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Published: October 28th 2019
I would suggest it's almost every traveller's dream to visit French Polynesia. The stunning images of five star resorts perched on pylons over the water with private aquariums underfoot teeming with marine life fulfills our wildest dreams ... and hopes for that perfect honeymoon! For as long as I can remember I've shared in the dream of visiting this polynesian paradise, and after many years exploring other travel destinations I have to pinch myself to realise I'm finally here! I hope all has been well with you, dear reader, and that you will enjoy the next three weeks of adventures in French Polynesia. The islands are famous for their pristine marine environment, and it's a genuine pleasure to embark on this once in a lifetime trip!
From Sydney it's three hours flight time across the ditch for an Auckland stopover, then a further four hours crossing the international dateline before a long awaited arrival in Tahiti. It's always nice to arrive in a new travel destination at the same time of departure, but of course I will lose a day flying home. I checked in to a pension in Tahiti run by a friendly french couple who settled on the
island many years ago, and shared a room with relaxed and chilled out European guests. As expected, the majority of visitors to the country are french, and I think it's a bit of a novelty for them to meet an aussie here. I spent a few lazy days exploring on foot, and heading to the beach of course. Travellers don't generally tend to stay in Tahiti too long, and I proved to be no exception. I'd purchased a multi-island pass through Air Tahiti, and the first destination on the island hopping tour is scheduled for Moorea.
It's only ten nautical miles from Tahiti to Moorea, and the fifteen minute flight time is surely the shortest any traveller will experience. Of course the ferry operates daily to the island known as the little sister of Tahiti, but it's all part of the multi-island package I chose. Moorea is among the most popular choices for travellers focussing on the Society Islands, which are centred around Tahiti. There are over a hundred islands that make up French Polynesia, and some are really far flung. But I chose the Society group for convenience, and for the fame the islands have gained. The airport
quickly cleared of passengers after arrival, and there wasn't a taxi in sight. I went back in to the travel desk, and they kindly called a taxi. So then I rode out to a pension in Pihaena situated on the north coast of the island, where a magical marine adventure began to unfold. After checking in to the gorgeous pension on the water I crewed up on that very day with a german girl who has an abiding passion for the ocean and marine life, and a much travelled and renowned Japanese drone pilot. Such an unlikely alliance proved to be a perfect match, as we got on like a house on fire. This was despite me being the only land based animal, as I would joke to my awesome new travel friends!
Over lunch on the first day my german friend dazzled me with marine stories and go pro footage from her kayak adventures that morning, where she had close encounters with whales. I was mesmerised and thought this is the stuff of dreams. While chatting we were aware there were whales out to sea, just as I had witnessed from the beach in Tahiti. In a month
they will head south with their new born calves, but now it's still peak whale watching season. Suddenly a giant humpback breached twice at sea directly in front of us. I was flabbergasted, and never dreamed I'd witness such an incredible sight. I figured her whale encounters while kayaking were one of a kind, but my friend assured me she had encountered them out there on more than one occasion. Would I be interested in coming out at 5:30am tomorrow to look for whales?
Next morning at 5:30am we kayaked out to the deep water of the shipping channel in a group of four, where we waited at a favourite spot to potentially spot a mother humpback and her calf. Before too long the whales surfaced perhaps ten metres from my kayak, and while I happened to be filming. I'm still pinching myself about this once in a lifetime experience. But our day was far from over, and we explored more of the island before heading out to les tipaniers; famous for interactions with stingrays, tropical fish, and reef sharks. We were running a bit late and there were no kayaks for hire, So my friend suggssted we swim
across the channel to get to the marine life. With the aid of snorkelling gear we made it across OK although I was a little apprehensive in the deep water, and had an incredible time interacting with stingrays and tropical fish, and also reef sharks who tend to be a little wary and keep their distance. The stingrays, however, rub up against your body searching for food, it's a totally surreal marine experience.
It was on the way back that things became more than a little dicey. My friend is very experienced in the water and a free diver, and promised to keep an eye on me. Anyway, the late afternoon sun was very low over the water, and I was struggling to keep her in sight. Also, my mask was fogging up and I became disoriented crossing the channel. I went in to a temporary panic which was absolutely terrifying, but after flicking the mask up I caught sight of my friend and our destination and made it across to safety with no further issues. But if you think that was a drama, spare a thought for our Japanese friend who was not exactly sure where to find
us, after coming back to the beach from securing his drone in the car. He dove in to the water and got an unexpected surprise while crossing the channel. To introduce his story by way of background trigger fish are spectacularly beautiful tropical fish, that is until you get to know one! Trigger fish near the shore are small and territorial, constantly charging at snorkellers and then backing off at the last second.
But that's when you are swimming close to shore! The channel just happens to be the territory of a very large and mean hombre of the sea, who charged at my alarmed friend on multiple occasions, crashing repeatedly in to his face mask with teeth bared. He told me he's never swum so fast in his life to get out of the trigger fish's territory, but to add insult to injury he went to the wrong destination, and ended up on a deserted island. Therefore he had to run the gauntlet a second time swimming back through the territory of the fish to get safely to shore. What a day, and what unforgettable adventures we had amidst many laughs! So the scene was set, as the
days passed in great company doing amazing things on this marine paradise. The tropical fish are right on the shore of the pension as we sat down to enjoy breakfast each morning, and the sunsets from the jetty are off the charts. Then of course we would gaze at the stars in the sky after dark. One day we were hitching on the island, and a kind Tahitian lady turned around to offer us a lift in the opposite direction, even stopping by the roadside to present a bag of mangos as a gift. That evening on the way home a honeymooning french couple gave us a lift and yet more mangos changed hands, this time to repay the couple for their kindness, and to wish them the best. It seems some kind of mango hitchhiking trade is springing up in Moorea!
I spent an unforgettable five days in great company on the island, and even had the chance to fly a drone. What a wonderful time; and oh, also got to see whales breaching a second time while on a boat trip on Moorea. I'll never forget visiting this incredible marine paradise during whale watching season where, basically
all of you should be here now!
"All I can control is myself and just keep having a positive attitude." Rose Namajounas
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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