OUR thoughts on FRENCH POLYNESIA

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French Polynesia is often referred to simply as “Tahiti”.  Papeete on the island of Tahiti is the seat of Government, the international point of entry and travellers can see it as a visitor destination in its own right, but there is a great deal more to French Polynesia than the island of Tahiti alone and to get the real essence of this place you really do need to include another one or more of the many incredibly beautiful islands that make up this destination. We specialise in every fantastic, romantic corner of magnificent French Polynesia. There are usually four flights each week between Auckland and Papeete with a flight time of just on five hours.  French Polynesia is a vast territory spread over an enormous area of the South Pacific and contains many of the most idyllic tropical islands to be found anywhere on Earth.  Accessing all the islands is easy with an Air Tahiti Pass.  The history of New Zealand and French Polynesia is intertwined with New Zealand Maori and French Polynesian Mao’hi, sharing a great deal of history, folklore and a similar language. 

 Our Specialists have expert knowledge of Tahiti as well as Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa which are reasonably close to Tahiti and the slightly more remote Tuamotu and Marquesas groups of Islands.  All the French Polynesia islands are different and all are stunningly beautiful. We have a comprehensive range of resorts to offer throughout the islands and for something very, very special, we have small ship cruises, a cargo-passenger ship opportunity and even a yachting option, all of which deliver a marvellous, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

OUR ISLANDS OF TAHITI
OUR MOOREA
OUR BORA BORA 
OUR HUAHINE
OUR RAIATEA AND TAHAA
OUR TUAMOTU ISLANDS
OUR MARQUESAS ISLANDS

OUR ISLAND OF TAHITI

Tahiti is nearly two islands – in fact there are even two names Tahiti Nui (Big Tahiti) and Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti), but they are naturally joined together.  The road around Tahiti Nui is 115 km but the main  hotels and resorts are concentrated in a 25 km band between the Capital Papeete which is on the north west of the island, and south to Punaauia around 15 km away. Faaa International Airport is only 5km from Papeete between these two points.  When staying on Tahiti for two or three days before venturing off to Moorea, Bora Bora etc, we strongly advise that you organise your time to get the most from your short stay.  Our Specialists will gladly assist. 

 So, what are the “must do” attractions of the Island of Tahiti?  Starting with Papeete, the first thing you realise is that Papeete has a very lively night life and the later at night – the livelier!  There is an excellent market in Papeete which is well worth a visit as is the Vaima Centre which is known for its Tahitian Artefacts.  In the evening it is great to go over to the wharf area where the roulottes or street food stalls are set up – the food is cheap and good and the atmosphere is friendly and warm. Don’t miss watching the sun go down over Moorea – the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort is a great spot to catch the sunset. An enjoyable day trip can be had by hiring a car and driving around the island.  Stop at The Museum of Tahiti just out of Papeete at Punaauia, and then drive on to the Paul Gauguin Museum to enjoy the Gauguin display and the grand view of Tahiti Iti.  Golfers will enjoy the superb 18 hole course at Atimaono. Cross over to the rugged eastern side and lunch at a café at Taravao, then drive up the coast through Papenoo and marvel at the huge waves where surfers come from all over the world to surf, stop at Point Venus to admire the view and then it’s back to Papeete.  If you have another day on Tahiti a cross-island 4WD trip takes you to some exceptional natural and historic sights in the centre of this interesting island. Our Specialists can help you get the most from a short stay on Tahiti.

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OUR MOOREA

It takes only 10 minutes by air or 30 minutes by fast catamaran ferry from Tahiti to Moorea and you arrive at what the locals call “The Magic Island”.  The fast ferry runs up to 7 times a day.  Moorea is a great place for a relaxing holiday, just try to get somewhere to stay at short notice over a local long weekend and it is odds-on the resorts will be bulging with local people on holiday from Papeete!  Moorea is not a huge island although the road that circles the coast is still 62 km in length and in that 62 km and on the side roads up into the mountain valleys you will find many features to enjoy.  Most of the resorts are located on the north and north-west of the island and what great resorts they are!  Options include International Resorts with overwater bungalows, Polynesian Spas, Dolphin Encounters, world-class entertainment, room service by outrigger canoe and much more.   We also offer a range of smaller family-owned properties and special resorts offering apartment-style accommodation with cooking facilities.  Our Specialists would love to help you sort out the right one for your holiday requirements. 

