Crystal was up and about early, going to the gym to do some weights. One of the advantages of going a single place on holiday is that you can bring some stuff you wouldn't bring if you had to unpack and repack it multiple times and drag it all over the place. After Justin got up, he did a little bit of work - gasp! - but it didn't take too long and he wrapped up around 6:45, right when Crystal was getting back to the room. We went to go get breakfast at Le Grille, but found out that they don't open for breakfast until 7:00, so we went to get a pre-breakfast breakfast at Le Palette, where they had coffee and some snacks (fruit, bread, etc.). There were about 20-25 people in there, so it made us wonder why they don't open the "official" breakfast any earlier, particularly when the tenders start leaving around 8:00 or 8:30.

Speaking of first tenders, that turned out to be a bit of an issue. We finished breakfast, were antsy since we wanted to get off the boat and were excited about diving in Fakarava, so we went down to the 3rd floor, where the tenders leave from. We started a line for the tenders at 8:00, even though the first one wasn't slated to leave until 8:30. This was totally unnecessary, as once we got on the tender we realized it could hold 75-100 people if need be. The zodiacs we took in the Galapagos and Antarctica could hold about 8-10 people, but then again those ships held only 48 passengers. We left a little after 8:30 on the first tender, and were antsy because we were supposed to meet the people from Top Dive at 8:15. The ride to the shore was only about 5 minutes. At the shore, there were guys playing drums, women dancing, and some people selling trinkets. There were also some people set up to take people on tours, rent bikes, and so on. There were not, however, any representatives from Top Dive. We looked around, confused, for about a minute before someone asked us if we needed help, and told us that the Top Dive vehicle had just left, but would be right back.

Except no one came right back. We meandered around a bit for 10-15 minutes, noticing a couple brindle dogs (one colored like Cabo and one colored like Roxy), waiting patiently and then waiting impatiently for Top Dive, when a helpful lady (whose name we sadly never caught) told us that they had left and wouldn't be coming back, since they had other passengers for the dive and couldn't wait on us any longer. She offered, however, to have someone drive us to the Top Dive office so that we could figure out how to rectify things. About a minute into the drive, we came across a Top Dive vehicle, so we hopped into that vehicle. The driver, Mana, told us that they had waited past 8:15, but couldn't wait any longer and left the pier at 8:30, right as we were leaving the cruise ship for shore. It was a quick drive to the office, and at the office we explained to Irene that we couldn't have left the cruise ship any earlier, since the first tender didn't leave until 8:30. She understood, but said they couldn't hold up the other folks. She asked if she could put us on the afternoon dive, but unfortunately that got back after we were due back on the cruise ship. We were running out of ideas, and worried we were going to miss out completely, when she got on the CB and spoke for about 30 seconds. When she finished, she told us that she'd worked it out with the dive boat captain that they'd come grab us from the airport pier between the first and second morning dives, so we could do the second morning dive. She also told us that if we knew what we were doing, we could do the first of the afternoon dives - a technical drift dive - and then they'd drop us off back at the airport pier between the first and second afternoon dives, so that we could get back on the cruise ship before 4:30.

We thanked her profusely, and then Mana started getting us fitted for our gear and told us about the afternoon drift dive in the Garuae Pass. The huge lagoon in Fakarava has two entries and exits to the open ocean, one in the north and one in the south. Garuae is the one in the north, and at 1600 meters (1 mile) across, is the second largest pass in the world. With changes in the tides, the ocean level and the lagoon level change relative to one another. When the lagoon is higher than the ocean, water rushes out of the lagoon into the ocean - an outgoing current. When the ocean is higher, water rushes in - an incoming current. Apparently the outgoing is dangerous because not only does it drag you out to the open ocean, it also drags you down into deeper ocean. This afternoon, though, the current was going to be incoming, and that dive is well-known in the diving community. [It was unknown to us, we just knew that Fakarava had good diving.] Mana told us the key to the dive was staying as close to the ocean bottom as possible, so that the current would be less likely to drag you off. The pass has dozens of canyons side-by-side, with each canyon having peaks and valleys going from north to south. Going over a peak and descending into a valley especially requires staying close to the surface, as at peak the current is in full force as the water level is shallower.

After Mana gave us the explanation and got our gear ready, we drove out to the airport pier and waited for the boat. When it was apparent the boat was running a bit late (because they had waited the extra time for us before leaving), Mana told us it was okay to hop in the water to some snorkeling around the pier. We jumped in, and it was substantially colder than we were expecting. From the cruise ship captain's comments the day before, we were expecting water temperature in the mid 80s (like we had in Palau), but instead it was a "brisk" 80 degrees - almost Arctic. In the water there was 4 foot reef shark just on the edge of the coral, but mostly out in the blue. There were several long narrow trumpet fish - they almost looked like javelins. When Mana saw the boat coming, he told us to hop out of the water and get ready. Mana introduced us to our divemaster, Marcel, and we were on our way in about 60 seconds from when the boat got to the pier.

