Magic Carpet Journals
French Polynesia - Tahiti and Moorea in more depth
Heather and Barry are drawn back to French Polynesia, revisiting Tahiti and Moorea
Story and pictures by Heather and Barry Minton
Heather and Barry in Moorea.
During a cruise through the Pacific last year we fell in love with French Polynesia and, in particular, the island of Moorea, so decided to revisit this lovely part of the world. We planned for three nights in Papeete the capital, and five nights on Moorea, staying at the Intercontinental Hotel and Resort in both places.
We flew from Melbourne to Auckland by Air New Zealand before taking a direct flight from there to Papeete, a journey of about nine hours not including the stopover. We were due to arrive in Papeete at midnight but, after a lengthy flight delay due to a mechanical fault, we did not arrive until 4am! However, we were still greeted with music, flowers and smiles and were whisked off to our hotel where we were swiftly checked in and settled in our room.
Hotel swimming pool
We stayed in the main building of the hotel in a garden view room but they have various priced accommodation from standard rooms through to luxurious overwater bungalows.
When we woke the view from our balcony was of the island of Moorea in the distance.
Balcony view of Moorea
After exploring our hotel we took a taxi into Papeete. Tahiti was originally settled by the French and is now an independent state. The people speak French, Tahitian and English. Papeete is a busy business centre, port, and shopping precinct. Souvenir shopping is best done in Papeete as the smaller islands have a more limited range. In this part of the world the main items of interest are the beautiful black pearls although colours range from black through to white and almost every colour in-between. (The one we purchased is pale blue set in silver.)
That evening we had a sumptuous seafood dinner and enjoyed a performance by ‘Les Grands Ballets de Tahiti’ of the traditional music and dance of Tahiti.
The next day we took the short ferry ride of 15 miles to Moorea (the name means ‘yellow lizard’ in Tahitian) and were immediately struck by the beautiful perfume of flowers when we arrived. This island is 51sq.miles in size and is home to about 14,500 people, and seen from the air it is actually the shape of a green butterfly floating in the blue ocean, with its wings outspread.
Hotel from pier
We were driven through the beautiful scenery that we remembered so well to our hotel the Intercontinental Resort, Moorea (originally the Beachcomber Park Royal) where we were greeted with “welcome to paradise” and delicious fruit cocktails by the manager Stephane Lebanc who explained all the amenities that this lovely resort has to offer. The staff are very friendly and helpful and some have been with the hotel for many years.
We were quickly settled into our premium overwater bungalow and able to explore. The resort consists of a main building with bars and two restaurants as well as another snack bar area adjacent to the beach, jetty and two swimming pools.
View of pool area
The main building has excellent garden rooms while the overwater bungalows are situated around the edge of a number of small sandy islets accessible by bridges. Each bungalow is arranged for maximum privacy with its own deck.
Our bungalow is the last one on the left.
Ours was situated right on the reef so, below and all around us, there was a constant parade of fish, and other marine life of all sizes shapes and colours. We were able to climb down a ladder from our deck and swim and snorkel in the warm, clear water.
Inside the bungalow
Fish and reef
There is a large range of activities available at the resort and every conceivable sport or activity - over, on or under the ocean; whatever you prefer is available.
Twice during our stay dinner was served on the beach where chairs and tables with linen tablecloths and napkins were arranged under lights and we were served a smorgasboard of hot and cold seafood the first time and barbecued meats and salads on the second night. Each time we were entertained by local dance troupes who again performed the music and dances of the islands. One night it even included a canoe paddled across the swimming pool and fire dancing.
The Intercontinental Hotel Group in French Polynesia and The Moorea Dolphin Centre help fund the non-profit foundation “Te mana o te moana” – this means “spirit of the ocean” in the Tahitian language. Their objective is conservation, education, and research for the protection of marine species – whales, turtles, fish, coral etc.
The Dolphin Centre has three resident, tame dolphins that happily interact with visitors. There are two programs available: The first is a simple “meet and greet” where a party of up to six people are able to play and interact with these beautiful creatures. The second program available is to swim underwater with the dolphins in a deep pool. Heather elected to try the first option and had a most enjoyable half hour with them. Each program includes a brief talk by one of the knowledgeable staff about these fascinating creatures.
Group with dolphin
Heather and Koa the dolphin
The hotel also created a Sea Turtle Care Centre in February 2004 with the help and financial assistance of the Ministry of Environment. Part of the resorts’ lagoon is dedicated to the daily care and treatment of all turtles provided by local authorities. The experienced staff of “Te mana o te moana” closely monitors each turtle – weight and growth – and prepares them for release into the ocean as soon as their health permits.
We took a 4x4 safari tour with Julienne Safari Tours. Our guide, Julienne Taiuri, a local with twelve years experience in the tourist industry, took us to many of the scenic spots on the island. She stopped briefly at her house as she wanted “to show you my own piece of paradise,” a lovely home and garden nestled at the foot of Mt. Mouaputa (“Hole-in-top”) She also introduced us to her husband and pets.
Julienne at her house
Close up of Mt. Mouaputa
One of the highlights of Moorea is the Belvedere Lookout. It is located in the centre of the island and is at an altitude of 787ft. Mt. Rotui gives the island the shape of the butterfly’s head and the twin bays Opunohu Bay and Cook’s Bay separate the wings. (Cook’s Bay was named after Captain Cook who anchored there in 1769.)
Mt. Rotui and the twin bays from Belvedere Lookout
From this vantage point you also have a close up of Bali Hai which was the peak used in the movie musical “South Pacific”.
Bali Hai and us
Mt. Rotui and Cook’s Bay
We visited the remains of a Murae which is an ancient temple of coral or basaltic stone which was often pyramid shaped with an altar at one end where human sacrifices are understood to have occurred.
The island is very fertile and grows many tropical fruits. We called at a pineapple plantation and a vanilla plantation and also the factory of Manutea Tahiti where the fruits of the island are made into delicious drinks (both alcoholic and alcohol free), tasty jams, candied fruit and chocolate.
The twin bays look beautiful from every angle.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Moorea and were very sad to leave. We recommend this lovely island for a very relaxing and memorable holiday.
© 2011 Magic Carpet Journals. All rights reserved
Last Updated on February 29, 2012 by M. Maxine George editor.