French Polynesia: corals, lagoons and volcanoes
French Polynesia is in the heart of the South Pacific. With 118 islands and atolls spread over an area of around 4 million square kilometers, this French territory is roughly the size of Western Europe. However, the total land area is not much larger than Mallorca. The islands were first settled by settlers from Samoa and Tonga between 150 BC and 700 AD.
The multi-faceted flora of the islands consists of around 1000 types of plants brought in by wind and weather before the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers, about 400 types of plants that only grow on these islands and the types of plants that the European settlers brought with them later.
The islands of this Yacht Charter area are divided into five archipelagos: The Society Islands named by James Cook in honor of his sponsors, the Royal British Society of Sciences, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Marquesas Islands named by the Spanish explorer Mendana in 1595, the Austral Islands and the Gambier Islands. The island groups lie between 5 ° and 23 ° south latitude.
The Society Islands consist of a total of 13 volcanic islands, the windward eastern and the leeward western islands, including Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa, Huahine, Bora Bora, Maupiti, Tahaa and Raiatea. The capital of French Polynesia, Papeete, is located in Tahiti. Slightly more than half of the approximately 245,000 inhabitants of the French overseas territory live in Papeete and the surrounding area.
The Tuamotu Archipelago is a diving paradise northeast of the Society Islands. From afar, blue, white and green dominate the appearance of this archipelago with its low islands and atolls protected by coral belts. Seen up close, one is overwhelmed by the variety of colors of the coral reefs and the different shades of turquoise of the clear water.
Further northeast, the Marquesas Islands, including Nuku Niva and Hiva Oa, form the northern border of French Polynesia, in the south, after the 14 mountainous Gambier Islands, the five volcanic Austral Islands form the southern border of this area.
Tahiti & amp; Moorea
Sailing in the South Seas
This yacht charter area consists of the islands of Tahiti and Moorea. Tahiti is made up of two peninsulas, Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, which are connected by the isthmus of Taravao. The 2241 meter high cloud-covered mountain Orohena dominates the landscape of Tahiti Nui, the 1300 meter high Mairenui rises towards the sky on Tahiti Iti.
In the east of Tahiti, impressive, rocky landscapes and black basalt beaches offer the visitor a varied picture, while surfers will be happy about the high waves there. Particularly recommended for a visit are the Papehue Mahana National Park, the Lagunarium, the lighthouse of Pointe Venus and the marina of Papeete. Shore excursions should include a tour of the Pearl Museum, Museum of Tahiti, and Paul Gauguin Museum for art lovers and history buffs. Hiking trips inland offer a variety of experiences. In addition to the lush flora and fauna, waterfalls and caves dominated the landscape. A visit to the Maroto Pass, the Vaihrira crater lake, the Papenoo high valley, the Fenua ai’here nature reserve and the archaeological sites should be on every excursion list.
Moorea is an island rich in legends. Local lore says that Moorea was said to have been the dorsal fin of the great Tahiti fish. The hole in Moua Puta, the perforated mountain, is said to have been created when a warrior named Pai put the god Hiro to flight and tore the hole in the mountain with his spear. Hiro had tried to steal Rotui, the mountain on which the souls of the dead rest, before they embark on the long journey, and to take it to Raiatea.
Moorea was formerly called Aimeo and got its current name after a vision of a large, yellow lizard appeared to a high priest. From Moorea, Protestantism was also spread in French Polynesia. The first Bible in Tahitian language was printed there in the 19th century. Moorea was also an important seat of the Pomare royal family.
The picturesque bays Baie de Cook and Baie d’Opunohu with their deep water, framed by the high mountain peaks and the beautiful Rotui that surround them, have always had an irresistible charm on philosophers and artists of all kinds.
The many heavenly white sandy beaches, the colorful coral reefs and the lush underwater fauna also attract a large number of visitors for diving, snorkeling and sunbathing. Shark feeding and whale watching, boat trips and all kinds of water sports are also available on Moorea. Surfers will have fun in the reef passage Matauvau near Haapiti. We also recommend trying the island’s delicious pineapple and a’hima’a, the Tahitian stew from the traditional earth oven.
Accommodation for all bag sizes can be found on Moorea. Shore excursions should include visits to the art galleries, Mou’a Roa’s House of Nature, Tiki Village, the Moorea mini-train, the local dolphin center, and the fruit juice factory’s distillery. For visitors who love tattoos, a visit to Ronnui, who has revived the Polynesian tradition of tattooing, is inevitable.