Moorea is the place for relaxation and unwinding.  However that doesn’t necessarily mean lazing around the pool or the lagoon all day, so if your idea of relaxation includes more active pursuits, Moorea caters for that as well.  If you are staying on the north-west corner maybe that activity is a wander down to Le Petite Village for a fresh morning croissant and baguette.  No matter where you are staying you might hire a bike and venture further afield.  Scooters and cars are available for hire too and the flat road around the island is flanked by roadside cafes, bistros, bakeries and restaurants. Don’t overlook a visit to the Juice Factory on the shores of picturesque Cook’s Bay.  For those looking for a little more activity we recommend a quad bike tour of the inland roads and tracks where you will see some magnificent views of the island and the lagoon and the plantations and farms on the hillsides.  There is also the chance to visit an historic site or two.  You drive a quad bike but travel in convoy with a guide.  Moorea has excellent snorkelling and diving, plenty of water sports activities and an 18-hole golf course too. You are in for a special treat if holidaying on Moorea from mid June to mid July; that’s the time of the annual Heiva Festival with its special French Polynesian singing, dancing and sports.

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OUR BORA BORA

The scenic Air Tahiti flight from Papeete to Bora Bora operates several times each day and takes only 50 minutes.  Direct flights also operate from Moorea.  As soon as you catch sight of Bora Bora from the air you know that there is something very special in store ahead for you on this island, known all over the world as “The Romantic Island”.  Much has been written about the legendary beauty of Bora Bora, of how it lured the sailors of HMS Bounty to their famous mutiny and of its promise of South Seas romance, so as you catch your first glimpse of the craggy central Mt Otemanu with its ring of motu islands and its amazingly beautiful beaches and lagoon you realise that it’s all true. Even the arrival is special.  The airport is built on one of the many lagoon islands and your transfer to your chosen resort is by boat through the lagoon.  On Bora Bora you are spoilt for choice between resorts on the central main island which face out into the lagoon and are handily located to the main town - Vaitafe, resorts on small islands in the lagoon surrounded by white sand beaches and resorts on the fringing reef islands which face the romantic mountainous mainland with calm lagoon beaches on one side and wild natural outer reef beaches on the other.  We are happy to assist you find the best fit for your personal requirements.

 Bora Bora is by no means a cheap destination but Our Specialists are Bora Bora experts and we have a huge number and range of resorts we can offer you. For those seeking a less-expensive option, we can assist with suggestions of resorts that will deliver a less expensive option.  One of the delights of a stay on the “mainland” of Bora Bora is to stay in a more modest resort property within walking distance of shops, supermarkets and cafes where local people shop and dine.

  Bora Bora’s main claim to fame is its superb range of up-market resorts; many with overwater bungalows which stretch right out into the lagoon off perfect white sand beaches.  Swimming and snorkelling directly off your overwater bungalow deck is amazing.  Some of these overwater bungalows are set so far out on the lagoon that bicycles are provided for guests as an option to walking between the deep water bungalows and the restaurants, bars, etc.  Our Specialists can help you find a resort with a wonderful Polynesian Spa or perhaps you would prefer a bungalow on the beach with a private horizon plunge pool or a multi-room private, secluded luxury family villa? No problem!

