After spending a month in Tahiti, we are off once again to the smaller islands of the Society Islands Archipelago. Most of these islands combine the dramatic volcanoes of the Marquesas covered with lush tropical forests with rivers and waterfalls, and the blue lagoons of Tuamotus, creating perfection. Green mountains meet calm coral lagoons in the Society Islands- the ultimate tropical paradise.
Moorea is one such beautiful piece of Heaven on Earth. We drop anchor in a very shallow bay of unreal crystal clear waters, where no deep draft vessel can enter, as the depth is only 1.5 meters. Which means, we almost touch the bottom. It was Gille’s idea to come here, together with S/V Mercredi Soir (Belgium) and S/V QuatrA (France) , away from other boats and crowded anchorages. Our very own private spot, near a small village with wi-fi and fresh French baguettes in the morning. Also, the stingray spot is just a short kayak ride away.
We go swimming with the big rays and black tip sharks a few times with our friends. The kids are having fun and are super brave swimming with sharks again.
Once we go just Ivo and me, early in the morning, before the tourist crowds arrive. The water is clearest then, the sun is low and orange, and the stingrays and sharks, still sleepy, gather around our kayak, inviting us for a dance.
I will never forget this moment, being surrounded by these strange wild creatures, considered dangerous, with poisonous darts in their tails, blamed for killing the famous wildlife filmmaker Steve Erwin… In Moorea, even though wild and free, they have become used to people- gentle, friendly and even cuddly, like small kittens.
After Moorea we sail to Raiatea, to meet our guests Ana and Kalin who join us aboard Fata Morgana for six unforgettable days of pure tropical fun.
Together we sail to three different islands and seven different anchorages, visiting some awesome places, snorkeling in coral gardens, kayaking and climbing mountains.
Marae Taputapuatea, Raiatea
Our first island together is Raiatea which means “faraway heaven” and is considered the original birthplace of Polynesia. We sail to one of the region’s most important archeological sites- Marae Taputapuatea- a large archeological complex on the southeastern coast of Raiatea. We drop anchor right in front of the marae and kayak to shore.
The site features a number of stone structures and was once the most important sacred temple of Eastern Polynesia.
The marae was a place of learning where priests and navigators from all over the Pacific would gather to offer sacrifices to the gods and share their knowledge of the universe, and of ocean navigation.
Here, we found out what “Fata” means in the Polynesian language- a special offering table, where gifts and offerings for the gods were placed.
Faaroa River, Raiatea
Not far is the Faaroa river- our next stop.
The anchorage is only a few miles north from the marae- only one hour sailing inside the lagoon. We drop anchor in the shallow river delta. The water here is murky.
The Faaroa River is a big navigable river, calm as it reaches the lagoon, curling through lush rainforest and farmlands, providing a great way to explore the island with our kayaks.
We paddle for about 20 minutes, before we reach a big farm up river where two friendly farmers invite us to show us around their land. They tell us about different fruits, some of which we have never seen or tasted before, and they give us many of them.
They also show us how to make a trap for wild pigs using nothing more than one long stick, a few shorter ones and some leaves. In under 10 minutes the guys construct a perfect little trap- a smaller version of the bigger and stronger ones they use to catch wild boars up in the mountains (Watch the video where they show us how to make the trap). If we want, we can go hunting with them, they invite us, or we can visit the house. But we have no time. There are so many places we want to see in the short time we have together with Ana and Kalin.
The farmers also show Ivo and Kalin how to use the traditional Polynesian outrigger canoes. Turns out keeping your balance on one of those long slender canoes is not as easy as it might seem and Ivo, who likes to do tricks, not just “go with the flow”, overturns the canoe falling in the water. Not once, but four times!
Returning to the boat with the kayaks in the evening becomes an ordeal, as the wind gets stronger against us, and paddling is really slow and hard. It’s almost dark as we finally reach the boat, tired, wet and cold. Hot showers, dinner and off to bed with one more great adventure to remember forever.
Vanilla Farm, Tahaa
In the morning we sail to Tahaa, which is really close to Raiatea- less than 20 NM from the river. Actually, the two islands share a lagoon, so sailing to Tahaa is an absolute pleasure in the calm lake-like waters behind the reef, on a beam reach.
Taha’a, also known as “The Vanilla Island” is one of the greenest islands we’ve seen with lush forests and farms. Rich volcanic soils, fertile with all sorts of plants and fruits.
Once again we drop anchor way too close to land and kayak to shore. The small sleepy village looks uninhabited.
We hike up to a vanilla farm La Maison de la Vanille (The Vanilla House) in the mountain The walk is pleasant, on a paved road surrounded by a green world in bloom.
