Marquesas Islands

Fatu Hiva, Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas Islands first showed up in version four of our planned itinerary across the South Pacific. We weren’t even going there initially, not because it wasn’t appealing, but because the islands were a long run east from Hawaii. And we decided to make it even more challenging by going to Palmyra Atoll and Fanning Island first. Running from Fanning Island signed us up for strong counter currents and winds the whole way to the Marquesas. But having done it, the rewards are substantial. The Marquesas are impressive and we almost can’t believe they weren’t on our itinerary from the beginning.

We arrived at Nuku Hiva in the northern Marquesas the morning of April 15th and spent the next two weeks island-hopping to the southern extreme at Fatu Hiva. The scenery, impressive in Nuku Hiva, became even more dramatic as we worked south: sheer mountain cliffs with almost impossible formations, mountain ridges so narrow that holes have formed from one side to the other, and incredible views into the anchorages below for those willing to climb. Fatu Hiva, pictured above, was our last stop in the islands and typifies Marquesan geology. We particularly enjoyed the diving there as well. We love exploring, and usually move frequently, but ended up staying at Fatu Hiva for five nights. If the rest of the South Pacific weren’t waiting, we’d probably still be there.

Highlights from the trip follow, or click on the image at left for a live map-based version of the complete trip log. On the live-map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at
4/15/2013: Cliffs
The steep slopes of Nuku Hiva.
4/15/2013: At anchor
At anchor in Baie de Taiohae with our quarantine flag flying as we head in to clear through.
4/15/2013: Bonjour
View to our first French Polynesian anchorage. Dirona is just visible in the background directly to our right.
4/15/2013: Hinano
Local Tahitian beer Hinano on the veranda at Pension Moana Nui. We had a delicious pizza there the following night.
4/17/2013: Fueling
We took on 1,170 gallons of diesel at the fuel dock, but wanted 1,364. They were short on fuel, so we couldn’t quite fill. The fuel dock has a cement wall and the surge was substantial, so a side-tie risks damaging the boat. Instead, boats needing small amounts of fuel often ferry them by dinghy in jerry cans. Those needing larger amounts typically med-moor to the wall, where the boat is anchored and backed into the dock and tied standing a few feet off the wall. We’ve got a 75-foot line from each stern corner to a bollard ashore, and a large Aere inflatable fender protecting the swim platform. The fuel hose runs from the dock, over the swim platform and into the cockpit on the far side of the fender.
4/18/2013: Anse Hakatea
At anchor in Anse Hakatea, Baie do Taioa. The bay also is known as Daniel’s Bay after a longtime Marquesan resident. Three sailboats were at anchor there when we arrived, and two more came later. We anchored outside them all with plenty of swing room. Swell was a little higher were we were, but it was fine with the flopper-stopper.
4/19/2013: Along the path
The valley we’re heading to is directly behind that tall palm. Once we’d left this tended path, the trail through the forest was still quite easy to follow.
4/19/2013: At the falls
Rain hadn’t fallen for a while, so the falls weren’t flowing much, but the valley was spectacular with steep shores enclosing a tranquil pool. James is standing just to the left of the pool.
4/19/2013: Baie Hooumi
We left Anse Hakatea after returning back from our hike and anchored all alone at Baie Hooumi in the late afternoon. We anchorage felt secure and snug, with steep shores on either side. Some swell did reach us, but we were fine with the flopper-stopper out. We’re able to deploy and retract it within ten minutes, so it’s not a bother.
4/20/2013: Baie D’Anaho
Serrated cliffs along the south shore of Baie D’Anaho, on the north shore of Nuku Hiva. We also has this beautiful and tranquil anchorage all too ourselves. The waters were calm too–the first at Nuku Hiva where we’ve not even considered the flopper-stopper. A few houses ringed the shore and it night local music drifted across the water.
4/21/2013: Ua Pou
A view to the distinctive spires on Ua Pou. The scenery in the Marquesas is spectacular, and keeps getting better at each island. We were lucky to see the spire tops so clearly–apparently clouds often hide them.
4/21/2013: Baie d’Hakahau
We were able to find a space with just enough swing room between the three transient boats anchored behind the breakwater. Then we followed the road up to a cross on a hilltop east of the harbor.
4/22/2013: Gray Matter