The boat ride out to the reef wasn't too long, and when we got there the divers from the first dive still hadn't had the requisite time between dives, so we just hung out by an idyllic beach at the eastern edge of the pass. We hopped in and did some snorkeling, and this was a bit warmer, since we had our wetsuits this time. The dive itself was nice. We dropped down near the edge of the pass, on the Ohotu Reef, and went along a coral wall, with the wall on our right. There were a decent amount of fish, and at one point a group of gray reef sharks went by. The coral was nice, but not especially colorful. The plan was to turn around and come back the way we'd come, but the current was against us and it was starting to pick up and had switched from outgoing to incoming. Justin had a hard time staying right at the bottom, even with his BCD deflated, and so he was having a hell of a time trying to keep up with the rest of the group. Marcel realized we were all exerting a lot of energy trying to swim against the current, so instead we just let the current sweep us into the lagoon and up towards the surface. This was pretty fun, and certainly much easier.

We came back to the office for lunch, going past the airport and then the cruise ship in the process. There wasn't much of a break between when we got there and when we were supposed to head out for the afternoon dive, so Irene suggested that we go across the street to get some sandwiches. Whilst waiting for the sandwiches, we looked around, and there were two more brindle dogs, including one that looked like a German Shephard except for the coloration. We can only surmise that on this tiny island, the genetic diversity of the dogs isn't much, and brindle is far more common than normal. Back to the sandwiches, they were on some gigantic french baguettes, at least a foot long, so we didn't come close to finishing them. For both it was roughly $7. Whilst the morning dive was all Italians (besides us), the afternoon dive was all French. The divemasters were different, and they were explaining everything in French, then asking us if we understood (no), then giving us 1/10 of the explanation in English. Thankfully we'd gotten the explanation from Mana earlier in the morning. The main takeaway was to stay as close to the divemaster, and as close to the bottom, as possible. This meant the initial descent had to be as quick as possible, while remaining safe.

So we descended to about 5 meters almost instantaneously, equalized, and then dropped down to just shy of 30 meters (100 feet) in short order. It was pretty trippy, as when we got in the water it was just turquoise in every direction, and no point of reference. At about 10 or 15 meters down we could make out coral and fish at the bottom, and at the bottom there were quite a few fish. Just as planned, we went up and over a couple of hills and valleys. Finally we got into Ali Baba canyon, which is the highlight of the area. It was completely full of fish, like a pet store aquarium level density, but on a grand scale. There were giant schools of all different kinds as well, which was a bit different from Palau where there wasn't quite as much diversity in terms of schools. There were also a substantial amount of sharks, including Gray, Black Tip and White Tip Reef Sharks. Hanging out in Ali Baba was awesome, and it would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we'd all used a lot of energy getting there and didn't have a ton of air left. Marcel had recommended that Justin have extra weight so that he could stay at the bottom easier, and it served that purpose, but it also meant he had to swim harder to get anywhere, so he ran through his air faster. Our afternoon divemaster, Sebastian, indicated to Justin in Ali Baba Canyon that on the ascent, whilst making the safety stop, Justin should use Sebastian's secondary regulator.

The ascent was quite long, as somebody - maybe Sebastian? - had to make a decompression stop. But since everyone besides Justin had sufficient air, and Justin was sharing Sebastian's air, this wasn't much of an issue. The whole time we were drifting at about 10 knots, so when we finally ascended to the surface, we were quite a ways from the pass. Back on the dive boat, Mana (who was captaining the dive boat in the afternoon) took us back to the airport pier. At the pier, Irene picked us (and two others) up, and drove us back to the main pier, where we arrived just before the 3:30 tender. We thanked Irene profusely once more for making special arrangements for us and making the best of a bad situation.

Back on board, Crystal got cleaned up and rinsed our gear. Justin went down to reception and tried to figure out what had happened with the first tender, as we thought it was due to leave at 8:00, not 8:30, and Top Dive had told us that they'd reconfirmed 8:00 the day before. Also, we'd been given a sheet when we first booked the cruise that had the arrival and departure times for each island, and Fakarava said 8:00, not 8:30. The ship's explanation, while polite, was totally unhelpful. They explained that "arrival" meant arrival at the island, not the time of the first tender. This, of course, was BS, since we'd arrived at Fakarava at 5pm the previous day. As Justin explained to them, it's literally impossible to make arrangements ahead of time with the operators on the various islands if you can't tell the operators what time to pick you up (since you don't know the time of the first tender, and the "arrival" time is not correct). The ship said we should talk to the travel concierge and have them contact the various operators. After Justin got cleaned up, we went down and did exactly that. They made a copy of the document we'd put together that had a summary of our various excursions, and told us they'd speak with the operators a day or two before we were due at the respective island. We sincerely thanked them for agreeing to do this.

At 6:00pm there was a "block party" in each hallway, with the guests coming out of their rooms to meet and greet the others in the hallway. We met Todd and Linda from Houston, who were in their 40s, a British couple (Yvonne was the lady, we can't remember the guy's name), and a couple of other couples. We hung out for about 45 minutes, then went our separate ways. Since we had a late dinner reservation, we went down to piano bar to hang out with Marius, and catch up on the trip log. We spoke with Ray and Efren about the Philippines. We (but particularly Crystal) are becoming minor celebrities on the ship because we know and use a couple phrases of Tagalog, plus Crystal is half-Filipino. We spoke to Ray and Efren about travel spots in the Philippines, and particularly El Nido, on the northeast tip of Palaan. At 8:00 we had dinner at Le Verandah. We shared some foie gras, Crystal had mahi mahi and Justin had duck l'orange. Everything was good, but the wine hit us (especially Justin) harder than usual, likely from the diving, sun, and lack of water during the day. We went to a classical music show (piano, voilin, etc.) at 9:00, but Justin kept dozing off so we just went upstairs and crashed.