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TREASURED IN TAHITI
 
(2022 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: JOEL BALSAM



The Islands of Tahiti, officially known as French Polynesia, are a rare example of what travel should feel like. On the plane and when you arrive at Fa’a’ā International Airport in Tahiti, you’ll be gifted a necklace of lei flowers—a Polynesian tradition—and the welcoming doesn’t stop there. Far from it. You’ll inevitably find yourself laughing with a Polynesian grinning ear to ear with a hand on your shoulder, feeling at home with a bowl of tender poisson cru (raw fish bathed in coconut milk) and being called to join in a traditional ‘ori dance.

Tahitians will make you feel treasured, so it’s an added bonus that there is so much to explore when you get here.

Here’s why Tahiti is worth visiting for every kind of traveller.

It Might Just be Paradise

The word “paradise” gets thrown around a lot in the travel sphere, but Tahiti makes a strong case at defying the hyperbole. With 118 islands spread over an area the size of Europe, French Polynesia is covered with diverse landscapes well beyond the white-sand beaches you probably think of—though there are plenty of those, too.

To get oriented, the islands are divided into five archipelagos. The Society Islands include the island of Tahiti along with Bora Bora, which has become an epicentre for some of the world’s best island resorts.

The Tuamotu Islands covering 76 atolls are ring-shaped islands formed over millions of years that are a perfect snorkeller’s paradise in crystal-clear lagoons filled with laid-back days on the beach. The Austral Islands are known for their slightly cooler temperatures and for humpback whale breeding between mid-August and late October.

The Marquesas Islands, a remote set of 12 islands close to the equator with towering cliffs and a vibrant culture, have inspired artists including Paul Gauguin and Belgian singer Jacques Brel who ended their days there. Finally, the Gambier Islands to the southeast are known for pearl farming and their magnificent lagoon, considered the most beautiful of The Islands of Tahiti, which encircles the entire archipelago.

Tahiti is Much More Than a Beach Destination

Yes, there are beaches with white sand (and some with pink or black sand), but at its forefront, Polynesia is a place for experiencing culture. Find telltale signs of the fascinating history that dates back more than a thousand years to when it was first colonized by southeast Asians who island-hopped on tiny boats.

From observing fascinating ancient stone tikis everywhere to seeing Polynesians adorned in intricate tattoos that symbolize moments of their life, there’s much evidence of a thriving culture.

And you basically can’t miss the dancing. In stylized outfits made from local plants, you can witness an enchanting dance with singing and instruments like the uke or ukulele. If possible, see an ‘ote’a, a war dance akin to the New Zealand haka.

There are World-class Resorts

There’s a reason Tahiti attracts lovebirds and honeymooners. French Polynesia has some of the world’s finest luxury resorts, including the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, which has romantic overwater villas and sea-facing infinity pools.

Elsewhere, The Brando, on Tetiaroa, best known as the late Hollywood legend Marlon Brando’s private island, is a beacon of sustainability with air conditioning systems that run on water pulled from the deep sea and electricity that is partially run on coconut oil biofuel.

Another spectacular option is Ninamu, a secluded island retreat on a remote atoll of Tikehau, which features eight handcrafted bungalows embedded within the palm trees.

If travelling with children, some resorts offer dedicated kids’ clubs and babysitting, including the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora and the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort.

Go On an Adventure

Tahiti is a treasure for adventure seekers, too. Come 2024, this mythical destination will play host to the Paris Summer Olympics surfing competitions, so you’re guaranteed plenty of places to ride if you’re a surfer.

While beneath the waves there’s another magical adventure for unbeatable diving. For instance, in Fakarava you have a chance to encounter a wall of sharks but don’t worry, these grey reef sharks won’t bite—not to mention colourful coral, manta rays and huge groupers. Water activities also include whale watching, snorkelling and paddling va’a Polynesian outrigger canoes.

On land, view spectacular vistas on island hikes, especially in the Marquesas. Or if you really want to be a trendsetter, Makatea, home to an abandoned phosphate mine, is vying for rock climbing super status with 100 climbing routes of varying difficulties.

Must See

The best way to see the Marquesas Islands is on the Aranui 5, a cargo ship that sails to the islands weekly along with around 200 passengers. The cruise visits each paradise island and offers an opportunity to meet locals since the majority of the ship’s crew are Polynesians who love to share their treasured traditions.

Must Try

For treasured libations you won’t find anywhere else, try Vin de Tahiti coral wine. The grapes for this refreshing golden-coloured wine are grown on a coral reef in Rangiroa, an hour’s flight from Papeete.

Travel Planner

For more Islands of Tahiti travel information visit tahititourisme.ca

 
 
 
 
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