Tahiti - Pristine Paradise
Tahiti. What a wonderful word. It rolls off the tongue like a lover’s sigh. Tahiti is one of those rare, living words. You can not say it without your mind presenting you with images that are beautiful, idyllic and dreamy. Little wonder, then, that many have waxed lyric about the many rewards awaiting the visitor. The water is so blue and crystal that you can see clear into next week.
The islands of the archipelago are green and lush and the inhabitants have a natural beauty. They exude confidence, calmness and friendliness. Tahiti is a part of French Polynesia’s Society Islands and is situated at the navel of the Pacific Ocean. This magical island group has attracted yachts and their crews for centuries.
When on R and R in 1769, Captain Cook took a busman’s holiday as it were, by chartering his own yacht there, and Captain Bligh of Bounty fame was thankful that his crew had the good sense to mutiny in paradise. Paul Gauguin, the polaroid of his day, captured in oils the romantic ambience which permeates this wonderful place in the Pacific.
The four major islands in the cruising area – Raiatea, Tahaa, Huahine and Bora Bora – have volcanic centres rising out of calm lagoons protected by outlying reefs which provide safe and secure cruising waters.
Conveniently based at Raiatea, a 45 minute flight from Papeete, the cruising grounds are immediately accessed, with a leisurely four hour sail west to Bora Bora and three hours east to Huahine. Wherever you are, you are in a tropical paradise.
The sister islands of Raiatea and Tahaa share a common coral foundation and protected lagoon. Tahaa is only three kilometres northwest of Raiatea. Legend has it that the two islands were originally one but a giant eel swallowed a young girl. Possessed by her spirit, the raging eel broke through the earth and cause the sea to flow cutting the single island in two, creating Raiatea and Tahaa.
All the islands of the Leewards group are almost completely surrounded by coral reef. To arrive at an island it is necessary to find the ‘passe’ or opening in the barrier reef. These openings usually occur where a fresh water stream from the islands flows into the ocean – as coral cannot live in fresh water, the continuous line of reef is broken at that point.
‘Passes’ are marked by two white signs, one on the mountain and the other on the shore. Yachtsmen must line up these markers to locate the openings. Navigation is relatively simple with line-of-sight the most common method used while cruising.
The Tahitian trade winds have an average wind strength of around 15 knots and the temperatures remain in a near perfect range of 22-30 degrees year round.
On Raiatea is the sacred stone formation of Marae. This ancient site is the spiritual centre of Polynesia. It was from here that Polynesian mariners set out and founded the great Maori nation in the “land of the long white cloud”.
With reliable south-easterly trades, the reach to Bora Bora usually takes between four and five hours and offers an exciting sail across the open Pacific.
To sail under the awe-inspiring twin peaks of Bora Bora will erase the thoughts of recessions and interest rates from the most stubborn and stressed minds. The Bora Bora Yacht Club is a haven for cruising yachties where you can sit and chat with modern day adventurers who have given it all away for a life at sea.
The best way to see Bora Bora is by bicycle with the Yacht Club offering bikes for hire at reasonable rates. By bike you can visit the main township of Vaitape as well as some of the major restaurants and holiday houses of the rich and famous.
An equal distance from Raiatea to Bora Bora to the east is the island of Huahine which is remarkable for its isthmus bridge and stunning landscapes. It is actually two islands, Huahine Iti and Huahine Nui which are part of the same land mass and are connected, at low tide by an isthmus.
The Polynesian racial makeup is 75 per cent Maori, ten per cent Asian, and 15 per cent European. Tourism is rapidly replacing traditional industries such as copra and coconut oil production and exquisite mother of pearl and black pearl cultivation.
Tipping is frowned upon in Tahiti which makes one feel that the hospitality and friendliness displayed everywhere is the real McCoy.
Tahiti is, without doubt, the glamour spot of the Pacific. The whole area is a wonderland of attractions and, on top of this, the sophistication of French restaurants and boutiques.
Bora Bora Island