From Tahiti to Fakarava, Polynesia is my beloved

Sanctuary at Teahupoo, Tahiti

Teahupoo, Moorea, Tahaa, Fakarava, Huahine… all these magical names point to places where the gods throw dice. So, of course, the Polynesian destination is expensive, but there is no risk of disappointment on arrival. Started at Teahupoo in Tahiti. An end of the world. The coastal road reaches a dead end at PK18, a lost corner protected by burning green tropical walls and ragged blue lagoons. Some pensions are located far away, only accessible by boat or on foot. Here we are about 60 kilometers from Papeete, on the peninsula, which was completely unknown twenty years ago, before the hours of world surfing made it famous, thanks to a terrible wave, which could reach 10 meters .

In the past, Tahiti’s great leaders came to face it and compete bravely. The site hosts every summer in August, Tahiti Pro, one of the premier events of the world surfing championship, and will also host the Olympic Games in 2024. Teahupoo’s super “jaw” is awesome: “Wide thick, fierce, its lip crashes a few ten centimeters from the coral reef and the slightest mistake can be fatal”, said Jean-Bernard Carillet, author and destination specialist.

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Professional surfer Justine Dupont surfs at Teahupoo beach, French Polynesia on August 13, 2021 (Photo by Tim McKenna / AFP)

Last year, young tricolor prodigy Kauli Vaast, who was literally crushed on the reef by a wall of water, had a wetsuit littered with debris … The best way to explore the area is to take a boat ride in the lagoon along Fenua Aihere, to sail south to the cliffs of Te Pari, then to reach the bay of Faaroa, the cave of the “Devil’s Way” and to reach the paradise motu Fenua Ino. A treasure. And for those who have discovered Polynesia, “motu” is an island of coral sand.

Where do we sleep? At Vanira Lodge, 2 km from the famous surf spot, there are nine cabins all dressed in pandan leaves. Delicious food prepared by Manu and Yasmina. Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom (or mezzanine) and a lounge area that can be a bed (up to 4 people). From € 160 per night for 2 people. vaniralodge.com

Moorea, blue eyes

On the boat crossing from Papeete, strong people with tattoos began singing love songs on the ukulele, a tiare flower behind their ear. Polynesia is obligatory. Here, in the harbor of Moorea, the beauty of the scenery is almost unbearable. A state of rocky peaks covered with lush vegetation, an anthology lagoon, the world’s first morning fountains, a tormented relief and these two large and deep bays, the Cook and Opunohu, which is one of the most photogenic in the Pacific.

Moorea (Photo Dorane Vignando)
Moorea (Photo Dorane Vignando)

Moorea, a half-hour sail from Papeete, suffered little because of its proximity to the Great Island, but it continued on its own course. You must first discover it from the inside, explore its pineapple fields, its cliffs invaded by wings, the small villages of houses in pastel tones … The walk of the two and half an hour will take you to Cook Bay from the port of Vaiare and enjoy the mountain views of Mouaputa and Tearai. The rest is a kayak ride to cycle around the motus of Tiahura and Irioa at Pointe Hauru. In July, the humpback whale ballet begins.

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Where do we sleep? At Linareva Moorea Beach Resort, a simple and cool pension, run by David and Vanessa, a very hospitable couple. The pontoon leads to a beautiful drop off with rays, turtles, sharks… 32 m2 bungalows with kitchen for 2 people. From € 120 per night. Loan for bicycles and kayaks. www.linareva.com

Tahaa is sweet

They moved their hips, their breasts hidden by their long black hair. Under the starry sky, the women put on their show, by torch, to the delight of visitors to Taha’a at Pearl Resorts. A magazine hotel with its coral garden, its traditional pitched roofs, its spa, its beautiful reception in the form of a canoe shed. And his fare on stilts that allow you to jump from the bed into the lagoon. There, already, dozens of blacktip sharks were circling, while two stingrays came lazily dancing at the foot of the strollers.

Taha'a at Pearl Resorts, on the island of Tahaa
Taha’a at Pearl Resorts, on the island of Tahaa

The color of the water is so clear that the most microscopic fish can be identified. Tahaa is famous for its vanilla plantations (80% of the island’s production) and retains its authentic and agricultural features, away from the amenities of neighboring Bora-Bora. Just separated from Raiatea by a 5 kilometer lagoon, Tahaa can only be reached by boat. From Vaitoare, the port of Tahaa, the road serves the wild bay of Apu, where sailboats often call. Stop by Champon’s pearl farm to learn all the secrets to a successful transplant, before eating half a lobster or a lemon crab at Chez Louise.

