Day 162, Year 5: A Day in Chagos Paradise
Date: Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Weather: Rain Overnight; Beautiful Day; Very Little Wind
Location: Ile Fouquet, Peros Banhos Atoll, Chagos

Picture this. A little white sand island with palm trees and a reef that extends northward. The waves constantly roll in over the reef, ever so gently. Far back from the reef there are seven little sailboats all in a row, evenly spaced, facing the reef. The boat closest to the island is Jenain from South Africa. The next boat is Constance from the US and then there is Mirage, also from the US. The next boat is Nomad from Reunion, a French island some thousand miles south of here. Then there is a tiny little boat from France with a single-hander, then Windbird, and then another boat from France. That is our little temporary community here at Ile Fouquet. The other two boats in Peros Banhos, back at Ile du Coin, are both from the US. Five out of nine US boats is a greater majority than I think we have ever seen in any location. Four of us will be traveling on to Africa, but one of those will not be going around the Cape of Good Hope. A boat named Napenthe will come back this way and then go through the Red Sea next year. A boat named Mirage will go back to Thailand, and only Constance, Windbird, and a boat from Washington State (I don’t yet know how to spell the name of the boat) will be going around South Africa. It will be interesting to find out what boats are over in Salomon Atoll that are going our direction. But that will have to wait a while. We are having way too much fun here to move on.

I feel like I am on vacation at a very exclusive resort. We had Yellowtail Tuna sushi for lunch and again as a dinner appetizer. Then we had fresh grilled Jobfish and cabbage salad for dinner. Before lunch, we took the dinghy outside the reef and snorkeled our way back home. The current was carrying us so pulling the dinghy along with us was not difficult. I pulled the dinghy while Mark took the underwater camera and got some photos. Although not top-notch photography because of the angle to the sun and distance away, his prize photos today are of the black-tipped sharks. This is not my favorite sighting as a snorkeler, but black-tips are reef sharks and we are snorkeling on a reef near a pass, so these guys are going to be there. They are small and seem harmless, but the operative word here is “seem.” I sure hope they stay that way. Mark and Ed also saw a nurse shark, but I missed that one. We saw the first soft coral we have seen for a while, the common Sarcophytus, commonly called leather coral. Today the Sarcophytus was covered with coral polyps but sometimes it is not and looks naked. It feels like leather and folds in and out on itself. We saw more of the same fish that we saw yesterday, so nothing new to add to the list and as yesterday, it was delightful watching the parrotfish and not have them speed away. My favorite is a yellow one with red fins and blue lips. I can’t find it in the field guides, but I’ll keep looking. I just have to know what it is. Another highlight was the sighting of a couple of pin-cushion type sea stars that are commonly called Bishop’s Caps because that is exactly what they look like.

After lunch we went to shore to burn garbage and to take an island walk on Ile Fouquet. Ed and Lynne went with us and we enjoyed our little tour. Where we took the dinghies ashore, cruisers have built a small table out of scavenged wood and have collected trash that has washed up on the island and put it all in one neat little spot. The island is sandy on the side that faces the anchorage but on the back side, it is hard coral. Many coconut trees have recently fallen in a storm, so walking is a bit of a challenge. And add to that the number of small and large hermit crabs that are walking everywhere. It was hard not to step on one, but what a sight. I will have to return and just sit and watch them for a whole afternoon. The variety of shells is just amazing. The island might be uninhabited, but none of the shells are empty. They are all homes for crabs.

100406 Day 162 Peros Banhos, Chagos–Ile Fouquet, On Land and Underwater