What better way to wake up than by watching the fish swim under your glass-bottomed coffee table before opening it up and feeding them? These over-water bungalows, situated on stilts and elevated over the brilliant turquoise water, are luxury accommodations unique to this part of the world.
All of French Polynesia is unique. It has the geography of the South Pacific Islands, blended with Polynesian and French influences. It is known worldwide for its resorts and accommodation. French Polynesia is comprised of 5 archipelagos:
French Polynesia is situated just north of the Tropic of Capricorn (with the exception of 2 outer islands in the Australs) affording them year-round warmth, moderate humidity, and incredible sunshine.
They are volcanic islands, with dramatic mountainous peaks surrounded by white beaches and incredible lagoons. Naturally, in a location like this, water activities make up a huge part of your trip. This can range from snorkelling to renting your own motorboat.
For most visitors, the Society Islands is the focus of the trip, although it is definitely possible to visit another group of islands. All international flights come in to Papeete, on the island of Tahiti.
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Papeete is somewhat of an anomaly. It has its share of built up, busy city traffic and ongoing construction. However, it also has a charm to it, where ferries come and go, market places overflow with people and produce, and street vendors distribute croissants. It is not the place you come to laze on the beach and relax. It offers the most amenities, and for all travellers will be the first and last place you see in French Polynesia.
The island is split into two parts, Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. Nui literally means large, and Iti means small. Tahiti Nui is the home to Papeete and of course the airport. From here you could definitely take a cross-island 4WD tour through the volcanic mountains. If you have the time, check out the Museum of Tahiti and her Islands.
Tahiti Iti is slower, more relaxed and a place to sit and unwind. Surprisingly, it is not visited by many tourists. Generally Papeete is used as a springboard to the outer islands.
Just 30 minutes away by catamaran, or 8 minutes by plane, is Moorea. Upon arriving here you can feel the pace of Papeete disappear immediately. This, for most travellers, is the beginning of "island time".
Moorea has a unique triangular shape, and the northern side of the island is home to 2 incredible bays. Mount Rotui sits dramatically on the edge of the island, separating the water and creating 2 inlets. As you look out from the centre of the island, the beautiful Oponohu Bay is on the left, and the majestic Cooks Bay on the right. There is an inland road that can be driven to the Belvedere (the lookout) where this amazing site suddenly appears before you.
Naturally, Moorea is home to a huge array of water activities. It is also ideal for those who like to rent a car. It takes only 1 hour to circumnavigate the island, and allows you the opportunity to see schools, churches and the local way of life.
For most visitors, the highlight of French Polynesia is Bora Bora. It is widely regarded as the most incredible island in the South Pacific. Just like Moorea and Tahiti, the centre of the island is occupied by lush, volcanic mountains. While there are tours that take you through this area, it's the unbelievable lagoon that demands the most attention.
After arriving by plane, you soon find that the airport itself is a motu (or small island). To get from here to the mainland (or one of the many private island resorts), the only option is by boat. This is the introduction to the lagoon, with its array of turquoises and greens and blues that have to be seen to be believed. The visibility in the lagoon is another key factor. Because the lagoon has very little tidal movement, it is as still as a lake, with crystal clear waters full of brightly coloured fish and coral.
Many visitors take the opportunity to snorkel amongst the fish. For those looking for a little more adrenaline pumping, you can head out and feed the sharks, and then swim with the rays. Parasailing and jet skiing are available in some areas, but most favour the motorboats and kayak option.
Bora Bora is also home to the most luxurious resorts, and is the real home of the overwater bungalow. Seclusion, privacy, peacefulness and relaxation are the attractions on this tropical paradise.
Like the rest of the Society Islands, Huahine is very quiet and peaceful. It receives far less tourist traffic than the "main three" islands. It is home to some incredible snorkeling, especially for coral. It also has an interesting Maeva archaeological site.
For those with a little more energy, it is possible to take a kayak and paddle out to some smaller motu and have a look around a pearl farm.
RAIATEA & TAHAA
Visitors here can take a hike on Mount Temehani, from where there are some stunning views. From the north western side of the island you can see out toward Bora Bora.
This area is little visited by tourists, and can offer a unique look at the local life in French Polynesia.
The accommodation in Tahiti & French Polynesia is world famous. The large hotel names like Sheraton, Pearl Resorts, Inter-Continental and Sofitel are prominent.
They offer world-class hotels, as well as incredibly luxurious bungalows and private villas. The resorts also boast overwater restaurants, tattoo services, kid's clubs, stunning swimming pools and a neverending list of activities.
Where you stay in French Polynesia is not just your accommodation, it is part of the destination. Naturally, every traveller has their own needs and desires, and we can cater your trip accordingly.
To get some ideas about this fascinating destination, please call us.
ISLAND NIGHT TOURING
The island night includes rhythmic drumming, dancing and demonstrations of Polynesian traditions. Some of the displays included rock lifting (which you might be asked to join), climbing coconut trees and breaking coconuts with their hands and feet. There are also traditional female dancers and some weapons handling.
The night culminates in a display of fire dancing that is breathtaking. One of the best things about the evening is that it is a very small crowd and intimate, and they encourage the crowd to participate.
SHARK & RAY FEEDING
One of the most popular tours in Bora Bora (and available in Moorea) is the shark and ray feeding. The tour begins at your hotel before heading out to the first stop - coral reefs and snorkelling.
30 minutes later you head much further out toward the edge of the lagoon. The water here is still quite shallow, allowing visibility for a long distance underwater. The guide distributes out the bait and the rays appear almost instantly. They can be quite big, as much as 6 feet across, and you are free to snorkel underneath them and pet them as they swim overhead.
Shortly after this the sharks arrive (which changes the tranquil surroundings of the rays into a feeding frenzy). The sharks range from 5 to 10 feet in length, and they swim around you as the guide distributes the food. You can get very close to these large predators.
After this the tour heads to a motu where the guide prepares a traditional barbeque lunch. After lunch the tour continues in the reverse order before returning you back to the hotel.
In some places, renting a car is a great way to get around. Moorea in particular offers some superb sightseeing and a lookout over Mount Rotui that has to be seen to be believed.
Otherwise, the resorts and hotels will generally arrange a transfer for you. All tours that you take will also pick you up from your hotel.
As on many South Pacific Islands, scooters are a fun way to have a look around the area without the need for a guide.
We are always happy to be your source to answer those obscure questions. All of us have been to French Polynesia, and have visited all of the above islands. Please feel free to tell us what you would like to do, and we'll find just the right combination of sights. If you have a specific question or are just starting the planning process, give us a call.