From the posts about the Hermit islands earlier this week, it might seem that we didn’t get to play very much while we were there. Hardly true!
We spent a lot of time in the water. There was the unforgettable experience of swimming with whales in the lagoon, something we’ll never forget. Snorkeling even right off the boat was fantastic. Hermit Islanders are Seventh Day Adventists, so they don’t eat shellfish. This means that live giant clams dot the bottom of the reef, even right in front of the village. It was easy to spot the large painted crayfish- strikingly colored lobsters- poking their long antennae out of holes in the coral. Normally we’d never be able to find these creatures right in front of a village, as they’d have all been taken for food.
One morning, when Siobhan and I were out for a little paddle on the coral heads behind Totem, we drifted over the top only to surprise a dozing turtle just a few meters below. We’ve seen quite a few, but not always so close or so… well, so still. Turtles in the Pacific have pretty good instincts with regard to human invaders (protected or not, they are actively hunted) so our most common view is of the back half of their shell as they jet away. This guy was happy to just check us out, then languidly move out from under his coral head hideaway before slowly drifting away to deeper water. Siobhan was beside herself with excitement and had trouble containing her enthusiasm until the giant was out of sight.
Another day, we piled on Sea Glass and Bob guided us to an anchorage to the south. There, where water funneled through a pass, was the nutrient rich brew that giant mantas feed upon. They’re resident here, but the likelihood of seeing them varies with the moon phase- and unfortunately for us, we were there at the full moon, the lowest probability of spotting mantas. There weren’t any that afternoon, but Sea Glass saw several on their morning snorkel with the incoming tide- and we had a beautiful afternoon adventure regardless, with more turtles, fish, and the company of dolphins along the way.
We really didn’t scratch the surface of experiences at the Hermits. Bob is an adept diver, and if we had the gear, could have taken us to walls on the outer reef. There’s a spot where sharks gather outside the reef, if we want to see them en masse. We know from our friends who came through here last year- Endless Summer, Elena, Sea Level- that the snorkeling outside the reef is truly spectacular. But we’re unlucky with our conditions. A nasty system north of us is too distant to kick up high winds, but it sends surf from afar that makes these exposed outside walls of the reef untenable to visit.
In truth, however, some of the most fun I have is just sitting around with people we meet in the village. Being Jamie’s sidekick on the sewing machine expedition. Playing with children as we linger at Bob’s home over computer lessons. Squatting in a kitchen hut, listening to women gossip while stirring sago. Sitting on a log talking to Chief Joseph, hearing the elder statesman’s stories of his childhood and WWII. We’ll see a lot of pretty fish down the line, but these are unique memories I’ll always carry.