There are a number of attractive inland excursions for hikers and mountaineers. The hike from Vaiare to Paopao leads to the Tearai foothills with its breathtaking view and from there into the Paopao valley. The path from Paopao to the pass of the three coconut palms, of which only one remains, leads through rivers and forests to the ridge of the pass, from which the neighboring islands can also be seen. The hike to the hole in the Moua Puta mountain first leads to the waterfalls of Afareaitu and from there through undergrowth and a maple chestnut forest up to the mountain ridge, on which caution is advised to get to the platform above the mountain hole. From the platform you rope down to the hole. A head for heights is a prerequisite for this excursion. The hike to the 900 meter high Rotui is steep and dangerous, but the view is indescribable. The excursion to the Mou’a Roa above the Vaiana valley with its lush flora and fauna offers peace for the mind and peace for the eye. The mountain hikes should be guided.
Raiatea and Bora Bora
Raiatea is the sacred island and the heart of Polynesian culture. Until the arrival of the Europeans, this was the center of religious and political power in Polynesia. Old places of worship such as the Marae Taputapuatea on the east coast of Raiatea testify to this. Religious ceremonies, held in honor of gods and ancestors elevated to gods, played an important role in the life of Polynesians. During important ceremonies such as the coronation of a new king, human sacrifices were also made. The numerous legends also testify to the special status of Raiatea. According to one of these legends, an eel possessed by the spirit of a princess separated Raiatea from the island of Tahaa in the north. Both islands are protected from the waves of the Pacific by the same coral belt.
This coral belt makes Raiatea a paradise for diving and snorkeling. Popular diving destinations are not only the many underwater gardens, but also the wreck of the three-master “Nordby”, which sank around 1900, and the so-called “Japanese Garden” with its coral roses in the octopus grotto for experienced divers. The lush underwater fauna contains numerous species of fish, including reef sharks and napoleon fish, which together with the other species meet here all year round.
Numerous reef passages allow safe entry into the lagoon around Raiatea. Magical, sheltered bays and anchorages await visitors, who anchor here in large numbers with every imaginable type of pleasure boat. Sailing holidaymakers in particular will enjoy the scenery offered to them with the magnificent lagoons and the enchanting small islands, which can be reached within half a day’s journey.
An exploration of Raiatea is recommended. Above the main town of Uturoa, Mount Tapioi offers a charming panoramic view. The other mountain on the island, Oropiro, hides the secret of the whereabouts of the spear with which the warrior Pai prevented the god Hiro from stealing Rotui, the mountain where the dead rest on their way to their destination. It is also worth taking a trip to Mount Temehani, which, according to legend, is the paradise and hell of deceased Polynesians. The white “Tiare apetahi”, the symbol of the island, grows there. The imposing Faaroa Bay can be chosen as a starting point for a boat or pirogue trip upstream along the river of the same name. The last battle took place at Avera on the east coast of Raiatea at the end of the 19th century between the French and Tahitians, this is where Queen Pomare IV fled. In addition to visiting the Marae Taputapuatea near Opoa, a trip to the well-preserved Tainuu temple complex is also worthwhile. Part of the site is now home to a Protestant church.
Around the island you have a wonderful view of the lagoon that surrounds the island and the small islets in it. For a breathtaking panoramic view take a flight over Raitateas and Tahaas by helicopter.
With its extinct volcano and one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, Bora Bora is nicknamed the “Pearl of the Pacific” for a reason. In earlier times there was always war between Bora Bora and the sacred island of Raiatea, which once had to submit to Bora Bora. The island’s skyline is dominated by three mountains, the highest of which is the Otemanu at 727 meters. Just as Alain Gerbault, Herman Melville or Paul-Emile Victor were fascinated by the beauty of Bora Bora, so will all visitors to the island. On Motu Toopua in the lagoon there are ringing blocks called “Bells of Hiro”. The airport and a number of luxury hotels are located on the other motus, the small islands in the lagoon. The restaurants of Bora Bora and the dishes on offer are as exquisite as the island itself.
The water of the exceptionally beautiful lagoon of the yacht charter area of Bora Bora is crystal clear and shines in different colors. Interesting for divers is the so-called “Rochen Avenue”, the “White Valley” outside the lagoon in the north of the island and the diving area near Tupitipiti. Feeding sharks and rays is a different kind of diving experience. But there are also enough activities for the visitor on the surface of the water, be it sailing, jet skiing, a pirogue ride or, outside the lagoon, a swordfish hunt tour. Sunbathing is a dream on the white beaches of Matira Point or on one of the small motus in the lagoon.
Interesting for an insight into the old traditions of the region are the Polynesian wedding ceremonies with the rhythmic drums, the screams of the warriors, the graceful dance of the women and the mystical ritual chants of the Tahua.
If you come to Bora Bora, you should treat yourself to a stay in one of the overwater bungalows, the stilt houses above the water, which are only supplied by pirogue. Shore excursions on foot or by car are also recommended. Off-road vehicles are available for excursions into the mountains.