French Polynesia can be separated into 5 different archipelagos: The Society Island, The Australs, The Tuamotus, The Gambiers Archipelago and The Marquesas. Every Archipelago is known for different highlights. We choose the Society Islands and Tuamotus. This way we got a feeling for the various islands of the Society Islands and spend some time on the atolls of the Tuamotus for diving and great snorkeling.
The Society Islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean and the most developed ones in French Polynesia. Tahiti is the biggest island of the group with around 120.000 inhabitants (total population fo French Polynesia is about 227.000). The islands are well known for fabulous resorts, sandy white beaches and turquoise lagoons. But most of the islands also have highlands, therefore you can go for a hike if you are bored of water activities and want to see something different.
For anyone who wants to leave the crowds behind, loves turquoise water and small lagoons this archipelago is the place to be. The islands are very remote with a lot of coconut palms and few trees other trees. Modern convenience, fruits and vegetables are rare. Instead you will find a lot of fish, smiling people, silent early nights and gorgeous lagoons. The Tuamotus are a chain of islands and atolls (the largest chain of atolls in the world). They have around the size of Western Europe but with only a population of about 16.000.
Last but not least Fakarava was scheduled. When we arrived our welcome committee - Charlot and Florian - were already awaiting us. We met them a few days ago we on Tikehau. Going for a 9km bike ride to see the lagoons in the north without seeing anyone is normal on Fakarava. The way was gesäumt by palm trees. Unfortunately the snorkeling at the northern tip of the Motu wasn’t as nice as expected (bad visibility) but the beach totally made up for it.
Last day we got entertained by huge nurse sharks, black tips and sting rays eating fish directly on the shore next to Relais Marama (our lodge). While snorkeling Niels (my beloved boyfriend) wanted to kill me. Standing in the water with a perfect sight of what was going on he directed me straight to one of the huge nurse sharks. Thus the shark and I met eye in eye only 30 centimeters apart in the shallow water (I could see all of his teeth). Luckily the shark seem to be even more scared of me than I was of him: he immediately turned and swam of to the open water.
It is the biggest atoll in the Tuamotus and the second biggest in the world. The atoll’s coral belt consists of hundreds of small island no more than 300m wide but they stretch along a circuit for more than 200km. In total the atoll measures 75 km from east to west and 25 km from north to south.
Rangiroa is famous for its great diving especially sharks and dolphins are a big attraction. Eva dived one morning in the Tiputa pass where it is almost certain to see sharks and dolphins who frequently come to the divers and play around them. But she wasn´t lucky. She had a nice dive with sharks and many other fish but the dolphins kept distance and she could barely see them.
A typical scene in French Polynesia: A fishermen chopped freshly caught Mahi-Mahi. Even for us (newbie fish eaters) it looked fantastic. We couldn’t resist and bought 1 kg without an idea how to cook it. The wife of the fishermen gave us her favorite recipe. The outcome were 3 great meals of Mahi Mahi marinated in lemon and cooked with self made coconut milk.
One afternoon we took the bikes and went from one side of the Motu to the other side which takes about 45 mins (8km) to see the dolphins jumping in the waves. The rest of the time we relaxed a lot, improved our skills in open coconuts and learned how to make coconut milk.
Niels is improving his coconut opening skills
Most probably Tikehau is the most remote island we stayed on. There are only 600 people living on the atoll and shops are only filled up once a week when the cargo ship arrives. A discovery trip around the main Motu took us only 1 ½ hrs by bike (12 km). Besides the bikes we took one of the kayaks for a 3 hrs excursion. Once more the surrounding beaches and motus seemed to be drawn.
Chez Justine is a very nice pension. At first its owner Laroche seemed not to be very chatty but after he made Niels eat fish (!), he invited us several times for lunch and dinner (Lobster, our favorite fish Mahi-Mahi and Tuna). He was the one educating us about Adam and Eve – the German TV-show… It was recorded on one of his Motus!
Bora Bora is one of the worlds most famous destinations. Especially, for honeymooners in luxury resorts and their over-water bungalows. Putting it in other words: its not a typical destination for backpackers. However, if you look around there are smaller family pensions also offering good deals. We got told that the island is overpriced and overdeveloped hence we just booked two nights, which turned out to be a very good decision.
The main activities on Bora Bora are in- and around the lagoon because it’s a huge turquoise swimming pool with a large variety of fish and colorful corals. The best way to experience the lagoon and the idyllic motus is by boat. The tour took us around the whole island and its lagoon including great snorkeling spots, swimming with black-tip sharks, rays (they came close, even touching us - a very slimy feeling) and an awesome Motu barbeque.
