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Sunday, January 3, 2010

French Polynesia Islands "Honey Moon Best Destination"

French Polynesia (Polynésie française) is a set of islands that is an overseas country attached to France. Located in the South Pacific Ocean, it is halfway between California and Australia.

Tahiti and her islands cover four million square kilometers of ocean which is the same area as the European Union. However the land above sea level accounts for some 4,000 square kilometers consisting of 118 islands, grouped into five archipelagoes (4 volcanic, 1 coral). Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru.

Raiatea "The Sacred Island"

Raiatea, meaning "faraway heaven" and "sky with soft light", was first named Havai'i after the homeland of the ancient Polynesians and is the most sacred island in the South Pacific.

This, the second largest Tahitian isle, was the center of religion and culture over 1000 years ago and still lends enchantment to ancient legends told to this day. The green-carpeted mountains include the celebrated Mt. Temehani, a sort of Polynesian Mt. Olympus.

Where legends began and dreams are fulfilled.

Taha'a - The Vanilla Island

Taha'a, with the rich aroma of vanilla lingering heavily in the air, offers a glimpse of the traditional, tranquil life of the Tahitians. The flower-shaped island's simple beauty is charmed by soft mountain shapes and surrounded by tiny motu with bright sand beaches. In the fertile valleys cutting within the island, local farmers grow watermelon, vanilla, and copra.

With a heart-beat rhythm of life unique in the world.

Tiare Apetahi Flower

Upon Mt. Temehani on Raiatea lives the Tiare Apetahi, a flower so rare it can be grown no place else on earth. Each dawn the petals open with a slight crackling sound. Legends describe this as the sound of the broken heart of a common women who was not allowed to marry the son of the Tahitian king.Tahiti Map

For the visitor to Raiatea, the legends of this ancient land add fascination to every activity:

- Discovery of the sacred Mt. Temehani Plateau by foot, horseback, or 4x4 excursion.

- Exploration by canoe of the Faaroa River and to the ancient and sacred complex of the legendary Taputapuatea.

- Freedom of chartering a yacht in some of the most famous sailing waters in the world.

- Enchantment from the people and their villages while touring the by bus.

- Adventure into the clear waters with day- or night-time dives.

- Enjoyment of the ambience of the smaller resort atmosphere.

For the visitor to Taha'a, the cadence of life creates activities with a more relaxing pace:

- Exploration of the tiny villages and simple island living along the shores by car or bicycle.

- Discovery of the family-owned pearl farms.

- Enjoyment of the white-sand beaches at a "motu picnic".

- Adventure into the mountains on one of the many ancient hiking trails.

- Relaxation at the luxurious and remote resorts.

Some of the most popular activities on both islands for visitors include:

  • Vanilla Plantations
  • Island Exploration
  • Sail Boat Charter
  • Faaroa River Trip
  • Marae Exploration
  • Diving
  • Snorkeling
  • Picnic on Your Own Island
  • Village Hopping and Shopping
  • Other activities and sites

Vanilla Plantations
The scented air of Taha'a comes from the fragrance of vanilla pods curing in the sun. Over 80% of Tahiti's harvest of this famous spice is grown here. Plantation tours include strolling among the rows of climbing orchids and a demonstration of the pollination and curing process.

Island Exploration
Both Raiatea and Taha'a are enjoyable islands to explore. By car or bus tour, drive along the quiet circle-island roads and stop at the villages and peaceful shores. By boat, cruise within bays dotted with pearl farms or come ashore on a tiny motu. By foot, follow a guide along ancient footpaths including a trek to the Temehani Plateau and to the slopes of Mount Temehani to see the opening of the Tiare Apetahi flowers.

Sail Boat Charter
Many of the largest sail boat charter companies in the world are located on Raiatea. Here, yachts are launched for voyages among the Society and Tuamotu Archipelagos where passengers enjoy the steady trade winds, temperate climate, and the hundreds of dramatic anchorages around each of the islands.

Faaroa River Trip
Winding through a lush rain forest, the Faaroa River is the only navigable river in Polynesia. These historic waters launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand. Powered outrigger canoes provide a comfortable and unique way to enter the river and explore the coast.

Marae Exploration
The most sacred and best-preserved historical site in Polynesia is Raiatea's Taputapuatea. Now considered a national monument, this immense archaeological area is easily explored by foot and includes dozens of marae and shrines.

