If I were asked to describe the beauty in The Islands of Tahiti, I would simply need to hold up a photograph of one of the islands. I find it almost impossible, to do justice in words to describe how stunning they are. Have a look at the photo above and picture yourself on the beach. It is easy to see why The Islands of Tahiti vacations are often at the top of every globetrotters’ travel list.
Where are The Islands of Tahiti? Well, it’s located in the heart of the South Pacific, an 8 hour flight south west of Los Angeles. The Islands of Tahiti are made up of 118 islands spread out over 5 separate archipelagos. Amazingly, it covers the same amount of area as does Europe. A more appropriate name would be French Polynesia, made up of the Society Islands such as Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and others, The Marquesas, and island groups such as the Tuamotu Atolls. Typically the first port of call for most The Islands of Tahiti vacations will be Tahiti island, which contains the only International airport.
French and Tahitian are the official languages but English is spoken and understood in tourist areas.
To summarize, these islands offer high, rugged mountain peaks, coral reefs, white sand, palm-fringed beaches, turquoise blue lagoons and emerald-green waters. Does this sound like paradise or not?
Some Interesting Facts About The Islands of Tahiti
Did you know that The Islands of Tahiti were the innovator of two worldwide inventions? The first is the ever romantic Overwater Bungalow, with its traditional thatched-roof perched above turquoise lagoon waters. In many of them, tropical fish swim below as you look through the glass floor or coffee table. I strongly recommend all The Islands of Tahiti vacations to include at least a couple of nights in an Overwater Bungalow. You won’t be disappointed!!
The other is the tattoo. In Polynesian culture, tattoos have long been signs of beauty and, in earlier times, were ceremoniously applied when reaching adolescence.
While on the subject of Tahitian trivia, did you know that the Tiare flower is the national symbol of The Islands of Tahiti? Both men and women wear this flower, either as a necklace, crown, or behind the ear. You wear a Tiare flower on your left ear if you are taken and on your right ear to indicate you are available. I am not sure what Paul Gauguin, the impressionist painter, thought of this custom, as I understand he associated with members of the opposite sex and died (presumably a happy man) here as did the well known Belgian singer, Jacques Brel. Both are buried in the Marquesas.
Look out for Marae. These are open-air sanctuaries once the centre of power in ancient French Polynesia. These large, sacred, stone structures, akin to temples, hosted the important events of the times including the worship of the gods, peace treaties, celebrations of war and the launch of voyages to colonize distant lands. Most Marae were destroyed or abandoned with the arrival of Christianity in the 19th century and now have become an attraction for tourists and archaeologists. Nevertheless, the places where the Marae were built are still considered as sacred in most islands.
In celebration of ancient traditions and competitions, the annual Heiva Festival has been the most important event in The Islands of Tahiti for over 100 years. If you are in The Islands of Tahiti during July, then you will be surrounded by Polynesian festivity. Tahitians gather in Papeete from many islands to display their crafts, compete in ancient sporting events and recreate traditional and elaborate dance performances.
If you are interested in handcrafts, the skills of ancestors’ artistry in this field are kept sacred and passed on by skilled craftsmen. Items include weaving, quilting, wooden sculptures and bowls, drums, carvings, and hand-dyed pareu (a type of sarong). More about shopping later.
Popular Leisure Activities
There is no better way to obtain a sense of everyday Tahitian life and to experience the culture of French Polynesia than visiting small villages on a circle-island tour, which should be included on all The Islands of Tahiti vacations. As nearly every island has a coastal road which follows the lagoon shores, you can either drive around an island or take a guided bus tour.
The Islands of Tahiti have world-class snorkeling and diving for both experienced and beginner divers and snorkelers. The waters are extremely clear and you can “rub shoulders” with the marine life. This includes the gigantic manta ray. With hundreds of dive sites throughout the islands, you can choose from the amazing drift dives, oceanic drop-offs, sunken ships, and lagoon dives, all with outstanding marine life.
How about feeding sharks? Maybe not for everybody but this thrilling activity can be enjoyed on most of the main islands. You travel into the lagoon by a powered outrigger canoe or powerboat, anchor and then float or stand in clear water behind a secure rope as the docile sharks are hand-fed by an experienced guide. Even non-swimmers can enjoy this from the boat.
Want a spa experience? The Islands of Tahiti offer many luxurious spas. As you are surrounded by a backdrop of natural beauty and floral fragrances, there is no better setting for relaxation. You can enjoy fresh-flower baths, herbal rain showers or even a body wrap in banana tree leaves.
And for the golfer? There are two outstanding courses to consider. The Olivier Breaud d’Atimaono golf course is available for both beginners and experienced players on an old cotton plantation on the west coast of Tahiti island at Atimaono, 40 kilometres/25 miles from Papeete. Fairways and greens are surrounded by extraordinary beauty. The Moorea Green Pearl course was designed by Jack Nicklaus on the shores of a lagoon amid tropical palms, deep blue lagoons and multi hued flowers.
What could be more romantic than an authentic Tahitian Wedding, a traditional ceremony. Couples are bedecked in bright sarongs, flowers, and shells. The groom is brought to the beach side location in a canoe while the bride is carried on a rattan throne. There is music and dancers to enhance the ceremony while a Tahitian priest performs the rites and gives the couple their Tahitian names. This ceremony can be held for couples who are getting married for the first time or for those who wish to renew their wedding vows.
And the Shopping in The Islands of Tahiti
First off, they are renowned. I am told Mother Nature’s most perfect gem can only be created in The Islands of Tahiti’s warm lagoon waters. Commonly known around the world as Black Pearls, each Tahitian cultured pearl ranges in size and shape and the colours range from the darkest black to shades of green, blue, bronze or even pink. You can tour a family pearl farm on Huahine, Taha’a, and throughout the Tuamotu Atolls or visit one of the many pearl shops in Tahiti island, Bora Bora and Moorea. There is also a Pearl Museum in Tahiti, the only museum in the world devoted entirely to pearls.
Other unique buys include coconut soaps, monoi oil, vanilla beans, shell leis, wood carvings, woven hats and baskets and, as mentioned, the colourful hand dyed pareu fabric worn by the island natives. Also consider original paintings created by Tahitian and French resident artists. The Papeete public market is a good place to shop for all these items.
The Island of Tetiaroa
The atoll Tetiaroa is known as Marlon Brando’s private island. The actor first came to the islands here while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in 1962. He married a Tahitian actress and decided to buy Tetiaroa in 1967 where he lived with his wife and Tahitian children for several years. Tetiaroa also has a special place in Polynesian history and culture. It was the exclusive retreat of Tahitian royalty for centuries. Ancient Marae can still be found here today.
On Tetiaroa, 56 kilometre/35 miles from Papeete, you would stay at The Brando which is a unique luxury resort. Access to the island is by private plane. The resort features 35 villas on white-sand beaches which are frequented by sea turtles, manta rays and exotic birds. The resort was designed to reflect Polynesian lifestyles and culture.