 Activities on Bora Bora focus on the lagoon although guided treks are available on foot or by 4WD through the mainland forest to spectacular lookouts on Mt Pahia and Mt Otemanu.  If you can tear yourself away from lazing in the lagoon, you might try a Jet-ski trip right around the lagoon, a swim with the sharks trip, a sunset cruise by outrigger canoe, Scuba diving or a Boston Whaler lagoon trip.  Whatever you do, don’t miss getting out on the water first thing in the morning or at sunset to fully capture the sheer romance of Bora Bora.  One of life’s totally unforgettable pleasures is to approach Bora Bora by sea and we can help you to discover this for yourself on an Archipels Cruising Yacht, by freighter on Aranui3 or in luxury on a Windstar Cruise - all great options.

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ARCHIPELS CRUISES
Dream Yacht Charter, Cabin Option.
This is something excitingly different. If you have ever wondered what your yachty friends enjoy about ocean cruising in the Pacific Islands, here is your chance to find out.  With Archipels Cruises we can book you a cabin on a scheduled sailing-catamaran cruise.  Imagine a deep sea sailing catamaran with accommodation for 8 or 10, complete with your own ensuite cabin, spacious saloon and deck space and crew to run the boat while all you have to do is enjoy the experience.  The “Cabin Option” is not a charter, so there is no minimum number of participants required.  There are various itinerary options between Tahiti and Bora Bora (and around other islands too) and while we recommend doing the whole 11 day trip between Papeete and Bora Bora you can join at a port along the way.  Here is the outline itinerary of the cruise to Bora Bora. 

Day 1 - Tahiti to Moorea
Day 2 - At Moorea
Day 3 - Moorea to Huahine
Day 4 and 5 - Cruising Huahine
Day 6 - Huahine to Raiatea
Day 7 - At Raiatea
Day 8 - Raiatea to Tahaa
Day 9 - At Tahaa
Day 10 - Tahaa to Bora Bora
Day 11 - Disembark Bora Bora
Itineraries are also available in the reverse direction.  Give Our Specialists a call; we have had personal experience of this type of travel and itinerary. 
Archipels Cruises also provide the option of a bare boat charter or a crewed charter and Our Specialists have details.

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OUR HUAHINE

Huahine, one of French Polynesia’s best kept secrets, is 40 minutes by air from Papeete, 35 minutes from Moorea or 35 minutes from Bora Bora.  Huahine is actually 2 islands which are joined by a bridge.  Its features are its amazing deep water lagoon where you can sail for kilometres in sheltered waters, its “country village” feeling and its welcoming inhabitants.  Go to Huahine if you need to totally unwind and relax near a deserted beach on a fabulous lagoon. There are 8 sleepy villages on Huahine. The main village - Fare, bursts into life when the cargo boat from Papeete docks; the second biggest village is Maeva.  Both Fare and Maeva have a choice of good restaurants. Huahine has a range of good quality accommodation and Our Specialists can assist you to make the right choice. 

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OUR RAIATEA AND TAHAA
These two islands share the same lagoon and were probably joined together in ancient times.  Raiatea, the second biggest island in French Polynesia after Tahiti, is 40 minutes by air from Papeete, 15 minutes from Huahine and 20 minutes from Bora Bora.  Known as The Sacred Island, Raiatea is considered by the local people to be the birth place of the Polynesian Gods and is thought by some to be the legendary Hawaiki of Maori folklore.  There are many important sacred historical sites especially around the Taputapuatea area which are certainly worth visiting.  The port and main town is Uturoa; enjoy the pleasant little fisherman’s wharf area and its outdoor cafes and food stores.  Raiatea and Tahaa are both known for pearl culture and vanilla plantations.  Visits to these industries are included on special tours; the most accessible to tourists are on Tahaa.  There are two top-class resorts here, one on each island.  The snorkelling in the enormous lagoon surrounding these islands is some of the best in the Pacific and the scuba diving among the coral gardens and wrecks is spectacular.   From the resort at Tahaa you get a clear view right over to the mountains and motus of Bora Bora.

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OUR TUAMOTU ISLANDS
Rangiroa, Tikehau, Fakarava and Manihi.