A favorite of all divers, the shared lagoon between the islands is rich with numbers of sites and in variety including landscapes of sea mounts, caverns, drop-offs, and famous wrecks.

The calm and secluded lagoon is home to a wide variety of reef fish and plant life. Since fish-feeding is practiced, the lagoon attracts large schools of eels, perches, triggerfish, red snappers, silver jacks, tunas, red runners, and reef sharks.

Picnic on Your Own Island
Dozens of tiny motu surround these islands and many are available for half- or full-day use for couples or groups. Most islands can be circled in a few minutes by foot and are the perfect spot to picnic under a coconut tree, snorkel around the island, or relax with a book.

Village Hopping and Shopping
Visitors who seek a simpler life enjoy the villages along the coast of Taha'a.
The quaint village of Haamene has nearby pearl farms and a turtle preserve, the north-shore village of Patio is known for traditional fishing and copra activities, and Tiva is surrounded by Vanilla plantations.

On Raiatea, the villages are also tiny so the best shopping is found in Utoroa, the only town of size on either island, where many quaint shops and markets line the newly renovated waterfront area with art, crafts, and collectibles from local artisans.

Other activities and sites on Raiatea and Taha'a include:

  • Guided hike to the slopes of Mount Temahani.
  • 4X4 Safaris to explore the remote interior roads and coastal villages.
  • Vanilla plantations and family-owned pearl farms.
  • Lagoon excursions by powered outrigger canoe, glass-bottomed boat, motor boat, kayak, or jetskiing.
  • Circle-island tours by bus or private car.
  • Deep-sea fishing.
  • Shopping on the waterfront in the village of Uturoa on Raiatea.
  • Botanical gardens.
  • Sea turtle preserve.
  • Snorkeling excursions around the islands and motu.

The Marquesas Islands " The Mysterious Islands"

The Mysterious Islands

About a three hour flight from the Society Islands and the Tuamotu Atolls, the Marquesas, or Henua Enata meaning "Land of Men", are seemingly lost at the end of the earth.

Even now, some of the islands are virtually untouched since the era of European exploration. Their isolation has created an immense pride among the people and a fascinating culture. The language is unique to Tahiti, as the lilting Marquesan dialect is traced directly to the ancient Polynesian tongue of Maohi.

Natural wonders abound as 1000-foot waterfalls cascade down sheer volcanic cliffs, and towering mountains disappear into the clouds.

This world belongs to the past where the spirits of the ancient Maohi still live.

The primary islands with lodging are:

Nuku Hiva - Mystic Island
The largest island in the Marquesas is known for towering spire-like peaks; secluded, lush valleys; ancient religious sites; fjord-like bays; and waterfalls so high that most of the falling water evaporates as it descends.

Hiva Oa - Paul Gauguin's Island
This majestic and historic island is known for its wild, untamed landscape, giant stone tiki, endless and unearthly vistas, and as the final resting place of poet Jacques Brel and artist Paul Gauguin.

For The Visitor, The Majesty of Bora Bora offers:

- Enchantment from the neon-lit turquoise lagoon waters with unending days of exploration through snorkeling and diving.

- Excitement above the lagoon by outrigger canoe, Boston Whaler, wave runner, jet ski, and dramatic sunset cruises aboard a catamaran sailboat.

- Exploration of the panoramic overlooks found by hike or 4x4 accompanied by entertaining local guides.

- Discovery of the world-renowned shopping for local and international original art, Tahitian pearls, perfumes and oils, and precious wood handcrafts.

Tahiti Map

For the adventurous visitor, the simple ambience of the Marquesas creates unique experiences.

- Exploration of the high mountains, remote beaches, hidden waterfalls, and deep forests by a 4x4 safari truck, sailboat, or even on horseback.

- Discovery of the archaeological sites of stone tiki, ancient dwellings, and petroglyphs.

- Enchantment from the simple and warm Marquesan people with a history unique among any civilization on earth.

- Enjoyment of shopping for sculptures in tiny studios and craft centers.

- Relaxation with the peaceful ambience and delicious cuisine found at the simple, yet elegant lodges set on the hillsides overlooking the bays.

Some of the most popular activities and sites for visitors include:

Cultural Center
Archaeological Discovery Safaris
Adventure Cruising
Other activities and sites

Cultural Center
The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center opened in 2003 on the 100th anniversary of Gauguin's death. Located on land bought by Gauguin, the center's exhibition of reproductions leads the visitor through three sections themed around quotes attributed to the artist: "escaping to reach art", "the right to dare anything in art", and "becoming part of a primitive culture."

