Tahiti is forever linked with South Pacific romance; the voyages of Captain Cook, the Mutiny of the Bounty, Paul Gauguin, aqua lagoons fringed with palm trees and Tahitian dancers, both male and female.
For the diver the islands of French Polynesia, of which Tahiti is the largest, offer a unique range of experiences. You can witness the annual feeding habits of large hammerheads at the atoll of Rangiroa, an hour’s flight from Papeete. If you arrive around January and February you might catch the mating of grey reef sharks or of eagle rays. It’s a time when hammerheads and tiger sharks cruise in from the depths to take advantage of this romantic activity to help themselves to a good meal.
Bora Bora, less than an hour’s flight from Papeete, is indeed as fabulous as the movie set it has occasionally been, and also where there’s a lagoon to explore that’s reputedly one of the most beautiful in the world. Its aqua blue and green colours are to sigh for, and a ‘must-do’ for divers because of the abundance of large marine life: manta rays, sharks, Napoleon wrasse and more.
Mo‘orea is just a ferry ride or a 10 minute flight from Papeete. Its mountains conjure the sort of magic imagined in tales of the South Seas. The wide shallow lagoon that surrounds the island frames its vertical cliffs, waterfalls tumble down, and homes are surrounded by hibiscus and birds of paradise.
Because the shallow waters around Mo‘orea lack strong currents yet have abundant marine life they are ideal for year-round snorkeling. Local guides can lead you among schools of gentle rays, and where benevolent dolphins approach to greet you.
The Mo‘orea landscape continues on beneath the sea’s surface, where canyons and chasms invite you to cruise on through. Above and below the water these islands are as captivating as the romantic stories and movies they have nurtured.
When considering your accommodation, don’t dismiss the pensions option. These are on all the islands and offer a more personal experience than is perhaps not so common at the big hotels.
Their standard of accommodation is just fine but as well you get the opportunity to meet more locals, to experience the culture and way of life of the locals close up. It can be both French yet very much Polynesian as well. In a word, you can get to go to parts of the islands that remain rooted in their local culture and also where the local restaurants serve food just as unique, and at an affordable price.
The capital Papeete and surrounds offer some great beaches and aquatic activities too, some great shopping, and many places of strong interest like the 155-year-old public market (Le Marché). It’s the beating heart of Papeete, with handcrafts from all around and open every day except public holidays. You can even buy the famous Tahitian Black Pearls there.
Around Papeete there are some exquisite restaurants to sample. And a visit to the roulette on the waterfront at Vai‘ete Square is a must.
French influence is everywhere, especially in the cuisine, but the attractions of Polynesia fusing with it give these islands a charm and the gentle whisper of yesteryear amidst the warmth of a South Seas romance.