The Tuamotu Islands are only around 60 minutes by air from Papeete, but what a different experience awaits you.  The Society Islands (Tahiti Moorea, Bora Bora etc) that are the most popular tourist islands are what are known as “high” islands due to their mountainous interiors.  Rangiroa, Tikehau, Fakarava and Manihi are entirely different.  As you approach by air the first thing you realise (apart from the WOW! factor) is the total absence of mountains, in fact, stretched out before you will be an enormous ring of perfect little tropical islands which form some of the biggest coral lagoons in the world.  Rangiroa is the biggest group of the four and has the biggest population; Tikehau is best known for its pink sand beaches, Fakarava for its diversity of marine animals and birds and Manihi as the original centre of the pearl industry.  They are all mind-bogglingly beautiful and perfect places to round out your French Polynesian experience.  Each has at least one very good quality resort which is intimate in size yet provides a full range of facilities and high quality services.  What a magic choice for a honeymoon!  Ask Our Specialists to help you work out which atoll is best for you.  You should allow at least 4 days out in the Tuamotus to get most benefit from a visit.  This gives you and your partner time to perhaps paddle over to a neighbouring island for a “lost on a deserted tropical island” experience, discover the thrill of snorkelling amongst thousands of reef fish or just soak up the atmosphere of these tranquil islands from the comfort of a hammock slung between two palm trees while the lagoon water laps at your feet and the surf crashes on the distant reef.  The sunsets and the amazing night sky display have to be seen to be believed.

HAUMANA CRUISES
The 36 metre long and 13.8 metre wide catamaran “Haumana” offers 2 cruises on the Rangiroa Lagoon.  The choice is either the 3 night Blue Lagoon Cruise which departs Wednesday, or the 4 night Pink Sand Cruise departing Saturday.  This spacious catamaran has 12 cabins, each with private ensuite bathroom.  The vessel is well equipped with jet skis, kayaks and 3 tenders for transfers and tours.  Just imagine a leisurely cruise on an enormous, sheltered lagoon teaming with tropical fish.  Haumana is famous for its special picnics either on an uninhabited tropical island or at a table set up in the shallows where you picnic with your feet in the water.  What did we say about a perfect honeymoon destination!  Our Specialists have all the details and can easily organise the Haumana Cruise along with your resort stay.

OUR MARQUESAS ISLANDS
Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa

Remote, mystical, enchanting and spectacular. The two main islands of the Marquesas Group are very, very special islands to visit and offer an unparalleled experience for those intrepid travellers who venture out this far into French Polynesia. There are direct flights most days between Papeete and both Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, both of which are around 1200 to 1300km north of Papeete.  Flight time Papeete to Nuku Hiva is 3 hours 45 minutes and the direct flight between Papeete and Hiva Oa takes 3 hours 50 minutes.  Both are by ATR aircraft.  There are Twin Otter flights 6 days a week between Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva which take 45 minutes.

The two main islands of the Marquesas are spectacular as you approach with their towering mountains which seem to rise up directly from the sea.  As you get closer, you will pick out the enchanting valleys, canyons and bays.  Nuku Hiva is the second biggest island in French Polynesia (after Tahiti itself) and has the third biggest waterfall in world at 350 metres high.  The airport at Nuku Hiva is on the opposite side of the island from the main settlement Taiohae. The transfer time between the two is approximately 90 minutes and takes you through some of the spectacular scenic spots on the island. Taiohae is located on a black-sand bay and has many places of interest to explore – the main attractions being the very special cathedral of Notre Dame des Îles Marquises, a small museum and monument to writer Herman Melville. 

Hiva Oa is also a mountainous island with lush fertile valleys – much loved by Paul Gauguin and known as “The Garden of the Marquesas”. On Hiva Oa every plant, shrub and tree seems to flower which adds something very special to this remarkable island and compliments its black-sand coastline and greener-than-green valleys. Both main islands have one special small resort for visitors to base themselves to explore and enjoy what the islands have to offer then return to a cold drink, a good meal and a comfortable bed.