Getting started for the lagoon excursion
One of the numberless luxury over-water bungalow resorts. Unless you spend more than 5.000 US$ (!!!) a night, your neighbour will be able to see and hear you on your balcony. I'd expect more for at least 1.200 US$ a night 😉
We found paradise - Mo’orea already seemed like it but Motu Mahare is just over the top.
For the first two nights on Huahine we stayed at Tifaifai et Café. Flora (the manager) offered us to stay the next two nights on a small private Motu (island). To be honest we were curious because Tifaifai et Cafe was an amazing place, thus it was hard to believe that it could get any better. But Flora convinced us. As soon as we went on the boat to our new home we knew it was the right decision. What awaited us is hard to put into words. A tranquil place with only two lovely wooden bungalows. They’re surrounded by huge coconut trees and many colorful flowers. Only the manager (Tamatoa), his wife and their son live on the Motu. It is surrounded by a gorgeous lagoon with crystal-clear turquoise water and white-sandy beaches. We felt like Robinson Cruseo on our beautiful lonely island. Tamatoa picked fresh coconuts everyday, his wife made delicious cakes, we went for some great snorkeling, kayaking and spend quite a bit of time in one of the hammocks. Life can be good 😉
First sight of Tifaifai Motu Mahare
Our new pets:lots of lizards (finding easy food in the shining lamp)
Eva´s favorite place for writing the blog
Stranded Surfers on OUR private beach...
A traditional farewell gift: beautiful flower´s and necklaces made by Tamatoas wife. Eva grinned like a Cheshire cat
Eva with Tamatoa and his lovely family
The prototype of a friendly rocker (full body tattoo and long hair) picked us up at the airport – Raphael. Finally, we arrived in the French Polynesia we had in mind: Palm trees loaded with coconuts, crystal clear turquoise water, small houses and a relaxed atmosphere. The big waterfront bungalow welcomed us with a fully equipped open kitchen, living room and a huge terrace. In the morning Raphael’s made croissants accompanied with his home made guava - star fruit marmalade. With Raphael’s scooter we explored the island and discovered a supermarket with typical French baguette. Besides the beautiful beaches with its crystal-clear water the island offers beautiful hikes and viewpoints.
The last day we booked a great kayaking trip with Patrice and Isabelle. Tours through Madagascar, the Philippines, Alaska and many other countries make them the exceptional kayak guides. Somehow they managed to navigate us next to groups of dolphins while Eva and I were fighting against strong winds and rain – yes it was raining! After we left the lagoon to the open sea, the rain stopped. Lunch was prepared at a friends place with a beautiful view over the lagoon. It included a delicious dessert and an aperitif made out of rum, brown sugar, lime and a lot of original Huahine vanilla. As most things end too fast the day ended quick and Patrice had to drop us off at the airport in the late afternoon.
Best breakfast with Raphael's home made croissants
Fully loaded trunk after a great shopping experience including French baguette
Patrice and Isabelle (click here: Kayak Nomad Polynesia)
Busy workers on the airport – playing boules on the airfield #goodlife
Arriving in paradise was different than expected. Eline and Julian (our AirBnb hosts) welcomed us with a flower necklace late in the night. But while driving to their place (about 20 minutes) we constantly passed by big houses and shops instead of a few small bamboo-huts. They live in a nice apartment with a waterfront terrace including a beautiful view of the neighboring island Mo’orea. Unfortunately there was a lot of planning to do, so we spent the first day organizing the next 3 weeks in French Polynesia on their terrace. Eline supported us with an unbelievable energy all the time.Only stopping for a longer time to go to the country´s famous roulottes in the city of Pape’ete. Literally, it’s an area with mobile caravan-stalls, where you can eat everything from Polynesian to Chinese and French cuisine. When we came home the planning kept us awake until we gave up 2 am in the night. Trying all the unlimited possible combinations of flights to the different islands made it an impossible task to finish.
The next morning the solution to our problem was the Air Tahiti travel agency. The lady did the fight planning in less than 15 minutes and managed to squeeze all wanted Islands in the schedule ( Tahiti - More’ea – Huahine - Bora Bora – Tikehau – Rangiroa - Fakarava). After this success a great shopping experience awaited us in the huge supermarket (Carrefour) where we found everything we dreamed off for the last 4 month e.g. different types of salami, cheese, vegetables etc.. The same day Eline supported us finding the accommodations on the islands also and by the end of the day everything was arranged for the next three weeks (thank you again:).