that, I had dozens of the black, biting bugs all over me. However, something did its job, and the insects weren’t able to bite me through the thick layers of goop I had slathered all over my body:  The only new bites I got were on my stomach, where some intrepid dipteran got underneath my clothing. Patrick (as he had on Hanamenu) once again escaped unscathed, without wearing any insect repellant! 

Back in Anaho Bay, the weather had turned squally. 

Eerie light preceding a squall
We thoroughly enjoyed our three days and four nights in Anaho Bay, and it was even calm enough in this anchorage for Patrick to get some work done at the masthead.


  1. Enjoyed this immensely with my cup of coffee at 5 AM. What a journey guys. I was wondering how many thngs they might have made out of the cow hide.

  2. not Haataivea, actually Haatuatua

  3. Does your correction refer to the bay, the valley, or both? Thanks for commenting.