Approaching Baie Hanamoenoa, where our good friends Christine Guo and Mark Mohler are anchored aboard Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter. We last saw them in San Francisco, where they’d arranged a slip for us at their marina in Redwood City. And now, both boats having travelled over 5,000 miles since then, we’re finally back together again.
4/23/2013: Baie Hanatefau
Both boats made the “big” run to Baie Hanatefau the next morning. The anchorage was beautiful, with torquoise waters and steep slopes. We initially had the basin all to ourselves, but half a dozen other boats eventually stopped there too. The small village of Hapatoni is in the background at the south end of the bay.
4/26/2013: Sunset
Enjoying the sunset from the bow.
4/27/2013: Sunrise
Sunrise through a hole in the cliffs, en route to Fatu Hiva.
4/27/2013: Tahuata cliffs
Dramatic cliffs at the south end of Tahuata
4/27/2013: Baie Hanavave
Soaring cliffs and dramatic formations flank the valley that heads Baie Hanavave at Fatu Hiva. We’ve been in some pretty beautiful anchorages on this trip, but this one without question is the most impressive.
4/28/2013: View
A road connects Hanavave and the larger village of Omoa to the south, climbing steeply to a 2,000-meter pass. We followed the road up to the pass for sweeping views into the anchorage, the village, and the valley beyond. Dirona is anchored at the far left of the picture.
4/29/2013: Falls
Lunch in front of the pool at the base of the falls. Jennifer was going to have a swim, but got over it after we saw an 18-inch eel hunting there.
4/29/2013: Scenery
After the hike, we toured the shoreline around the anchorage. Steep, vegetation-covered hills soar above us around at every corner. This is easily the most beautiful place we’ve ever been.
4/29/2013: Cave
Some of the caves were large enough to fit the dinghy well inside.
4/29/2013: Arch
This arch Jennifer is sitting at runs about 40 feet clear through the cliff.
4/30/2013: Welcome
Welcome sign on the way into the village. Fatu Hiva is the only populated island in the Marquesas without an airport, so everything arrives by boat.
4/30/2013: Octopus
On the first dive, we saw many octopus tucked into the rocks, the first we’ve seen on this trip. The octopus appeared reasonably large, although not nearly as big as the ones we’ve seen in the Pacific Northwest. We believe this is a Day Octopus, which grows to about 2.5 feet. They changed colors patterns frequently as we watched, going from dark brown to almost white in some transitions.
4/30/2013: Moray eel
One of several Moray Eels, possibly a Stout Moray. We saw many eels on this dive, but none were bright yellow like this one.
4/30/2013: Lionfish
One of two Spotfin Lionfish hiding under a rock overhang.
5/1/2013: Moorish Idols
Two Moorish Idols swimming above our dinghy anchor. We did two more wall dives today–and the underwater scenery and sealife was even better than yesterday. Massive schools of thousands of fish frequently surrounded us, and we saw all kinds of Triggerfish, Butterflyfish and Angelfish.
5/1/2013: A nudi!
This 1-inch creature likely is a Nippled Pleurobranch rather than a Nudibranch, but close enough. Both are of the subclass Opisthobranchia whose species often are so wildly colored they look fake. Over 3,000 Nudibranch species live throughout the world’s oceans–their fantastic forms and psychedelic colors make them among our favorite sea creatures. Our boat name is derived from Dirona Albolineata, or the Alabaster Nudibranch, an invertebrate indigenous to the Puget Sound that we often saw when scuba diving there.
5/1/2013: Eels
A small (left) and a large Moray eel peering out from the rocks.
5/1/2013: School
Swimming through a school of thousands of Fusilier-like fish.
Click on the image at left for more photos and the complete map-based trip log.

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2 comments on “Marquesas Islands
  1. My 1/2 Samoan daughter’s best friend is from the Marquesas. Thank you so much for posting the pictures.

  2. Hi, Charley. Most of the people we vsiited were very poor in terms of material possessions, but that didn’t matter to them. They were rich in their love of life, in their love for the people around them, and in their spirituality. They came to help when we lost our dinghy, when we were in danger of losing Wa’s mast, when we had grounded the boat intentionally to clean her bottom. They invited us to their homes, served us wonderful meals, and shared their culture with us. All this made me realize that, as Americans, normally we don’t do these things: We don’t invite total strangers into our homes to share lunch with us and give them the best part of the meal. I wound up feeling grateful and humble and, sometimes, ashamed that most of us Americans don’t give in the same way. Addie

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