Fabled Islands 6
April 12, 2009
We sailed next to St. Francois Atoll, one of two atolls of the Alphonse Group. As many (most?) atolls, it is uninhabited. The atollsâ€™ land mass is very small, but of you include the fringing reef and lagoon, it includes an area more than 40 sq. km.
The Amirantes Trench lies just offshore, and its depth of more than 3 miles has caught many sailors unaware. Several exposed shipwrecks dot the horizon from where stood on the beach.
I went ashore with the first group so I would have time to explore a bit before heading back for scuba diving. The beaches were pristine, with more shells and crustaceans (crabs!) than I have ever seen. You had to really watch where you stepped so as not to squash some poor crabs into oblivion.
It was fun at watch as some of these creatures fought for shells. One of the group actually saw one crab pull another from his shell so he could have the othersâ€™ larger shell. Hmmmâ€¦sounds almost human.
I intended to circumnavigate the atoll, but after walking about halfway around, I ran into a couple of large lagoons that had to be crossed to get back to our landing site, and time was ticking away; the distance was farther than we had been told.
With little time to spare I high-tailed it back the same way I had come, and made it to the ship just as they announced â€œgear-upâ€ time. I found out some time later that the rough sand that had slipped in between my sandals and skin had abraded a few nice patches of skin that would cause considerable stinging as time went on.
Our dives this day were impressive for the sheer number of fish. Lots of fish! Schools everywhere it seemed. Parrotfish of several species, damsels, tangs, fusiliers, wrasses, clownfish, barracudas, moray eels, goatfish, Moorish idols, stingrays in the sand, the list is nearly endless.
Also evident were small to medium sized gorgonians, now reestablishing themselves after the die-off of a few years ago.
Late in the day we returned to the atoll by zodiac to enjoy drinks, casual conversation, and camaraderie on the beach as the sun set.