Archaeological Discovery Safaris
Hidden in the theatre of mountains of the Marquesas is a mother lode of ancient sacred sites including ceremonial complexes, stone temples, and tiki statues. On Nuku Hiva, Taipivai Valley is home to temples and large tiki, while the village of Hatiheu is home to the famous Kamuihei and Hikoku sites known for their petroglyphs and ruins. On Hiva Oa, an immense ceremonial complex in Taaoa Valley has been restored and offers a unique view of the fierce and proud Marquesan heritage.

Famous for intricate woodcarvings, Marquesans apply ancestral designs seen nowhere else on earth. Carved from precious native woods such as rosewood and purplewood, Marquesan bowls, plates, and statues are highly prized the world over. These treasures can be bought throughout the islands directly from the artists at their studios.

Adventure Cruising
As if living out a classic South Seas seafaring novel, the most unique way to see the Marquesas is aboard the new Aranui 3 freighter/passenger ship. This working cargo ship is the lifeline to the outside world for the inhabitants of these remote islands. Passengers observe the exchange of supplies, copra, dried coconut, and fruit in addition to exploring each of the islands on guided excursions. The 16-day voyage begins in Papeete and includes 17 ports-of-call in the Marquesas and Tuamotu Islands.

Bora Bora, The Romantic Island

Under a one hour flight from the island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora, with a lagoon resembling an artist's palette of blues and greens, is love at first sight.

Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island where the castle-like Mount Otemanu pierces the sky. Lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus, while palm-covered motu circle the illuminated lagoon like a delicate necklace. Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatchedroof villas, and fabled ambience.

Simply said, Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.
Pora Pora - the ancient name, meaning "first born," came from legends describing this as the first island to rise when Taaroa,
the supreme god, fished it out of the waters after the mythical creation of Havai'i, now known as Raiatea. Although the first letter "B" does not exist in the Tahitian language, when Captain Cook first heard the name he mistook the softened sound of the Tahitian "P" for "B" and called the island Bola Bola.

Romance on Bora Bora
Truly, the most romantic island in the world. From the dramatic scenery to the privacy and amenities of the overwater bungalows, everything in Bora Bora equals a 10 on the romance scale.

Resorts have been welcoming couples for over 40 years and their special amenities have been fine tuned to perfection. From sunrise to sunset, each resort has designed their own blend of unique romantic experiences for their guests to choose from.

For The Visitor, The Majesty of Bora Bora offers:

- Enchantment from the neon-lit turquoise lagoon waters with unending days of exploration through snorkeling and diving.

- Excitement above the lagoon by outrigger canoe, Boston Whaler, wave runner, jet ski, and dramatic sunset cruises aboard a catamaran sailboat.

- Exploration of the panoramic overlooks found by hike or 4x4 accompanied by entertaining local guides.

- Discovery of the world-renowned shopping for local and international original art, Tahitian pearls, perfumes and oils, and precious wood handcrafts.

For the visitor, the majesty of Bora Bora offers:

- Enchantment from the neon-lit turquoise lagoon waters with unending days of exploration through snorkeling and diving.

- Excitement above the lagoon by outrigger canoe, Boston Whaler, wave runner, jetski, and dramatic sunset cruises aboard a catamaran sailboat.

- Exploration of the panoramic overlooks found by hike or 4x4 accompanied by entertaining local guides.

- Discovery of the world-renowned shopping for local and international original art, Tahitian pearls, and precious wood handcrafts.

- Romance in the natural ambience of the legendary resorts with their choice of Polynesian spas, gourmet restaurants, overwater bungalows,
villas, and suites .

Some of the most popular activities and sites for visitors include:

  • Lagoon Exploration
  • Breakfast by Canoe
  • 4x4 Safaris
  • Shark and Ray Feeding
  • Sailing
  • Diving
  • Shopping and Dining
  • Motu Tapu
  • Other activities and sites

Lagoon Exploration
There are so many activities in the world's most famous lagoon that some visitors never leave the water! The shallow and clear waters allow for snorkeling from you bungalow or off the beaches anywhere around the island. Another way to see the vivid coral and schools of tropical fish is a glass bottom boat. For a faster pace, explore the entire lagoon by rented motorboat or jetski where you and a guide can skim around the island, hopping off at beaches or a tiny motu along the way for a picnic.