The Marquesas are for travellers who enjoy natural beauty, remoteness and history.  It only takes minutes from arrival to fall under the spell of these ancient lands where the people are laid-back and friendly and the natural surroundings are simply perfect.  Spend a few days walking, riding a horse or taking 4WD safaris into the valleys and around the coast, take a boat to a secluded beach, visit the many ancient Polynesian sites with their carvings and statues, marvel at the views from the vantage points, enjoy something of the simpler way of life and, most of all, rediscover calmness and peace in these mountains and valleys.

ARANUI 5
Travel from Papeete to the Tuamotu Islands, the Marquesas Islands and Bora Bora by regular freight and passenger ship Aranui 5. Now, this is something unusual in this day and age!  Every three weeks Aranui 5 sails from Papeete on a freight run to the Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands.  She is a new, well maintained ship and drops off and picks up freight all through these island groups.  With cabin accommodation for 260 passengers in comfortable cabins and suites for 2 or 3 passengers as well as a good-standard 8-bunk dormitory, this is an unusual opportunity for tourists to participate in a 14 day trip to a surprising number of French Polynesia’s islands, some of which are not accessible other than by sea.  This is no “Queen Mary” but Aranui 5 has dramatically raised the standards since taking over from Aranui3 last year and she offers clean and comfortable service with good food, a very interesting itinerary, ensuite cabins, a swimming pool and many opportunities to go ashore at far-flung villages and experience something of the way of life in these faraway places.  There is often a special lecturer on board and the crew entertain each night.  There are only 2 full days spent at sea, on the other 12 days you spend at least part of the day in port or at anchor off a village.  The outline itinerary is as follows:

Day 01   Saturday
Day 02   Sunday
Day 03   Monday 
Day 04   Tuesday
Day 05   Wednesday
Day 06  Thursday
Day 07   Friday
Day 08   Saturday
Day 09   Sunday
Day 10   Monday
Day 11   Tuesday
Day 12   Wednesday
Day 13   Thursday
Day 14   Friday

Tahiti Depart (Port of Papeete) at 10.00am
Takapoto atoll (Fakatopatere ) – Tuamotu Archipelago
At Sea crossing from Tuamotu to Marquesas
Nuku Hiva - Taiohae/Hatihue/Taipivai (Marquesas Archipelago)
Ua Pou (Hakahau /Hakahetau)
Tahuata (Vaitahu) & “Hiva Oa” (Atuona)
Fatu Hiva (Omoa /Hanavave)
Hiva Oa (Puamau / Hanaiapa)
Ua Huka (Vaipaee /Hane /Hokatu)
Nuku Hiva (Taiohae ) & “Ua Pou” (Hakahau)
At Sea crossing from: Marquesas to Tuamotu
Rangiroa (Ohutu) – Tuamotu Archipelago
Bora Bora (Vaitape) – Leeward Group of the Society Islands
Tahiti Arrive (Port of Papeete) at 09.00am 

It is impossible to summarise French Polynesia in a few words; it offers such a wide variety of delightful options.  The more destinations and experiences you include within French Polynesia, the more you will add to the enjoyment of a holiday here.  French Polynesia is so diverse in what it has to offer it really does pay to consult with an expert to ensure your visit is the best it can possibly be.  Our Specialists are French Polynesia experts.

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Currency:
US Dollars (USD) / Euros (EUR) / French Pacific Francs (CFP / XPF)
Most major credit cards are accepted.
Hotels will echange US Dollars, but at a less favourable exchange rate.

Electricity: 220V. An adapter is often required.

Flying time: approx. 5 hours from Auckland, New Zealand.

Local Time: 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Weather:
During summer, November to April, the climate is warm and humid. During winter, May to October, weather is cooler and dryer. Average temperature is 27 degrees celcius.

Entry requirements:
* Valid passport for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (NZ passport holders)..
* A valid return or onward air ticket and sufficient funds.

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