San Diego to Port Angeles
the South Pacific and return

Neil and Marsha Robin
April 2015
Revised: Nov. 29, 2016


Clearly, I've got a soft spot for the South Pacific.  Over the years, I've made several trips to Tahiti and surrounding islands and got as far as the Cook Islands and Marsha joined me on a previous trip starting in Sydney but missed the Society Islands and the "off the beaten path" locations such as Fanning and Marquesas.  In looking into future cruises, we noticed that Holland America (HA) was planning a trip from San Diego to Hawaii, Tahiti and several out of the way spots that represent the true South Pacific as legend would have it. It returned to San Diego but continued on to Port Angeles (PA) and Seattle.  Port Angeles dock is about 4 miles from our home so we arranged to disembark there.  The ship was the MS Statendam which was being sold to an Austrailian operator and was on its next to the last voyage under the HA brand.  The map is in error as it shows going to Victoria rather than Port Angeles.  This was a change made by HA before sailing and made the difference for us as we could get off near our front doorstep. Couldn't pass up this opportunity.

Two of the video's are direct xxx.mp4 type and will require a resident mp4 player.  Most modern OS's have them built in.

Three important events made this trip memorable:

-Swimming with the sharks on Bora Bora
-Dealing with a 'near' medical emergency
-Introducing Marsha to the Society Islands


Everytime we travel to the South Pacific we always seem to stop in the Hawaiian Islands.  This time we had fewer stops but got a chance to see one of Marsha's old friends.

Marsha's friend, Susan meeting in Lahaina, Maui
Tender dock, Lahaina
Local Hawaiian guide

Wood Carver
Famous Banyan Tree, Lahaina

Bannana Tree

Neil at Ala Moana shopping center
Breadfruit Tree

Fanning Island

Located about halfway between Hawaii and the Society Islands is a primitive outpost that HA often stops for passengers to experience the "story book" South Pacific even though it's really still north of the equator.  This was my second stop here but Marsha's first.  Its part of the Kiribati Nation and has a population of at least several hundred.  Many leave to find jobs in more developed areas. The citizens have limited development, no running water, some electricity for an hour or two in the evening depending if you live near the generator.  Communications is by radio.  They sustain living with considerable help from the outside as our ship brought goods for them.

Kiribati welcome
Riding LeTruck
School children

Riding LeTruck
Inside atoll

Fanning Island Video

Society Islands & Tuamotu's

The Society Islands and the Tuamotu's are a vast collection of small islands in the South Pacific.  The human population is concentrated in Tahiti with about 200,000. On the other end of the scale, many islands in the Tuamotu's are uninhabited.

First stop; Bora Bora--swimming with the sharks

Our shark swimming adventure was a planned highlight of our trip and we were really looking forward to it..  We never got to see good size sharks while SCUBA diving in our earlier years so I wanted to experience that before they bury me!  I heard about a number of ways we could swim with sharks in Bora Bora.  In fact, that turns out to be a famous and popular activity.  We got to snorkel in an underwater fenced area of many acres near the natural flow of the critters in the Motu Tape region.  The area consists of captive black tip, lemon and nurse sharks.  They even feed them while swimmers are in the water but at a safe distance.  The attached video, "simple swim with the sharks" shows the experience the best.  Click on the title below and try to watch in full screen mode.

Swimming with the Sharks video

Shark pens with Mt. Otemanu in background

Marsha with a local dark beer; just after the sharks!

Eastern Bora Bora, Motu Tape
Eastern Bora Bora
Bora Bora

Approaching Bora Bora from Raiatea
Motu Tupe picnic area


The big city of the South Pacific, Papeete is the hub of activity in this region of the world but does retain much of the beauty. Most nature lovers do want to get out of town as quickly as possible.

Near Visitor Center, Papeete
Dockside "greaters"

Boardwalk at Cruise Ship Terminal
Shopping Center
Boulevard de La Reine Pomare

Video: Sounds and Dance of Papeete

On to the Marquesas and my medical problems

As we left Tahiti we proceeded to Rangiroa, the Marquesas and home via San Diego.  I didn't take many photos or videos of this leg of the trip because I was feeling sick with low energy.  I couldn't climb the stairs any longer on the ship nor take my daily walk on the Promenade deck to get exercise.  Finally, I went to see the ships doctor and he treated me for possible infection first then noticed some edema in my legs. The feeling was that I was not sick enough to be removed from the ship nor contagious.  If I could hold out for San Diego and maybe even Port Angeles it might be less stress, overall.  We were traveling in some of the most isolated parts of the Pacific and treating medical conditions was very expensive.  He put me on Oxygen while in my cabin and sleeping to help.  I made it all the way to PA but had to go down the gangplank in a wheelchair.  The next day Marsha took me to the ER at our local hospital and they admitted me for a 6 day stay.  They wanted to do a number of tests

To summarize. they found that I had Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and COPD along with my known Diabetes and AFib.  Several tests followed to confirm plus an additional stay in the hospital after I couldn't breath laying down due to edema in the lungs.  These were all classic signs of CHF.  My injection fraction was 50% which is reasonable.

They also requested a nuclear medicine test using a radioactive tracer, Technetium-99m.  I worked around nuclear testing in my career so was familiar with radiation and potential harmful effects.  What I didn't think about was that I'd be highly radioactive for about 24 hours.  After the test, I went home and thought I'd try to see if my Geiger Counter(GM) could detect any radiation?  Wow!  I saturated the meter while holding it out in front of me at arms length.  When peeing in the toilet, I even made it radioactive. In the hospital, they used a gamma camera which provides a rough picture in two dimensions of the heart.  Everything looked OK and no other damage was noted.  Technetium 99m has a half life of only 6 hours so the radiation level dropped fast and I could see that the tracer was concentrated in my heart when I got home and localized with the GM counter. It binds to the blood.  Yes, I was exposed to a high dose of gamma rays but it was best that I find out if any other issues need to be addressed?  At 75 years old, it seems like a reasonable risk since I don't have that many years left.

I've been under excellent medical care and the doctors are very happy with me adapting to a better lifestyle, improved food selection and going to the gym every other day.  I'm greatly improved and will continue to travel as long as I can.

We all will perish, we just don't know how soon?  Anything to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible is the bottom line.