Breakfast by Canoe
Start each day with an unforgettable breakfast brought to the private balcony of your overwater bungalow or villa by outrigger canoe. Often bedecked in flowers, the canoe carries Polynesian staff serving fresh fruits, pastries, and juices while the surrounding waters begin welcoming the rising South Pacific sun. Canoe breakfasts are also available at many of the resorts throughout all the islands and can be reserved before you travel by your travel arranger or scheduled with the concierge on your arrival.

4x4 Excursions
Even though Bora Bora is small, the adventures along the interior roads are huge. These overgrown forest roads wind high above the lagoon to panoramic stops that can only be described as breathtaking. The island's role during World War II is expertly told as you visit large U.S. Naval guns left behind in 1945.

Shark and Ray Feeding
Although the idea of feeding sharks may sound somewhat ominous, it is now one of the most popular excursions in the South Pacific. Originated on Bora Bora, your close encounter begins after you don a snorkeling mask and float in the shallow lagoon waters behind a secure rope. Docile sharks arrive in schools and are hand-fed by your guide just a few feet away. Later in the same tour, you'll stand in shallow waters as graceful rays circle the group with ballet-like movements.

Bora Bora's lagoon is a very popular anchorage for both round-the-world and avid vacation sailors. If chartering your own sailboat in Raiatea, Tahiti, or Moorea, the deep, wide pass and calm lagoon is a natural stop. You can also rent a Hobie Cat in Bora Bora or take a half-day or sunset cruise around the lagoon on a giant catamaran, complete with music.

Because of the abundance of large marine life, diving within the waters of the most beautiful lagoon in the world is on many diver's "must do" list. During the dives, it is common to be joined by legions of gigantic manta rays gliding gracefully within arm's reach while schools of reef sharks parade by.
Shopping and Dining
Bora Bora is world famous for the surprising number of unique and high-end boutiques and for the quality of dozens of fine restaurants with international cuisine.

Motu Tapu
The ultimate private island escape, Motu Tapu is the most photographed isle in the South Pacific. This tiny motu, just a few hundred yards from the main island, is best described as the world's most perfect to relax.
Motu Tapu is reserved for guests of select resorts and groups with invitations.

Island of TAHITI

Queen of the Pacific

Tahiti, the largest island throughout the country, towering over the ocean like a proud and royal Queen is appropriately crowned by a circle of majestic peaks.

The mountainous interior is adorned with deep valleys, clear streams, and high waterfalls, all bathed in green iridescence of Mother Nature's light. The coastal lands, edged with a rugged coastline, are home to fields of tropical flowers and most of the island's population.

Papeete, meaning the " water basket, " was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh waters. Now the invigorating capital city and gateway of the country, boasts world-class resorts, spas, fine dining and unique restaurants, nightclubs, vibrant markets, pearl shops, and boutiques.

Tahiti... Just the word...The world's definition of paradise.


Polynesian songs and legends have bestowed this famous South Pacific island many names such as ' Great Tahiti of the Golden Haze,' ' Mounting Place of the Sun,' ' Land of the Double Rainbow,' and ' The Gathering Place.'
Legends describe Tahiti-Nui and Tahiti-Iti as a great fish that swam away fron the sacred waters of Havai'i, now known as the lagoon shared by Raiatea and Taha'a.

Tahiti Map

For the visitor, Tahiti means unlimited possibilities:

- Dining at one of the surprising number of restaurants around Papeete or at the relaxed roulottes along the waterfront in Vai'ete Square.

- Shopping along the waterfront and in the Public Market of Papeete for Tahitian collectibles such as pareu, monoi oil, artwork, precious native wood carvings, and beautiful Tahitian Pearls.

- Exploration of the pristine interior and beautiful coastline by 4x4 excursion, guided nature hikes, escorted tours, or rental car.

- Discovery of the lagoon waters by diving, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, deep-sea fishing, outrigger canoeing, or guided catamaran tours.

- Enjoyment of the beachside resorts featuring luxurious spas, spectacular shows, fine restaurants, and the full range of rooms, suites, and bungalows.

