Updated: Jan 23, 2020
On the way to the Marquesas, the Aranui stopped at Takapoto, a pristine atoll of white sand and clear turquoise blue water. This was really travel off the beaten path comfortably! We have traveled widely around the world, but have never seen a deserted beach that stretched on and on with dazzling turquoise water.
We had taken small barges from the freighter to the Fakatopatere pier and the only things we saw during the 15-minute walk from the pier to the beach were a few well-kept little houses and a charming pink church. We heard later on that someone had been selling handicrafts from their house along the way, but they were so low-key that we didn't notice. We would come to see that most Polynesians are very reserved in how they sell their products. They may display their wares, but it is up to the tourist to ask for prices and negotiate the sale. It was our first experience with sellers who didn't push their products or follow us around as has been our experience at some other islands in the world. At one point in the Marquesas, when we asked the vendor how much a pretty seashell cost, she smiled and said it was just a decoration on her sales table so she gave it to us for free. These friendly gestures make the Marquesans very memorable and likable.
A barbecue lunch of colorful reef fish, barbecued chicken and the Marquesan specialty of raw fish was served buffet style.
We were free to swim and snorkel for the day and what we saw underwater was truly out-of-this world. The translucent waters were filled with Tridacna gigas (Giant Clams). There was no fear of being swallowed up comic book style or of being trapped inside the shells because the ones we saw were all relatively small. (There has never been a documented case of a person being trapped by a giant clam!) They were dazzling, nonetheless, with mantles that looked as if they had been decorated with fluorescent paints.
Back on board the Aranui we went to the Polynesian dance class, then to the daily briefing to learn what was in store for the "Day at Sea" the next day and relaxed at the bar listing to the Aranui Band, a group composed of the finest singers, guitarists and ukelele players from the crew (One was reputed to have won the all-Polynesain ukelele competition a couple of years running!). It was fun getting to know some of the crew members we had seen hauling supplies off the ship at the pier and helping us transfer from the whaleboats back on board earlier in the day. We had never experienced this type of personal contact on traditional cruises, and we loved being able to interact with the crew as friends.