French Polynesia - Tahiti & Society Islands

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After a purposefully-slow overnight sail, we arrived at Tahiti at almost the same moment as Carpe Vita with Mike and Mary aboard - another Puget Sound boat.

Moorea from Punaauia, Ile Tahiti

The designated anchorage in greater Papeete, Tahiti is Punaauia in the northwest behind the barrier reef. This is the sunset over Ile Moorea we experienced on our very first night in Tahiti.

Our Hosts

We arrived at Tahiti and were offered a mooring owned by Jerry Tixier, a local of Polynesian and Australian descent. This is his family in their garden - truly warm and wonderful people - after we enjoyed with them a Sunday brunch of coffee, baguettes and fine butter, poisson cru and rotisserie pork.


Just before dawn we caught this image of the setting full moon from our anchorage in Tahiti. Even on a calm morning like this, you can see the waves breaking on the island's protective barrier reef.


Pronounced Moh oh ray ah, its skyline was made famous by the film South Pacific. This view is of Mont Mouaroa from Opunohu Bay at the onset of a mara'amu or days-long winter event of cool temperatures, high winds and enormous seas.


Martin Hammer of the gaff rigged Anima III welcomed his old friend Nicki as crew in the Society Islands. They are from Vienna. Anima is an Italian word meaning "soul".

Moorea's "Tame" Stingrays

Our second day at Moorea, we followed Anima III by dinghy to a site west of the Papetoai village where "tame" stingrays expect food from swimmers. These guys are about three feet in diameter and have a potentially lethal stinger on their five foot long tails. Yikes. (Photo by Martin of Anima III.)


You can see Leslie isn't so keen on getting in the water with these potentially dangerous animals. (Photo by Martin of Anima III.)

Fish Heads???

Philip's possession of fish parts made him a popular tourist amongst the stingrays. (Photo by Martin of Anima III.)


The large soft rays ride up your body and try to get their mouth to whatever you are offering. It's the wildest feeling. (Photo by Martin of Anima III.)


Leslie waited until all the fish parts had been consumed before venturing in. The stingrays still thought she might have something for them.... (Photo by Martin of Anima III.)

Dolphin Show

After swimming with the rays, we pushed onto the Intercontinental Hotel where we stumbled onto a dolphin show where for a significant sum of money, tourists get to learn about and swim with dolphins. (Photo by Martin of Anima III.)


Huahine is divided into two; one "Nui" or big and one "Iti" or small. Between them is a divide which on the eastern side is Maroe Bay. Beyond is Hiro's Rock.

Fare Pote'e

A fare is a "house" in Tahitian. This is Fare Pote'e or the meeting house at Maeva which was destroyed in a cyclone in 1998 but rebuilt exactly as it was. Coincidentally the main town on Huahine is called Fare, shortened from "fare nui atea" or the great house far away.

Maeva Marae

At the site of Maeva there are dozens of 16th century marae. Marae were sites of worship.

Fish Traps

In Lac Fauna Nui offshore of Maeva, there are stone fish traps which are still being used. Also visible is yet another small marae.

Marae Manunu

Some marae are quite large. This one, south of Maeva is over 100 feet long. It has an ahu or raised section in its center which is a section set aside for deities Oro and Hiro.

Sofitel Heiva Huahine

We don't know the story but there is an abandoned luxury hotel in an amazing location on Motu Papiti in Huahine. We learned from a caretaker that it had been closed 5 years before but from the condition of the buildings, it seems as if it could've been longer.

Famous Faie Eels

In the tiny village of Faie, Huahine on a bay of the same name, there are resident eels in the river. Aside the steam is a magasin or grocer in a hut of woven pandanus. Here they sell you a can of fishy fish (mackerel) and when you begin to drip the liquid into the river, the eels come out of the rocks. They have blue eyes!!!


From Huahine we sailed west for 20 miles and entered the lagoon which is shared by the islands of Taha'a and Raiatea. Navigating in the lagoons is simple due to excellent aids to navigation (Photo by Martin Hammer of Anima III.)


These handsome little ferries operate within the lagoon shared by Raiatea and Taha'a. This navette was underway to Motu Tautau on which there is a large luxury resort of over-water palm bungalows.

Anima III

In the lagoon surrounding Taha'a we passed friends on Anima III. This is a wooden boat built in Austria and kept in Italy. Martin is circumnavigating with Anima III.

The Perfect Spot

We anchored on the narrow, coral-head-littered shelf at Motu Tautau to snorkel in the "coral garden", but the view of Bora Bora 15 miles away from our anchorage was, in and of itself, worth the trip.

Tahaa Church

This church sits right on the Tahaa lagoon at Tiva. When we were passing by on Sunday, the (genuine) bell was tolling continuously calling worshippers to the service.

Budget Vanilla Tour

Tahaa is known as the "Vanilla Island" because it grows and sells more than any other Society Island. Ergo, island tours are "vanilla" tours. We rented bikes and conducted our own tour - all 60 km of it!

Baguette Box

It's true, baguettes are delivered fresh to homes in rural Polynesia. Now that's civilized!

Encroaching Jungle

It seems like in Polynesia people are forever raking and clearing and burning vegetative matter - now we know why.

Bonito Boat Storage

Virtually all the small vessels in the Society Islands (and to a certain extent the Tuamotus) are lifted out of the water with simple rotary devices. This is a typical fishing vessel with a steering well forward.


Pearl farms have proliferated in the Society Islands. We had a close call with one as we wiggled our way in a designated anchorage only to find we were over the top of cables of a pearl farm which were strung between buoys rather than below them. Surprise!

Because It Was There

The climb up Mt. Pahia was steep, difficult and somewhat dangerous due to the wetness and volcanic rockiness of the terrain but the views from the top were magnificent.


These homemade doughnuts are sold along the side of the road on many islands. Our (Mt. Pahia) hiking crew was pleased to find some for sale in Bora Bora.

Bora Bora

Motu Topua is visible over the village of Vaitape as we ascend the mountains of Bora Bora.

Faanui Bay

High up the mountain and around the NW shoulder, a view emerges of Faanui Bay and the NW corner of the lagoon.


As you round the mountain range and begin to see NE, Mataihua emerges. Note the blowing grass - we were being buffeted by accelerated tradewinds.

We Survived!

The round trip from the Bora Bora Yacht Club to the peak and back was almost 8 hours. The trail was steep and in many places slippery and scary. When we returned, we were filthy but tired and happy. Note that Leslie's (Peruvian) hiking boots were completely stripped of their soles.

Bye Bye Bora Bora

This mythic French Polynesian island recedes in the distance as we sail away towards Suvarov, one of the Cook islands.