About Us

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We work as ecotourism guides (as well as biologist and boat captain) often on the BC Coast, but also as far ranging as the Arctic and Antarctic. We have an insatiable curiousity for the planet; all its hidden gems and what makes them tick. That and our love of sailing is what inspired us to sail around the Pacific in Narama, our tough and pretty little sailboat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lifou Island; we bid adieu to New Caledonia

Kids fishing at Tribu Drueulu, Lifou Island 
With no significant light pollution from the village (tribu) of Drueulu on Lifou Island and no moon, the display of stars was amazing.  Pulling out the Field Guide to Stars and Planets, we learnt that the dark spot near the Southern Cross was caused by cosmic dust blocking out the brighter Milky Way and is called the Coal Sack.  Armed with that piece of information we’ll be ready for more star gazing on the way to Vanuatu.
Crystal clear water at the anchorage in Lifou

The trip to Lifou had a quiet start as we motor sailed east from Noumea. We’d rather that than pounding into a strong SE trade wind that kicks up a nasty short chop in the lagoon.  In Woodin Canal a breaching humpback displayed for us. It must be one of the first up here from Antarctica this season. Havannah Pass was ebbing slowly when we thought it should be flooding so we were gently flushed out to sea. Some playful dolphins joined us for a while, some log rolling twice around in the air which was quite spectacular. The wind filled with a dousing of rain and we ran overnight up to Lifou. The water is very clear; Heidi started picking out the bottom at 20m on the way into Drueulu.  The anchorage is a mix of sand and hard flat coral with a few bommies and well protected from the SE trades. We paid our respects to the Petit Chiefs son as the Grande and Petit Chiefs were away. The son (a father of 5 and one day will be the Chief) welcomed us to the village and took our small gift to pass on.  All this was done semi-formerly in his round house. Heidi’s French was stretched a little, but it was a pleasant exchange followed by coffee in his house. The village itself was very neat and tidy. The thatched round houses were very common, usually along side another simple building which seemed to be the one lived in. We hitched across the island to Wé, walked around the many roads in the Drueulu area for some good birding, snorkeled off the white sand beaches and limestone cliffs and crags and watched a round house being re-thatched. We were surprised to hear only about 20 yachts a year come through. We added to both fish and bird species and turtles abound – a beautiful place.

Traditional Round House
Re-thatching underway

New Caledonia Species List

Breaching humpback in Canal Woodin
Pacific Black Duck
Tahiti Petrel
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Wilson’s Storm Petrel
Little Pied Cormorant
Lesser Frigatebird
Red-footed Booby
Little Green (Striated) Heron
White-faced Heron
Pacific Reef Heron
Eastern Osprey
Brown Goshawk
Swamp Harrier
Whistling Kite
Peregrine Falcon
Buff-banded Rail
Purple Swamphen
Pacific Golden Plover
Wandering Tattler
Silver Gull
Black Noddy
Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Great Crested Tern
Sooty Tern
Black-naped Tern
Fairy Tern
Pacific Emerald Dove
Metallic Pigeon
Coven-feathered Dove
Red-bellied Fruit Dove
Spotted Dove
Coconut Lorikeet
Glossy Swiftlet
White-rumped Swiftlet
Sacred Kingfisher
Marred Honeyeater
Grey-eared Honeyeater
New Caledonian Myzomela
Cardinal Myzomela
New Caledonian Friarbird
Fan-tailed Gerygone
White-breasted Woodswallow
South Melanesian Cuckooshrike
Long-tailed Triller
Melanesian Whistler
Rufous Whistler
Grey Fantail
Streaked Fantail
New Caledonian Crow
Yellow-bellied Flyrobin
Pacific Swallow
Green-backed White-eye
White-breasted Woodswallow
Small Lifou White-eye
Red-vented Bulbul
Common Myna
Striated Starling
House Sparrow
Red-throated Parrotfinch
Common Waxbill

Bottlenose Dolphin
Omura’s Whale
Humpback Whale

Green Sea Turtle
Loggerhead Turtle
Band Sea Snake

We originally took this whale for a Bryde's. It turns out we were wrong!  There are no extra ridges on its rostum (top of the head) and it has a white lower jaw (it's assymettrical, like a Fin Whale, white on one side and dark on the other). After consulting with experts that know more about whale identification than we do, we've determined that it was an Omura's Whale, which has only been photographed in the wild once before, and not in this area of the world.  This species was only described in 2003.  We were pretty excited when we learned all this!

Omura's Whale in the southern lagoon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dodging Weather in New Caledonia

We are glad we made use of the first few weeks here, as lately a couple of troughs have passed through forcing us to sit out wind and rain in protected anchorages.

After Île des Pins (70nm SE of Noumea) we spent another two weeks exploring Baie de Prony, where there were lots of protected bays.  If we had not run out of food we would have stayed longer… amazing snorkeling on the entrance reef and at Ilot Casey; great walking in several placest; penal colony ruins; and hot springs that were tepid but relaxing for a soak.  Rivers or streams seemed to run from every valley, so we had a good supply of washing water and with a few other boats around we shared some hospitality.   As we sailed off the anchor one day a few Tasmanians that had chartered a boat offered us some extra milk and bread.  This turned into an amusing sail into fluky winds and food tossing contest.  Only one milk had to be retrieved from the water. 

Returning to our favourite anchorage (Baie des Citrons) near Noumea harbour, we used the easy access to food, water and internet.  The beach has a huge buoyed area for swimming which is very popular from dawn till dusk.  We have also had many swims and made use of the beach showers.  Even though the outside temperature has dropped, the sea water is still about 25C, so it’s very pleasant.

While in Noumea we also visited the Museum of New Caledonia and Tjibaou Cultural Centre.  By good luck, the later coincided with the Pacific Arts Festival; so our day was full of entertainment of both traditional and modern music and dance.  Added to the art, architecture and displays it made for a most interesting day. 

We have sat out the last two troughs in an inlet 10 nm north of Noumea that has many bays to move around as the wind shifts.  Most of the land is private and we were warned that some was used for hunting, but walking the forshore at low tide seems ok.  If it wasn’t we would maybe go a little stir-crazy sitting onboard. The biggest mishap during all this was Stephen inadvertently letting the dinghy drift off in a strong breeze after emptying the water.  Not sure how, but in the few seconds it took to realize the only way to get it back was a swim and then a rapid strip, the distance rapidly increased. Having been warned some non-reef shark species inhabit these bays, it was a quick 100m.

We are now back in Noumea and saw another dugong on our way here this morning!  We are waiting for the right weather to head to Vanuatu.  It will likely be early next week. 

We hope that not many more of these troughs pass as Vanuatu has less all round protected anchorages. 

As the end of this voyage looms on the horizon we set plans in motion for storing the boat and work back in Canada.  We feel like we have slowed down.  There has been more quiet time in the last few weeks to reflect, read and relax.  Is this because we are savouring our last bit of “freedom” or have we reached a saturation point of new places?  Whatever it is, we are happy to soak in life at a slower pace for a while in preparation for busier times ahead.