Shopping at the Public Mart
Discover the true heart of Papeete - 155 year old public market - called Le Marché. Shop from hundreds of stands filled with Tahitian-made crafts, oils, vanilla, fruits, and flowers. The perfect place to find everything imaginable from all the islands. Open everyday except holidays, the market is especially colorful and lively on Sunday mornings when locals stock up for a day of family gatherings. Located two blocks from the waterfront and easily reached by Le Truck or by taxi from the resort.

Evenings at Vai'ete Square
Enjoy a unique and informal dinner or a memorable post-dinner dessert at Vai'ete Square. Here, dozens of colorful roulottes, or food wagons, host a great variety of island cuisine and desserts. The boardwalk atmosphere is an informal and lively setting not to be missed.

Circle-Island Tour
A favorite among visitors for over 100 years! The route takes in more than 71 miles of dramatic coastline scenery with wave-pounded cliffs, peaceful beaches, and brightly colored churches. Popular stops include many overlooks, waterfalls, and ancient sites. An extended tour takes you to the peninsula of Tahiti-Iti.

Museum of Tahiti
The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands is considered to be one of the best and most beautiful museums in the South Pacific. Polynesian history is carefully recorded and presented. Highlights include rare collections of art carvings and historical artifacts. European arrival is also presented and put into context.

James Norman Hall Home
The James Norman Hall Home celebrates one of Tahiti's most famous resident authors. Hall co-authored Mutiny on the Bounty and wrote many other fables of the South Seas. The home is carefully maintained as it was when Hall lived in Tahiti from 1920 to 1951. Visitors enjoy seeing his original writing desk, art collection, and library with over 3,000 books. Guests are invited to the garden tea room where refreshments are provided under the shade of a giant mango tree.

The Gauguin Museum
The Gauguin Museum is dedicated to Paul Gauguin's life during his years on Tahiti and in the Marquesas, the museum sits within the beautiful Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens and features exhibits and memorabilia from the late painter himself, including sketches, copies of documents , block prints, and reproductions of many of his most famous paintings.

Pearl Museum
The Pearl Museum is the only museum in the world devoted entirely to pearls. The unique presentations describe and demonstrate the history and practice of cultivating pearls as well as their place in art, history, mythology, and religion.

Shopping in and around the Vaima Center
Many shops popular with visitors are located in and around the Vaima Center. This four-level, block-square shopping center has everything from boutiques, pearl shops, book stores, newspaper stands, restaurants, coffee shops, and banks. Along the waterfront in either direction are located many unique shops with antiquities, made-in-Tahiti products, music, and art.

Safari Into the Island's Interior
Within the unpopulated and lush jungle-like interior of Tahiti Nui is an unspoiled world of towering waterfalls, deep flower-filled valleys, large lakes, and colossal green peaks rising over one mile above the valley floor. This hidden treasure of Tahiti is best explored by a guided 4X4 safari, breathtaking helicopter tour, or on a hiking trip led by a naturalist.

Tahiti's only course, the Oliver Breaud International Golf Course is located on the southern side of Tahiti Nui. This 6944-yard, par 72 course features two man-made lakes and sprawling fairways. Formerly a cotton plantation, the course was recently renovated and now includes a new clubhouse, driving range, pool, restaurant, pro shop, and tennis courts.

Hiking/Nature Tours
Adventurous travelers will love the exciting guided tours that lead into rugged interior. Stops can include spectacular waterfalls and natural pools (some in which you can swim), mountain peaks with panoramic views, archeological sites , grottos, and lava tubes.

The island of Tahiti is perfect for both beginning and advanced divers. Highlights include shallow waters, oceanic drop-offs, sunken ships and planes, bright coral walls, and schools of smaller species.

Bougainville Park
In the heart of the waterfront area, visitors find a newly renovated and peaceful oasis. Crowned by a massive banyan tree, the park is named in honor of the French explorer and navigator, Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811) and features running streams and lush vegetation.

Botanical Garden
Adjacent to the Gauguin Museum, this lush and manicured garden features hundreds of varieties of tropical trees, plants, and flowers including bamboo, bananas, palms, and hibiscus. The garden was originally planted by American botanist Harrison Smith who moved to Tahiti in 1919.

Point Venus
At the tip of a beautiful peninsula lined with black-sand beaches, this area was the historic landing site of many of the early explorers including Captain Cook and Captain William Bligh. Tahiti's only lighthouse, built in 1867, stands within a park popular with locals for community events and festivals.

1 comment:

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