We reach the vanilla plantation. А man and his wife live there and they show us around explaining all about the process of vanilla production.
The vanilla plant is a vine which needs a lot of special care. Each flower must be hand pollinated to grow the precious vanilla pod. After about eight months the yellow pods are harvested and heat-cured to develop the flavor. At this stage their color changes to a deep brown-black. Each vanilla pod is classified according to length and quality.
With prices of about $150 per pound, vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron with the USA the largest consumer of vanilla in the world.
On the way back people give us all sorts of fruits- papayas, bananas, some sour unknown fruit and Maya’s favorite- cocoa beans.
Coral Gardens, Taha’a
Another awesome learning experience and we are off to the next anchorage on the other side of Taha’a. In the afternoon, we sail to the famous coral gardens- crystal clear water teaming with tropical fish.
We anchor right in front of the famous over the water bungalows, next to the coral gardens where we take our guests to snorkel.
The lagoon here is teaming with many cute species of colorful fishes and beautiful blue water. But the corals are not in good shape, unfortunately. Bleached, dying or dead, they have lost their former glory due to pollution and warmer water temperatures, most probably.
The next day we sailed to Bora-Bora, some 20 NM away. It’s a slow sail with little wind and calm sea- perfect for our guests, who haven’t sailed before and are a bit worried about being in the open ocean on a small catamaran for the first time. The passage is uneventful; no fish on the hook.
We enter through the large pass of the atoll and drop anchor in the lagoon.
Like all the other islands from the Society Islands Archipelago, Bora-Bora is a tall volcanic island surrounded by a reef-protected lagoon, which is famed to be one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, with some of the most expensive and luxurious hotels. It is true, and now we know why Bora-Bora is the Jewel of the South Seas. The most romantic island in the South Pacific, Bora Bora is an internationally acclaimed honeymoon destination and among the few places on our planet that everyone dreams to visit at least once in their lifetime.
Her soaring mountain peaks, turquoise lagoon and luxuriant over-the-water bungalows with an elegant multimillion mega yacht park in front look even more spectacular than the postcards.
Here we snorkeled with dozens of gentle friendly stingrays again.
Mount Pahia, Bora-Bora
The next day we move in front of Vaitape on the free public dock. Vaitape is the biggest settlement on Bora-Bora with a few shops, restaurants and markets. We walk around town. The contrast of the luxurious expensive resorts in the lagoon and the poor timid houses of the locals in the village with the family graves in the front yards is striking. The main road is narrow with no sidewalks where muddy puddles form on the sides after rain.
Our guests want climbing the second highest peak on the island- Pahia together with Ivo. The highest peak on Bora-Bora is Otemanu rising at 727m and accessible only to experienced rock climbers with special gear.
Pahia is easier to reach, but also extremely difficult and dangerous. A guide is recommended, but a guide charges a minimum of 100 US$ per person. So Ana and Kalin, together with Ivo brave Pahia free-style and with no guide. It’s a muddy strenuous ordeal, harder than our guests expected, but worth the spectacular view from the top and the incredible achievement- to be among the few people who have ever climbed Paihia!
The Coral Labyrinth, Bora-Bora
The next day we sail further and anchor in the blue lagoon next to a private island with a beautiful white beach and luxurious hotels, near a place known as the “coral labyrinth” for another exhilarant snorkeling expedition.
On one of the private islands with manicured grass and palm trees, there are video cameras all over the place, and as we approach the beach with our kayaks, a not-so-friendly woman arrives to tell us to leave even before we have landed- it’s a private island and even the beach is off limits.
But the owner of the next private island is a much friendlier long-haired, long-bearded dude in a traditional Polynesian mini-skirt- a Jewish New Yorker, who bought a small island in Bora-Bora lagoon and moved in Paradise. He welcomes us with a big smile and a bunch of friendly dogs. We are welcome to park our orange unsinkable awesome kayaks on his beach and snorkel the Coral Labyrinth.
Six days passed as in a dream. It was time for our guest to fly home.
We loved our time with Ana and Kalin. Sailing between the islands, visiting some great archeological sites and learning about Polynesian history and culture; snorkeling in superb coral gardens; kayaking up the river, meeting friendly locals and learning how to make a trap for pigs bear Grylls style; visiting the vanilla farm and trying new fruits; and hiking one of Bora-Bora’s highest volcanoes. Our guests enjoyed their sailing vacation too and promised to come back to visit us again!
And if you want, you can visit us too! In Fiji in June, July or August, or in Vanuatu in September, or in New Caledonia in October.
Watch our 15-minute video Boat Tour and sailing Vacation Aboard Fata Morgana for a tour of our Leopard 38 and all the adventures we had with Ana and Kalin in French Polynesia.
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