I was surprised how many locals were waiting for us ashore. There were market stalls, hair braiding, massage (slightly more expensive than last stop), and quite a lot of food for sale. I headed uphill to the road, turned left, and walked to Notre-Dame de Lourde.
They say it's a 25 minute walk. I don't think it is but it certainly felt that long in jandles and in the still heat! It was a pretty walk though with the butterflies dancing through the air. I found myself wishing for a bicycle. The road ended at a small parking area.
The rest of the path to the church is an uphill climb up rough hewn steps. I was glistening in the heat by the time I go to the top. It's interesting seeing a local adaptation to the whitewashed Catholic church; as you walk up there are two carved totem poles that retain their curved tree branch shape. The carvings on them are a mix of tribal designs and Catholic motifs (like a cross bearing nunl. Apparently the church is quite lovely inside but it was locked today.
Walking back I decided to explore the side road going downhill. So glad that I did! It led to Jinek Bay; labelled by the locals as the Aquarium. There is no beach; rather there are man made stairs going down into the water and signs all along the approach instructing you not to wear sunscreen or other oils in the water and not to feed the fish. This is a natural beauty that they wiah to preserve; a difficult task with thousands of cruise passengers coming through this end of the island.
The water was gorgeously warm for swimming to cool off. I couldn't see anything though without my snorkel set so headed back to the boat for an early turkey lunch followed by returning kitted out in long gym leggings and a rash shirt. Not the sexiest swimming attire but it meant I wasn't polluting the bay or frying to a crisp.
I spent about an hour and a half snorkelling before getting chilled enough to return to shore. It was the most incredible place I've snorkelled anywhere on the trip and once more I lack the words to describe it.
The bay is protected by headlands on each side and was completely still today. No wind, no waves, no currents to worry about. The coral is everywhere and grows to mammoth proportions. The cliffs are worn slightly underneath creating overhangs and tunnels at water level. The number of different species of fish is beyond belief. I have no idea what they are. Next cruise I need to take a fish spotting guide! They are beautiful though in all their odd variety. There's one that reminds me of a one-handed sword - long and eel like with a narrow elongated sword-handle of a 'nose'. There are starfish and sea cucumbers and clams with designer fashion lips; my favourite was a neon green and black.
I swim all the way out to the end of one headland and then swim towards the middle of the bay before cautiously swimming out over even deeper waters. The clarity of the water is amazing. I'm able to swim out over the shelf to where the water suddenly drops away two or three storey below me and I can still see the fish at the bottom. The fish continue to be a range of sizes out here but I finally spot some of the larger Snapper sized fish at these depths. No sign of sea snakes or sharks but there are entire schools of fish. They range in size and the smallest look like silver glitter dancing in the water.
I go swimming later in the afternoon at the beach by the tender wharf. This is completely different: a tree-lined sandy beach with small waves from the wind and no fish to be seen (though some passengers have spotted them snorkelling at the end of the bay by the cliffs).