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Tahiti and her islands: Exotic French Polynesia

Words cannot do full justice to a place that is apt to be called a paradise on earth and that was the reason I initially did not want to blog about Tahiti and her islands. But, since this is post number 25 and almost a year since I have been blogging, I had to make my silver jubilee post special! Be it the brilliant turquoise lagoons, the colorful marine life and corals, the lush green mountains as a backdrop, or its untouched beauty, the exquisite islands of Tahiti are truly enchanting and magical. So, what better topic than this for my 25th post :). I have been asked by quite a few folks as to how we planned this South Pacific island vacation, so hopefully this post will answer at least the basic questions pertaining to your idyllic Tahiti getaway.

Which islands to visit: There are a lot of islands in French Polynesia (118 in all), but most tourists visit the islands of Moorea and/or Bora Bora along with the main island of Tahiti. You could take a ferry to Moorea from Tahiti or take an inter-island flight. Bora Bora is a little far away from Tahiti, so an inter-island flight saves a lot of time.

First glimpses of Moorea

TAHITI
All international flights fly to Papeete (Tahiti), so you definitely have to visit the main island and spend one night there, if not more since most flights land at night-time. I won’t elaborate but while you are in Tahiti, some of the things that you could do apart from spending time at the resort are:

  • A circle island tour that will take you to the only black sand beach in Tahiti, the famous Vaimahuta waterfalls, a tropical garden and caves of Mata Va’a. This works out best if you are not planning to rent a car.
  • Visit the Robert Wan Pearl Museum. Tahiti is famous for black pearls and if you are looking for a souvenir, what better than a black pearl
  • Take a Le Truck (public transport bus) from your resort to the public market and visit the public market to shop for Faara bags and Pareo (Traditional Tahitian dress for females)

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MOOREA
Only a 30 minute ferry ride from Tahiti, the island of Moorea has one of the nicest lagoons among the Tahitian islands. So if you are not visiting Bora Bora, Moorea would be your next best bet to explore the blue lagoons and its marine life in the French Polynesia. Things that you could do while vacationing at Moorea:

  • A lagoon excursion for shark and manta ray feeding. Don’t freak out, there are no killer sharks in the calm waters of Tahiti. And you’ll surely spot lots of dolphins on your excursion.
  • Snorkel and enjoy a picnic at a private island (called a motu). Snorkeling at a lagoon is much more easier and fun than snorkeling in the ocean.
  • Take an ATV Quad tour that would take you to some of the most amazing vistas including Belvedere point, Mt. Rotui, Magic Mountain View point.
  • Check out the pineapple plantations. Moorea is the ONLY island where these plantations are found and they make and sell pineapple wine.
  • Rent a car and drive around the island. Moorea has some great public beaches that are not to miss. Cook’s bay and Oponohu bay in Moorea are home to few of the prettiest beaches in the world. The south side of the island has no resorts and hotels so it is even more serene there.

How to get to the Tahitian islands: Air France and Air Tahiti Nui fly from Los Angeles to Papeete (Tahiti’s capital). I am not completely sure of flight options outside the US, but there are flights from Paris, Tokyo and cities in Australia and New Zealand. We flew Air Tahiti Nui – French Polynesia’s flag carrier airline.

Mt. Rotui - Moorea

Currency used: French Pacific Franc (XPF) is the currency used around the islands. Make sure to take local currency cash if you are planning to shop or eat at the local market and for tipping. Finding ATMs can be difficult.

Visa Requirements: Depends on your nationality and French Polynesia visa requirements are different from France so it is best to check with a French Consulate. For Indian citizens, a short stay Schengen visa is required to travel to Tahiti and her islands. There’s a French Consulate in San Francisco, so it worked out well for us. It is advisable to apply for a visa 2-3 months in advance. You do require confirmed flight tickets as well as hotel reservations to obtain a tourist visa, so everything needs to be ready before you start filling out the visa forms.

There is much much more to Tahiti and her islands apart from breath-taking scenery, spectacular landscapes and emerald/blue lagoons. Glimpses of Tahiti are memories that I am going to cherish for a lifetime! And yippeee…25 posts in a year now šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚

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