Natacha Tonissoo, one of our Senior PR Account Managers, was lucky enough to spend some time in Tahiti recently and wrote the following:-
Getting off the beaten track in the Islands of Tahiti
Think Tahiti and what comes to mind? Swaying palm trees, your toes sinking into untouched white sand, crystal clear lagoons, overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and overall… simply the image of an unearthly paradise.
Paradise at Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa
Tahiti is all of these things and more – I was amazed that it went above and beyond even my dreamiest expectations. It’s a dream for everyone to one day go to Tahiti right? How could it not be? It’s where artists like Gauguin fell in love with the charm of French Polynesia and continued coming back to be inspired by its natural beauty. I’m here and I can’t quite believe it. I’m taking our group press trip with the aim of showing this wonderful side of Tahiti but also the side that most travellers don’t tend to see – the lush volcanic peaks in the interior of the islands and the adventurous side to these islands that offer more than just a place to unwind and blow kisses at your lover by the pool and the beach. So forgot the Mai Tai’s boys and girls, we’re off on a Tahitian adventure!
Canyoning in Moorea
Our first activity is pretty extreme – it’s our first day on the island of Moorea (it is the nearest island, just a stone’s throw – or ferry ride… from Tahiti) and we’re not sitting around dousing ourselves in sunscreen but instead heading deep into the lush interior by 4X4 and slipping into wet suits… we’re going canyoning! Now if anyone has seen a canyoning YouTube video as I had before coming out to Tahiti (error), it’s pretty terrifying. I bought specific canyoning shoes and all, so I became a classic case of ‘all the gear and no idea’. So here we go, shimmying down waterfalls by rope and I was amazed to make it to the bottom ALIVE – every time. The canyoning was interspersed with light-hearted jumps in natural pools and natural water slides. What’s incredible about doing canyoning here as opposed to elsewhere in the world is the outstanding nature all around you. The interior of Moorea is simply breathtaking – majestic peaks, lush jungle and these crystal clear pools we came across in the heart of the forest, that appear to have never been discovered before.
It’s an incredibly special place and most people don’t really tap into its inner beauty, so to speak, so we were fortunate enough to explore it, albeit in a slightly hairy way. We later appreciated our resting post at the gorgeous Hilton Moorea Lagoon & Spa. I especially loved the rich coral garden at the hotel’s clear lagoon which was teeming with sea life. It was a treat to be able to see such an array of colourful fish right by the shore. It’s by far the best snorkeling I’ve done in my life.
Hilton Moorea Lagoon & Spa
Day two and still in Moorea, this time we head to the waters. We’re being led by expert French guide Vincent on a Tintin style ‘Helmet Dive’ adventure around one of Moorea’s most peaceful lagoons. For non-divers, first-timers, but even for me as a qualified scuba diver, this is a brilliant way to explore the underwater world of Tahiti. Everything from giant groupers, schools of tropical fish and stingrays rubbed shoulders with us as we glided across the ocean floor, just a few metres down from the surface. It’s a fun group activity for all.
Helmet Dive in Moorea
Our next outpost is Bora Bora’s next door neighbour, Le Taha’a (also known as the Vanilla Island). In the shadow of its famous sister, Bora Bora, Le Taha’a is for travellers in the know and for those who want pure authenticity and true Polynesian lifestyle. We’re hardly slumming it either… we’re staying on a small motu (islet) off Le Taha’a main island, which is home to its own luxurious private island retreat – Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. This is French Polynesia’s only Relais & Châteaux property and also home to the first spa in these islands! In its claim to fame, it has attracted the likes of Giorgio Armani, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Gates and Natalie Portman was there just last year. It’s a true Polynesian gem and felt very Robinson Crusoe in style. Le Taha’a main island is known for producing the best vanilla in the world.
Going on a dive around Le Taha’a
The next morning at Le Taha’a, two of us are up for a scuba dive. Why not? We could be sunbathing but the weather has turned cloudy so we’re going underwater and decide to join a hard-core French diving couple on an excursion out to sea. We’re all wet-suited and booted, when our dive guide tells us “Don’t worry, when you get in the water you’ll be surrounded by black-tipped sharks, but nothing to worry about OK?”. That’s actually NOT OK. I did not sign up for ‘shark-diving’ – this isn’t part of our adventure agenda. AND I’m responsible for someone else, not that she was scared at all, while I was trembling in my wetsuit. I’m eventually pushed in after everyone else has gone and distracted the sharks and I sink slowly to the bottom… it may have been the nitrogen, but suddenly things seemed fine and the sharks were just another harmless fish in the big blue sea. It was beautiful seeing them peacefully meandering over the coral beds, and it goes to show how much they are misunderstood creatures and we shouldn’t fear them like we do. I still wouldn’t dive head first into a pool of sharks but I’ve definitely conquered ‘some’ of my fear on this front and really would like to dive with sharks again in future in a safe environment.
Lava tube hike in Tahiti
Nearing the end of our trip now and for our final adventure we’re back on Tahiti main island. We’re up at the crack of dawn and get collected from our hotel (The InterContinental Tahiti Resort) by Herve in his 4×4. Herve runs Mato-Nui adventure excursions exploring Tahiti’s hidden interior gems. Today it’s the Lava Tubes of Hitia’a that we’re exploring, all the way on the north eastern part of the island.
This is definitely the definition of going off-road and going “off the beaten track”. It was a spectacular half day adventure with an extremely fun and professional guide. Covered in tattoos – as is traditional and commonly seen in Tahiti – Herve is a fountain of knowledge about Polynesia – from traditions, to song and dance and nature. He simply was ‘Tahiti’. The lava tubes are essentially a series of tunnels with a river running directly through them. They were created millions of years ago when the island’s volcanos were active the lava flowed down the mountains and cooled on the surface. We hiked through these tunnels in total darkness with just our head torches to guide us and Herve leading the way, safely pointing out where we should place our feet to avoid any mishaps! Herve knew every stone and wedge in the tunnels so we felt incredibly secure. The hike through the tunnels involved climbing up walls, abseiling down others and jumping into cold pools and discovering hidden waterfalls. It really was an adventure of a lifetime and I recommend it to anyone active, and with a bit of a fire in their belly keen to explore.
Traditional dance at The InterContinental Tahiti Resort
Our final night in Tahiti at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, we enjoyed a live show of Tahitian men and women dancing in traditional dress, making us all wish we could skip our flight the next day and just get in a coconut bikini and grass skirt and stay in Tahiti forever.
This was really the trip of a lifetime.