Schlagwort-Archive: around the world

French Polynesia – Summary & Pictures

People: The award for friendliest locals of the South Pacific goes to…Samoa. But French Polynesia came close, at least the Tahitian part of the inhabitants of the Society Islands. The originally French were less nice, often not wanting to speak English, and we somehow met less nice people in the Tuamotus. While we did meet some other cool backpackers, a lot of them were also French and often not willing to speak English. Seriously, I found their attitude a bit embarrassing: I mean French is only my FIFTH language and therefore, I don’t speak it well. But to grow up in a Western country nowadays with good schools and not speak ANY other language? Embarrassing.

Food: We mostly cooked for ourselves to save money, and even that was expensive (high supermarket costs). Sometimes we ate out at roulottes (food trucks) and we had some delicious food on our lagoon tours. I guess if you can afford to eat out, French Polynesian food is really quite nice!

Weather: Overall, we were quite lucky – while there were some grey/rainy days, it was usually not on the most important days. And all in all, we did get lots of sunshine and heat!

Costs: French Polynesia is not cheap. The only thing cheap is probably the baguettes which are luckily readily available on most islands. Our daily spendings ended up being about 75€/person/day, including everything, even the flight pass. This required us to re-think the purchase of every little cookie package we felt like buying though!

Accommodation: We camped almost every night of our one month stay in French Polynesia – sometimes in beautiful spots directly on the lagoon or pretty beach, but also in someone’s back garden on hard coral rocks which was not so nice. Only in Huahine, Bora Bora (kind of) and Papeete we had a „proper room“. We really started to like camping though and are going to miss it!

Infrastructure: There are not many public buses or ferries, hence we decided to buy the Air Tahiti flight pass for both the Society Islands and the Tuamotus. While it was not cheap, it was by far the easiest way to see as many islands as possible in just a month. On the islands, we often had free bikes or rented scooters.

Illnesses: Mathijs had to fight his new wound and I had a bad throat infection at one point, so it wasn’t all perfect, but we made it work.

Safety: All good.

Itinerary: We took advantage of the flight pass as much as possible. The only island we failed to include was Maupiti which we were very sad about – but there was just no way: All flights into and out of Maupiti were fully booked. I guess we’ll have to return one day to see Maupiti, and maybe some of the more remote island groups like the Marquesas or Austral Islands. Since we really liked the country, we would definitely like to return one day!!

Highlight: Difficult to choose. As for islands, Huahine and Bora Bora were the best and I will always remember the „wall of sharks“ in Fakarava.

Lowlight: Tahiti/Papeete.

Click on the photo below to see our full photo album of French Polynesia:

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Tahiti – exploring the main island

Of course we couldn’t visit French Polynesia without spending some time at least in Tahiti itself – the main island of the archipelago. We spent two nights in Papeete and took a rental car for a day to explore the island. At first we headed East to a couple of viewpoints and blacksand beaches. People say Tahiti does not have any nice beaches – ok, they are not white, but we still found them quite pretty. Also nice for a change to see black sand instead of always white sand! There were also some nice views over the little bays and Moorea in the distance.

Unfortunately, after we started driving again, an alarm light in the car went on. We called our rental agency and were asked to stop by their location close to the airport. This was super annoying since we were already out of Papeete city traffic and we only would have passed by the airport at the end of the day otherwise (on our way back and to drop the car). But well… we have rented cars and scooters in so many different places in the world and never really had an issue up to now. I guess it was bound to happen at one point! To make things worse, we get stuck in a really bad traffic jam just 2km or so away from the rental station and were moving only meter by meter. At the rental agency, they checked things and told us that it’s only a broken alarm light and we should keep driving. Oh man, lost almost 2h for nothing…!

Anyways, we decided to continue our drive South instead of heading through Papeete another time. There was still some traffic jam, but luckily soon we were driving on rather empty roads again. Along the West coast, we stopped at multiple sights – some gardens, a waterfall, a natural spring,… all not that exciting though. We quickly (also because we didn’t have much time left) made our way to Tahete Iti, the smaller island of the two (unlike Huahine, Tahiti Nui and Iti are actually one island and not just connected by a bridge). We drove all the way down to Teahupoo, a place famous for its big waves and surfing competition. Unfortunately, you need to hire an expensive boat to get to see the wave and surfers – you cannot see them from town. Even so, it was a nice place to walk around for a bit, a cute little town.

Next, we decided to drive into the interior of Tahiti Iti up to a viewpoint, which would have been amazing, I’m sure, if the light would have been good. Unfortunately, mid afternoon was not a good time – we had the sun directly against us… Still cool to see, but we wish we would have been there at a different time of the day.

We then were left with the dilemma whether to finish the circle of Tahiti Nui (the big island) by driving up the East coast or to drive back the same way we came. On any other day, we would have opted to see what we had not seen yet – but we were a bit pressed for time and worried that Papeete city traffic would once again be really bad and we would get stuck in a traffic jam yet again. So we decided (sadly) to give that part of the island a miss… to be honest, I don’t think we missed all that much though. Tahiti overall has not been too exciting, and with our bad luck combined, we were happy to leave again next day for Moorea!

Fakarava – the best of the Tuamotus

Seems like we saved the best for the end! Our last island in the Tuamotus was a pleasant surprise: white sand beaches and underwater sharks galore! Fakarava’s North and South Passes are known for being among the best dive sites in the world…But after the rather disappointing dives in Tikehau and Rangiroa, we weren’t sure what to expect. Luckily, Fakarava delivered! We first dived the South Pass, which was a very choppy 2.5h boat ride away from the main island. But – it was worth it! Both dives were amazing: We finally saw rather healthy coral, lots of fish aaand…hundreds of sharks!! I’m not exaggerating. There were walls of grey reef sharks waiting for us underwater where we stopped a couple of times at different depths to admire the action. The second dive had some crazy currents and a little less shark action, but was still really great. Happy diving times!

Another day, we dove the North Pass, which was only a 20min boat ride away. Much easier! I loved our one dive there and wished we could have done more still: Loads of fish – big schools – everywhere, here and there some grey reef sharks, not quite as many as in the South Pass, but still plenty. And beautiful coral! We had some nice drift during our dive and could just glide along and watch things. Awesome!

The rest of our time in Fakarava was spent cycling around the island and stopping at various spots for snorkelling. I was sooo happy to see some nice coral again after all the grey dead coral of Tikehau and Rangiroa. And there were always some sharks around, wherever you jumped into the water! Usually blacktips, but in town and around the harbour there are also a couple of shy lemon sharks which we tried to approach sometimes.

Above water, Fakarava was beautiful as well! I liked the main village Rotoava, quiet and peaceful, and finally we had some nice sandy beaches again! Especially the stretch at PK9 (kilometer 9 up North past the airport) is pretty with white sands, turquoise waters and of course photogenic palm trees. It was quite a cycle up there, but we managed to go twice. I had heard before that there is good snorkelling too, but when we went into the water here, we only saw dead coral. Maybe we should have swam out farther? But there were quite some waves every time we were there, so not the best snorkelling conditions anyways. More time to enjoy the beauty above water then!

We ended up liking Fakarava best out of the three islands we visited in the Tuamotus and would have probably traded a day in Tikehau or Rangiroa for more time in Fakarava in hindsight. If I was to return to French Polynesia, I wouldn’t mind going to Fakarava again for some more diving and lagoon tours, which we didn’t manage to do this time.