French Polynesia travel log – Part I

Travel log of our honeymoon in French Polynesia.

Tahiti

April 5th. We arrive in Tahiti under a sultry and heavy air, gray clouds hanging in the distance. By the time we get off the airport and meet up with some old friends, the clouds have moved on and in its wake the hot sun has taken over. After a delicious breakfast of traditional Tahitian raw fish, we part, our friends going to work and us going to explore.

We decide to leave our stuffs in the guesthouse, Fare Tutehau, and hit the road to our first stop, Pirae Belvedere. The coastline drive soon turns us away from the coast and up a steep switchback dirt road. This isn’t really what we expected but thankfully, we rented a small SUV. The lush rain-forest open out onto a small building, a little place where you can have a drink and grab something to eat. We order a fresh mango-papaya juice while enjoying the gorgeous view over the city, the lagoon stretching to the horizon.

Back on the road, we head to Point Venus, a peninsula on the north coast with a beautiful black sand beach and a 47-meter high white lighthouse built in 1867. We initially wanted to chill on the beach but the burning sun makes us follow the road along the coastline. Arriving at Papenoo, the wind is strong and all you can hear is the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. A little bit further, we spot a cute little beach. No crashing waves here, only the two of us and, hidden by the palm trees, a family of four enjoying the golden hour. It’s already 5pm and the sun is slowly going down.

On our way back, we stop by the famous Teruaporea blowhole in Arahoho which is a bit disappointing : not much to be seen, except the sound of the water going inside the hole. Night is coming fast and it is now time for us to go home, knowing that we will have the last two days of our trip to enjoy the rest of the island.

Huahine

April 6th. After overnighting in Papeete, we catch a sunrise flight to Huahine. As our plane descends, we are in awe of our firsts glimpses of Huahine or “the authentic”. With its lush forests and untamed nature, surrounded by a deep crystal-clear lagoon and tucked away from the stresses that accompany more developed areas, Huahine is said to offer one of the most peaceful pace of old Polynesia.

As soon as we get off the plane, we know that we just arrived in paradise. The airport itself is not even an airport, with the luggage being handed one by one. After getting our car, we drive through the luxurious island to our pension, Pension Tupuna, located right next to the lagoon between Huahine-Nui, up north, and Huahine-Iti at the south. It’s so strange to drive on this circle road, the only one on the island, there is no other soul around. We finally arrive at the pension and Franck, the owner, greets us warmly with leis of palm leafs and other local plants. He shows us our bungalow, a beautiful wooden house with an outdoor bathroom (heaven!), stuck between palm trees and vibrant flowers, right next to the lagoon.

We drop our stuff in the bungalow and get back in the car to have lunch in the restaurant of the Mahana Hotel. We both order a Tahitian raw fish, one with coconut milk and one with vanilla. Both come in a beautiful piece of bamboo and are absolutely divine. Under the brilliant blue sky, toes in the sand, palm trees swaying, bellies full, we feel completely spoiled and utterly grateful to be here.

Alone on the beautiful beach, we decide to stay here for the afternoon, switching from the deckchairs to the lagoon, playing in the shallow waters with our new underwater camera, as children with a new toy. That evening we watch as the sun sinks into the ocean, extinguishing its orange glow in the waters off the horizon. We drive back to our bungalow, still in awe of this beautiful nature. After a delicious dinner in the restaurant of our pension, we sleep soundly, spellbound by nature.

On our second day, we decide to venture out a bit further inside the island. We start the day with a traditional Tahitian oven Chez Tara, or “Ahi’ma’a“, which I think is beautiful to see but maybe not so incredible to eat. Everything is good but a bit expensive, and there is more tourists around us than locals, in an island where tourists aren’t that numerous. The traditional Tahitian music is absolutely lovely though, making it an enjoyable lunch beside the turquoise lagoon.

The sun is high in the sky as we hit the road again. Our first stop is La Maison du Paréo, a beautiful shop where you can see Miri, the owner, painting on the stretched fabrics the emblematic Tiare Tahiti. I can’t resist longer and eventually buy a pink pareo with three beautiful tiare. Miri teaches me a few different ways to wear the pareo, not only at the beach but also at home or in the city. We also buy a monoï with lemongrass (against mosquito bites) and Tamanu oil, a local lemon-looking nut that works like an after-sun and an after-bite oil (which we certainly will use a lot here!).

