When people think of a dream vacation in the islands of French Polynesia, the island that is usually at the top of their list is Bora-Bora. It is likely the most talked about island of the chain in tourist publications. Bora-Bora was the only Island in the Society Islands archipelago I had heard of aside from the big Island of Tahiti. In reality though, the archipelago consists of several other islands worthy of every traveler’s bucket list.
I recently had the privilege to be able to go on a Sail charter in the Tahiti area. We visited four islands — Reiatea, Taha’a, Huahine, and Bora-Bora. By far, my favorite days were spent sailing and exploring the waters and culture of Taha’a.
Our first afternooning after sailing over to Taha’a, we anchored off the smaller uninhabited island of Mahea. This area is an excellent overnight stop and offers beautiful views of Taha’a and the surrounding reef. Kayaking and swimming was enjoyable, but be aware that there can be some swift current here so weaker swimmers need to know their limitations.
Our first morning, we awoke to some cloud cover and a steady drizzle. Not to be deterred, we went ashore on Taha’a and toured one of the local vanilla plantations. The locals who owned the small plantation were extremely friendly. The vanilla plants bloom between July and October. One flower lives for only six hours and they must hand pollinate all the flowers to produce the vanilla beans.
The plantation had a great little shop where you could purchase gourmet vanilla beans, vanilla-infused coffee & sugar, and a variety of other unique products to take home from your travels. The store even accepts credit cards, dollars and francs.
Next we sailed to Apu Bay on Taha’a. This would be our overnight anchorage. After a quick lunch onboard our Moorings 4800, we went ashore to tour a family-owned black pearl farm that was over 20 years old.This farm at Apu Bay produces 20,000 pearls a year. It takes the oysters five years to deliver their first pearl and the oysters live for 20 years on average.
That evening, we had a traditional Polynesian dinner at the nearby Ficus restaurant. We were greeted with a delicious cocktail and then seated in a hut made entirely of palm trees. Live palm trees served as the pillars of the pavilion and palm leaves were used for the roof. The meal was prepared on layers of coals and then covered in banana leaves. The food cooked for over four hours before its big reveal. Everything was delicious, from fish to pork, and spinach and rice. During dinner, we were entertained by singers, musicians, and traditional fire dancing. Dessert was also included, a tapioca style pudding in cream.
Our next day in Taha’a, we sailed to the northwest side of the island near Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. This resort has picture perfect bungalows on the water. We anchored near the resort and took the dinghy over to the coral reef garden and experienced world-class snorkeling that I don’t think any of us will soon forget. There is a current that will take you along over the top of the coral reefs that are teeming with butterfly fish, eels and other species that seem to be just as curious about you as you are of them. We had such a great time and ended up spending as much of the daylight as we could experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When the sun started going down, we took the dinghy back to our boat for a wonderful dinner with breathtaking views of Bora-Bora in the distance on the horizon.
This trip was something I will be talking about for the rest of my life. Though we thoroughly enjoyed the other Society Islands in French Polynesia, Taha’a was by far my favorite. You simply have to see it to believe it. But when you do, it’s truly unforgettable.