Lat/Long: 017° 31 South / 149° 34 West
Moonwave and her crew had a great time in French Polynesia. I guess I have to admit right away that I have fallen a bit in love with French Polynesia. It was always a bucket list destination and I have not been disappointed – I also have to say that my expectations are high as we have been spoiled with beautiful sailing and cruising grounds in the Caribbeans, Bahamas and South East Asia in the past.
We spend most of our time in Tahiti and didn’t have the chance to visit the other beautiful islands of French Polynesia – other than Fakarava and Nuku Hiva on the way to Tahiti and a short stay in Moorea. [see blog entries] After our stay at anchor in Costa Rica [See ABC of lockdown] and the trip to French Polynesia [see From Darwin to Gaugin], there was some boat maintenance to catch up with. Also after the long “solitude” of 116 days on board, we really enjoyed meeting other people and strolling around.
Tahiti had just the right mix of all of that. We got some work done, which made it a great technical stopover. Moonwave got a new bottom job [antifouling] and her custom saildrives serviced. We even managed to have the mast and rig serviced and checked with the help of Scott and Rigging Projects. Our sails got a good check and some repairs and lots of other items on the job list got tackled.
Like lots of “island” destinations, it takes some time to adjust to local way of doing things, especially getting parts and shipments – you have to adapt to Tahiti as Tahiti won’t change for you. And once you understand that, getting things done is getting easier. The maintenance and parts sourcing was essential for Moonwave to get ready for the long upcoming voyages. [more to come soon…]
Now, let’s talk about Tahiti and it’s “Presque Ile” [almost island] itself. Papeete, the capital and economic center of French Polynesia is a bustling city with an amazing Fresh Market. The Sunday morning edition is the most colorful and definitively worth the early wake-up [be sure to be there by 5am]. The city also offers lots of shops and a nice variety of restaurants, as well good medical facilities. To get to and through town, you need to keep rush hour in mind – a change for us as we are not used to be stuck in traffic.
The other parts of the island with it’s peaks and mountains, coral reef, lagoons, bays, cliffs, sandy beaches, waves and fresh water springs, rainforest and tropical weather have a lot to offer. There is a big choice of activities on and under the water, as well on land and even in the Air.
We also loved the fact that there were no mosquitos at all at Marina Taina during our stay. It was great to meet fellow cruisers and yachts crews – a good mix of people from all over the world – much more cosmopolite than most cruising destinations. And we had a great sunset view over Moorea ;-)
We made a quick trip to Moorea, too short to discover the island but all we could see in the short stay, makes us want to go back and explore more of the land and surrounding waters.
The diving in French Polynesia is just stunning. Not only is the water warm and clear but the coral reefs are very colorful and rich in life, that was impressive. On the reef all the grounds were covered with “healthy” corals and featured lots of fish, turtles and sharks. And in the deep, outside of the lagoons and in the cuts, you can find big fish, lots of sharks and different species of whales, rays and dolphins.
Regarding whales, we had some close encounters, but I guess we will have to return to French Polynesia to get a chance to swim with them – one but not the only reason to look forward to one day returning to the area.
We also had a great welcome by the local population. We did feel welcome and always got a great smile. We also listened to the local radio station that shares it’s time between Tahitian and French Language and really enjoyed to learn more about the people and their traditions.
We also enjoyed watching the locals are training/paddling in their vaa’as – polynesian outrigger canoes. In general we loved the fact that the local population “lives” their traditions in their daily life and not only for tourism purposes like in other regions. And their are very attached to their native islands and nature. They want to maintain the right balance in order for the islands to renew and keep providing the population with what they need.
I am sure that the other island groups in the South Pacific are as beautiful and have their own traditions but unfortunately the actual global situation does not allow us to visit them and we are fine with this as this is the only way this places will be preserved and go through this terrible crisis.
One more thought: French Polynesia must have inspired lots of recent Disney/Pixar and other animated movies: We found Neno in Moorea [not on the Great Barrier Reef], Dory was passing by but could not remember. The little Mermaid didn’t show up but lots of her fishy and crabby friends. Moana is looking to sail the reef. Surf’up even without Pinguins. Gangs of sharks roaming the reefs & Sammy the Green Turtles wandering the area. Whales are passing by, playing with they calves and singing to each other… with Nemo’s day asking for the way…
[Let me know if you like my cinematic references ;-)]