As a bit of background information, Chagos is administered by the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). There are 2 atolls that cruising boats are allowed to visit: Salomon atoll and Peros Banhos. The military base at Diego Garcia (120 miles from our location) is strictly off limits, as are some of the other islands and atolls in the Chagos archipelago. Salomon, where we ended up spending our entire 3 weeks, is smaller, and more protected. Peros Banhos, about 20 miles further west, is large, about 14 miles in diameter, and as a result, less protected. Moby did visit Peros Banhos when they left Salomon, but Shuti and Cool Runnings did not, as the weather was really bad when we left. Here are two aerial pictures that Dave took when he flew the drone one day. The three boats are our "squad" as Gaby calls it, Moby on the left, closest to the island, Cool Runnings in the middle and Shuti on the right, furthest from the island.
|Above and below, our "squad" at anchor in Salomon atoll|
|This is the view we woke up to each morning. It is the pass between the two islands that you can see in the drone shot above.|
|The 3 boats at anchor: Cool Runnings, Shuti and Moby|
|Cool Runnings enjoying her rest at anchor!|
Gaby took some time to let her creative juices flow. She really impressed us with the final result, a painting of the pass and the islands, and she painted another painting for David for his birthday. I will frame the two paintings when we get back!
|The artist hard at work|
|The artist with her completed artwork, and her subject behind her!|
We spent a lot of time exploring the islands and playing on the beach and in the water. There is a wreck of an 82ft catamaran, "Black Rose" on the beach, that is a constant reminder that, while it is absolutely spectacular here, it can also be very dangerous! The entire atoll is fringed with unforgiving coral, and if the wind switches, and your anchor drags, you can be on the reef in no time at all.
It was a couple of days before the BIOT patrol vessel arrived and came to check our permit. Simon, from BIOT was super nice, and very patient with answering all our questions. We had read about how difficult it was to obtain a permit, and that BIOT was difficult to deal with. We'd like to say that we had nothing but a great experience. Zoe, who issued our permit, was super helpful, friendly, and very responsive. She changed the date on our permit twice for us, and it was never an issue, and Simon was also great, very friendly and knowledgeable. He actually came back just before we left, and brought us all fresh tangerines...a very precious commodity!
|The BIOT patrol vessel visits Cool Runnings (picture courtesy of Shuti)|
|With Simon at check in|
Chagos was also a time for me to work on my bread baking skills, and Ben impressed us all with his pizza making ability. I didn't think I'd see Benjamin chopping onions any time soon, but he did, and he does!!
|Ben, at work in the pizza making department|
|Out of the oven, fresh bread!|
Of course, a lot of time was spent in the water...
|The kids out on the paddle boards|
|Ben and Gaby jumping off Moby's bows|
|Ben getting ready to paddle out to catch the big one|
|The surfing contingent waiting for a wave|
|Gaby out and about on the paddle board|
|A fishing expedition - we (that is, Dave and Ben) did catch some delicious fish! A grouper, 2 red snapper and an unknown fish.|
|Tuna swam around the boats daily. The birds joined the hunt for the small fish the tuna were chasing|
The sun didn't shine every day! In fact, we had quite a few stormy, rainy days.
|A big squall about to hit us|
|Cool Runnings, not so calm at anchor!...you better be sure you anchored correctly, or you will join the wreck on the beach!|
Coconuts became an important part of our lives...
|Dave gets a lesson from Yoav on the best way to crack a coconut|
|Gaby masters the art of coconut opening (it's definitely easier said than done!!)!|
|Coconuts on the beach|
|Our new coconut buddies|
It wasn't ALL fun and games all the time...Ben and Gaby still had to do school in the mornings, but they did graduate their respective grades while we were there!
|Ben and Gaby with their graduation certificates...Excellent students! What a classroom!!|
|Our little girl who insists that unicorns are real. No question about it!|
|Gaby became very skilled at climbing palm trees to get the coconuts|
|With the Shuti boys...Dror, Yoav, Ben, Eyal and Gaby|
|Our BIOT "courtesy" flag. I didn't realize how large it was...too large to fly as a courtesy flag, but lots of fun to play with!|
|Queen Gaby of Chagos|
|The queen knights her subjects|
|With Momi and Lilach (Shuti) and the big ol' flag!|
But by far our most favorite thing to do was have a bonfire!