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You will not find a better vacation. French Polynesia is like a dream

French Polynesia represents the top on the imaginary ladder of the “best” places for most travellers and devotees of exotic holidays. Just saying the names of the islands of Tahiti or Bora Bora can increase the heartbeat of many globetrotters.

In addition, if you have a comfortable catamaran to take you to the most beautiful places in the middle of the lagoons, it is no exaggeration to talk about the most wonderful holiday you can imagine. What’s more, the sea in the lagoons is as quiet as a pond, so you don’t have to worry about rocking the boat and you can take your children with you.

Of course, such a trip includes a lot of water activities: swimming, snorkeling on coral reefs, swimming with mantas, diving or shark feeding … You can also explore the individual islands by bike, go to the mountains, explore the local flora, move your body with Polynesian dancers or visit the Polynesian temples called “marae”.

The Pearl of the Pacific

Monumental rocky massif, Mt. Otemanu, the symbol of Bora Bora island, stands out in front of the bow of our catamaran, which is sweeping through the Pacific waters. We sail into the calm waters of the lagoon, which is wide, vast and lined with dozens of palm islands called motu.

Motu is a common name for a low sand island located on the outer edge of the lagoons. They are exactly the dream Robinson islands where you can meditate under the palm trees and listen to the splash of the surf. Only here you will realize why the island is nicknamed “the Pearl of the Pacific”.

The next morning we anchor at a place where sharks and rays are fed every morning. It is a grateful tourist attraction – meter-long chondrichthyans circling around us in close proximity and we can even pat them. However, swimming with giant mantas is even more enjoyable experience for me. These peaceful chondrichthyans love certain places on the lagoon where small fish clean their filtering mechanism. We can get here comfortably by our catamaran, then just anchor and – hop into the water!

We explore the lagoon thoroughly, on the third day we sail around the island to the less busy eastern side, where we anchor in a wide sandy bay. Here you don’t know what to do first: whether to admire the ever-changing views of Mt. Otemanu, snorkel on coral reefs, or go to one of the tiny motu.

In addition to the natural beauty of the island, we must also stop at the local famous Bloody Mary’s Restaurant, which is undoubtedly the most famous restaurant in the whole French Polynesia. You are sitting on a wooden log in the sand under the palm leaf roof, but the huge portions of fresh fish are worth it!

You can choose directly from fresh fillets, which revel in colours and attract with their exotic names. Would you like a sunfish? Or do you prefer a parrot fish? Or rather a traditional raw tuna with ginger?

Bora Bora fifty years ago

We see just a few visitors to Bora Bora and the natural scenery is stunning, however, we find it hard to find the original atmosphere with the smiling natives. If you want to experience the true Polynesia, you must go to the neighbouring islands, of which Maupiti atoll is definitely the loneliest.

Crossing to Maupiti takes us a few hours, the sea is quite calm and the passage to the lagoon through a narrow strip is easy. The island lagoon is beautiful, we anchor on two meters of clear water, there is an endless swimming pool all around us! The island has a perfect provincial atmosphere, there are two sailboats in the whole lagoon and a steep Teurafaatiu peak rises above us. Maupiti is nicknamed “little Bora Bora” and, according to experts, here you will find an atmosphere like on Bora Bora fifty years ago.

In the afternoon we travel around the island by bike – ten kilometres of circular road offers a relaxing ride and plenty of opportunities for taking photos. We realize that there are no tourists at all, only the children are returning from school, the old men are sitting on the porch and several locals are playing petanque by the church.

The following day we set out to conquer almost four hundred meters high Teurafaatiu peak. The trail leads along the yellow tourist sign, surprisingly precisely the same sign we have in Czech Republic. After climbing about an hour and a half in the shade of ripening mango trees, we reach a rocky summit with an amazing circular view. Around us, the lagoon surface gleams beneath us, lined with tiny islets as a pearl necklace. We really don’t want to leave this place.

Island of pearls and vanilla

After wonderful days on Maupiti we sail to the island of Tahaa, which is nicknamed “the island of pearls and vanilla”. In Hurepiti Bay, Alain, an elderly French sailor who anchored here 30 years ago and stayed, is waiting for us. Alain acquaints us perfectly with the cultivation of vanilla, for which the island is famous, and initiates us into the secrets of botany and dendrology of the local nature during a half-day jeep trip.

The following day we anchor at the edge of a reef where the flowing water creates a kind of coral river between two islands. We reach the reef by foot, jump into the clear water that drifts us through a labyrinth of corals about three hundred meters into the lagoon. We can’t get enough of it, so we run with snorkels and fins in our armpits between the palm trees like fools.

We circumnavigate the lagoon and stop on a pearl farm on the way, where the cash in the wallets of some of the crew members is drastically decreasing. In the evening, we tie up on a buoy and go to a traditional Polynesian dinner called “umu”. Meat and vegetables are prepared in baskets of palm leaves on hot stones, all covered with banana and hibiscus leaves. After an exquisite meal, male dancers and lovely female dancers enter and present traditional dances in the rhythm of the drummers. The final point is then an impressive fire show.

Polynesian temples and rare Tiare apetahi

The neighbour and twin of Tahaa is the island of Raiatea, because both islands have a common lagoon. According to legends, Raiatea is a kind of cradle of Polynesian civilization – it is said to be a place from which the Polynesians sailed on their canoes to colonize the surrounding archipelagoes. We visit the most prominent marae of Polynesia, “Taputapuatea”, from where the crew on seven canoes set out and colonized New Zealand. In Polynesian culture, marae had a broad spiritual and social significance – it was a temple, a place of important meetings and, last but not least, a ceremonial place.

For me, the main magnet of the island is its inland – I intend to climb Mt. Temehani, on whose western slopes Tiare apetahi grows. About a meter high white flowering plant grows only here, nowhere else in the world. The path is sometimes overgrown, but the Polynesian jungle is not dangerous, there is hardly any other place in the tropical zone where you can afford to walk barefoot through the woods.

After about three hours, I find myself on a plateau, where a magnificent panoramic view of the surroundings opens up. And here I also find the only Tiare Apetahi plant. Hidden in about a meter-long grass, showing its striking white flower, consisting of five about 5 cm long petals forming a semicircle.

The next day we sail into the Faaroa bay, where the only navigable river of French Polynesia, the Faaroa River, opens. We paddle on a kayak against a lazy stream, after a while the riverbed narrows and the river mysteriously meanders with many turns. Occasionally we sail under a tangle of branches, and here and there we see the surrounding steep cliffs through the treetops. We continue for about half an hour inland to the point where we have to turn back because of the impassable shallow.

Never-ending Sunday on Huahine

We depart from Raiatea towards our final destination in anticipation of further experiences. Unlike the ancient Polynesians, we are carried by a modern boat, and we don’t have to look for a way by the stars. Despite the comfort of our catamaran and the convenience of modern navigation technology, wandering the Polynesian islands on a yacht brings the ultimate romance and adventure.

Huahine island welcomes us with a beautiful beach by Fare town and with a sleepy atmosphere of a never-ending Sunday. We decide to rent bikes to explore a part of the island. In the village of Maeva, we visit a traditional Polynesian house and admire ancient stone fish traps. We pass several other marae and continue along a dirt road lined with palm trees and along a lagoon towards an interesting mussel museum.

By boat and through the lagoon, you can reach the very south, the Avea bay. Here we anchor at a beautiful beach and we continue on a speedboat to the south cape to a snorkeling location. Between the virgin islands, I feel like at the very end of the world. Actually, even our journey is at the end, we only have to sail back down the wind to the marina of Raiatea.

Text and photo: Jan Hocek for iDNES.cz

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