Where do we sleep? At Pearl Resorts. Located on motu, this Relais & Châteaux hotel offers postcard suites and villas. From € 435 per person, breakfast included. A 25% discount is offered if the stay is combined with one night at another hotel in the same archipelago group (in Papeete, Bora or Tikehau). letahaa.com

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The Huahine spell

From the sea, its mountain silhouette is reminiscent of the tall figure of a pregnant woman. Huahine covered Polynesia in the past. Wild and rebellious, it rejects the anarchy and stereotype of tourist growth. And that’s good. Here, there are boarding houses and family hotels, and we develop our diversity by running. With its coral block fish traps, the Fauna Nui lake channel, bordered by the coconut palms of Motu Papiti, is an endless river on land.

Archaeological site of Huahine (Photo by Manuel Cohen / Manuel Cohen / Manuel Cohen via AFP)
Archaeological site of Huahine (Photo by Manuel Cohen / Manuel Cohen / Manuel Cohen via AFP)

The winding coast to the south allows for beautiful discoveries by bicycle between forests and archaeological sites, including marae, these ancient tombs of the first Polynesian navigator, sacred cult sanctuaries of Maori. The island has eight small villages that can be explored in a day. Don’t forget the observation of the famous sacred blue-eyed eels and the visit to the pearl farm (built in the middle of the lagoon) run by the son of Peter Owen, a Californian known for his pottery.

Where do we sleep? At Tupuna’s Pension, located in the wild setting of Bourayne bay, are 4 small bungalows with very simple bamboo and wood decoration. From € 79 per night, breakfast is included. www.pensiontupuna.com

Fakarava, a giant aquarium

A female group surrounded by fighting men is seen in a milky cloud in the middle of the sea. This strange ballet takes place every summer in July during the spawning season, when the full moon shines in the waters of the atoll. A moment set by Laurent Ballesta in a snapshot that got him the first Frenchman to win, in 2021, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year grand prize, the grail of wildlife photography.

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iho on Fakarava Island
iho on Fakarava Island

And taken by “Faka”, is known to divers from all over the world. On this Tuamotu island, coral beds are full of life like barren soil (except for its coconut palms, whose cold extracted oil produces 100% artisanal monoï). Just over 1,500 souls share this necklace of sand and coral. Classified as a biosphere reserve by Unesco due to the richness of its ecosystem, this small flat land is inhabited by the rhythm of fishing, coconut work, religious services and the arrival of planes and cargo ships for supplies. . If the majority of the population is in the north, the beauty of the marine fauna can be seen in the south, between the village of Tetamanu and the area with pink sand. Manta rays, dolphins, tunas, barracudas and a unique concentration of sharks await you in packages, at drop-offs as well as in atolls surrounded by small dream beaches in shades varying from white. up to pink.

Where do we sleep? At Relais Marama. On a spacious floral property, Jacques Sauvage offers 8 bungalows from € 67 per night per adult (€ 34 per child), transfer, breakfast and bicycle rental. relay-marama.com

And also at the Havaiki Pearl Lodge pension. Bungalows on a beautiful beach with sleeper sharks tickling your feet. From € 209 per night for 2 people on half board. o2fakarava.com

Animal photography, witness a fauna in borrowed time

Practical Guide

Go. Air Tahiti Nui offers 4 to 7 week flights between Paris and Papeete via Los Angeles from € 1,181 round trip. Selected the South Pacific’s best airline by “Global Traveler” magazine in 2021, Air Tahiti Nui also received a passenger award for the quality of its seats. It’s good to know when to fly 22 hours… The company also offers passengers this option to voluntarily recoup their carbon emissions using various reforestation projects. airtahitinui.com and airtahitinui.carbon.click

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Domestic flights. Get an Air Tahiti pass for inter-island flights. From € 329 round trip for 3-island pass. airtahiti.com

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-VISITOR CENTER: tahititourisme.fr

-In reading. “Guide Polynésie 2022” published by Rêve Access and “Tahiti and French Polynesia”, Lonely Planet.

5 train travel, many possibilities

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