5 archipelagoes, 8 main ports of call
Tahiti, the largest island throughout the country, towering over the ocean like a proud and royal Queen is appropriately crowned by a circle of majestic peaks.
The mountainous interior is adorned with deep valleys, clear streams, and high waterfalls, all bathed in green iridescence of Mother Nature’s light. The coastal lands, edged with a rugged coastline, are home to fields of tropical flowers and most of the island’s population.
Papeete, meaning the ” water basket, ” was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh waters. Now the invigorating capital city and gateway of the country, boasts world-class resorts, spas, fine dining and unique restaurants, nightclubs, vibrant markets, pearl shops, and boutiques.
Under a one hour flight from the island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora, with a lagoon resembling an artist’s palette of blues and greens, is love at first sight.Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island where the castle-like Mount Otemanu pierces the sky. Lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus, while palm-covered motu circle the illuminated lagoon like a delicate necklace. Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatchedroof villas, and fabled ambience.
Raiatea – The Sacred Island
Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven” and “sky with soft light”, was first named Havai’i after the homeland of the ancient Polynesians and is the most sacred island in the South Pacific.
This, the second largest Tahitian isle, was the center of religion and culture over 1000 years ago and still lends enchantment to ancient legends told to this day. The green-carpeted mountains include the celebrated Mt. Temehani, a sort of Polynesian Mt. Olympus.
Rangiroa, The Endless Lagoon
Rangiroa, a string of coral encircling a luminous turquoise and jade-green lagoon, is one of the world’s greatest dive destinations.
From the air, the atoll – the second largest in the world – seems to be a giant pearl necklace laid upon the water. Here is a world where 240 tiny islets, or motu, each no more than three feet in elevation, lay upon the ocean for more than 110 miles completely encircling an infinitely deep lagoon.
Surrounded by two legendary bodies of water, Moana-tea (Peaceful Ocean) and Moana-uri (Wild Ocean), the main villages of Avatoru and Tiputa offer the visitor with a unique look at the South Pacific. Along the few roads, coral churches, craft centers, local restaurants, and tiny shops provide enjoyable land-based experiences to complement the many activities in the lagoon.
Nuku Hiva, The Mysterious Island
About a three hour flight from the Society Islands and the Tuamotu Atolls, the Marquesas, or Henua Enata meaning “Land of Men”, are seemingly lost at the end of the earth.
Even now, some of the islands are virtually untouched since the era of European exploration. Their isolation has created an immense pride among the people and a fascinating culture. The language is unique to Tahiti, as the lilting Marquesan dialect is traced directly to the ancient Polynesian tongue of Maohi.
The largest island in the Marquesas is known for towering spire-like peaks; secluded, lush valleys; ancient religious sites; fjord-like bays; and waterfalls so high that most of the falling water evaporates as it descends.
Moorea, The Magical Island
A few minutes from the island of Tahiti by plane, and only thirty minutes by high-speed catamaran, Moorea soars magically out of the ocean in an explosion of green velvet – what you would imagine a South Seas island to be.
A wide, shallow lagoon surrounds the island’s vertical mountains where poetic threads of waterfalls tumble down fern-softened cliffs. Peaceful meadows flanked by pinnacles of green will fill your senses and renew your belief in the majesty of nature. Pastel-painted houses surrounded by gardens of hibiscus and birds of paradise, circle the island in a fantasy of happy, yet simple villages.
About thirty minutes by plane from the island of Tahiti, Huahine, with its lush forests, untamed landscape, and quaint villages, is one of Polynesia’s best-kept secrets.
A deep, crystal-clear lagoon surrounds the two islands while magnificent bays and white-sand beaches add drama and solitude to their virtues. Relatively unchanged by the modern world, Huahine offer a slower taste of old Polynesia.
With only eight small villages scattered across the island, the few residents welcome visitors with great kindness. Not surprisingly, this fertile world offers rich soil providing the local farmers a bountiful harvest of vanilla, melons, and bananas.
Taha’a – The Vanilla Island
Taha’a, with the rich aroma of vanilla lingering heavily in the air, offers a glimpse of the traditional, tranquil life of the Tahitians. The flower-shaped island’s simple beauty is charmed by soft mountain shapes and surrounded by tiny motu with bright sand beaches. In the fertile valleys cutting within the island, local farmers grow watermelon, vanilla, and copra.
Fakarava, Island of Dreams
Fakarava, is an untouched world where nesting birds and marine life live in harmony with the land and water.
The rich ecosystem is home to rare birds, plants, and crustaceans while the dive sites are virtually undiscovered. Life along the shores is equally unique with quaint villages, old coral churches, and welcoming people.
Even though Fakarava is the newest destination to welcome resort visitors among Tahiti, it was one of the first population centers and once served as the ancient capital of the Tuamotu region.
The lagoon, the second largest after Rangiroa, is rich with life below and above the surface and a prime example of nature at its finest.
So pure is the environment here that Fakarava has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for the preservation of rare species. This designates this atoll, and six surrounding atolls, as a recognized area where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring – promoting both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation.
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