Our next stop is the Belvedere which offers a beautiful view on the inner lagoon, before arriving at Faie, where can be seen the sacred blue-eyed eels. The spot is easier to find than expected as a sign on the left side of the road says “Sacred blue-eyed eels”. We stop the car and start looking for them. Some kids living here keep saying “here ! here !” and as we follow them, we finally glimpse a huge eel slowly moving on the rocks in the river, half-hidden by a concrete wall. Her skin is the same color of the rock and make her even harder to see. But our eyes get eventually used to this and it’s not one, neither two or three eels but a dozen of massive eels that we spot, with their big crystal-clear blue eyes. The children invite us to go down in the river so we can see their beautiful blue eyes perfectly and have a better sense of why they are called “sacred eels”.

Our last stop is the archeological site Maeva, offering a beautiful glimpse into the fascinating history of Polynesia. Unfortunately, the labels introducing the History of the whole Polynesia are unreadable but we are still impressed by the ruins and the spiritual and peaceful atmosphere. On the road, the sun slowly setting down on the lagoon offers us a magnificent scene. Filled with gratitude, we head up to the main town to eat a delicious (and copious) dinner in a roulotte called “Ou k’on est bien” (which means something like “oh it’s so good to be there” in French!). And we couldn’t agree more!

The next day we decide to venture a bit further. We return the rental car and after grabbing our sandwich made by the pension chef, we borrow the kayaks with masks and scubas and off to the sea we go ! Heading south, we reach the secret coral garden located in the eastern tip of the motu Vaiorea after an hour kayaking. As we get closer to its rocky shores, the deep blue indigo water gradually changes to a blindingly vibrant aqua. We pass small coral heads and groups of colorful fishes, the crystalline ocean giving us a clear view into the underwater world. After reaching land, mask in hand, we dive off the side into this picture perfect world. Although I know others have come here before us, there is not another person for miles. It feels like we have teleported out of the real world into a forgotten paradise. We lazily swim in the shallow lagoon waters, absolutely amazed by nature, until the sounds of our bellies call us back to the rocks. After eating, we enjoy a bit more this serene place for a few hours until a family of four in a little boat arrives, meaning it’s time for us to leave this paradise.

We are now heading to the beach just in front of us. This beautiful white-sand beach was once part of the Hana’Iti Hotel, a luxurious hotel with bungalows made up in the trees, destroyed by an hurricane in 1998, and is now only reachable by boat. We play in the crystal-clear water while the sun bathes us with its warm rays. No word can describe this feeling of being alone in the universe.

We kayak as the sun starts slowly to go down. It sets just as we dock, its orange glow sinking below the mountain. We relax on our deck in front of the lagoon in silent reflection of our day. How close I feel to the edge of the world. We are on an island on the edge of a lagoon within a lagoon in the middle of the largest ocean in the world. With no one to be around. I am humbled by how nature creates such spaces. It feels so good to be out here, outnumbered by nature and glad because of it.

That evening, our last in this authentic island, we enjoy a delicious mahi-mahi with a vanilla sauce perfectly cooked by the chefs of the pension with some vegetables and fruits right from the garden. It could not be more perfect.

On our last morning, we do our first dive with Mahana Diva. Annie, the owner, is coming to pick us up at the pension and will drive us to the airport later. For our first diving lesson, we are only the two of us with Didier, the instructor. For nearly ten minutes, the captain, a kind Hawaiian man of the sea, navigates us near the edge of the barrier reef. After Didier has taught us how to breathe underwater, we opt for back-flips off the upper deck and slowly sink in to witness the spectacle of the underwater world. I have never seen anything like this. I am alert, but far from being scared, it is exhilarating, mesmerizing. Tiny colorful fishes are everywhere, as dancers flowing in the current. Corals are lively and colorful. We learn how to move ourselves slowly so we don’t disturb the living beings.

After a 40 min dive, we are back on the boat where Didier explains us that the vibrant colors of the corals are not natural and are the result of a too long exposure to warm water. At this time of the year, the water should have cooled off a bit but it is still 30°C at a depth of 6 meters… Back on the land, Annie drives us to Chez Doumé, her favorite foodtruck where we buy our lunch: my favorite Tahitian raw fish that we eat at the airport.

Bora-Bora

April 9th. Day five takes us from the remote Huahine to the touristic Bora. Eyes glued to the window, the turquoise lagoon stretches far beyond what I can see even at this height. Bora really has earned its reputation.

[Read about our stay in dreamy Bora-Bora just here.]

The sun is setting down when the plane takes off, offering us a last view of an incandescent Bora-Bora. It’s the most vibrant color schemes I’ve ever seen: yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, dark blue and even pale green. It looks like an artist has just painted the sky using his entire palette!


Read part II here.

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