Why French Polynesia?
Imagine an area as large as Western Europe, fill it with indigo blue ocean, scatter 118 volcanic and coral islands across the ocean, divide them into five island groups, add a diversity of Polynesian people and culture, overlay it with French colonialism and you have created what is, in reality, French Polynesia.
As an intrepid traveller looking for memorable experiences and adventures in this glorious part of Oceania you are spoilt for choice and making decisions can be overwhelming. This is where Oceania Expeditions comes into its own, creating itineraries that will fit perfectly into your wish list. Whether you desire immersion in the natural world of the aquatic, turquoise lagoons and extensive coral reefs, teeming with marine life, or exploring the verdant, greenary of the rainforest, trekking to waterfalls and seeking out glimpses of exotic bird life, French Polynesia offers this and so much more.
The five island archipelagos consist of: the Society islands of which Tahiti is the most populated, the Tuamotus atolls renowned for the diving on offer, the remote Gambier Islands over a 1,000 kms from Tahiti, the Marquesas with their stunning rugged topography and lastly the Tubuai Islands, known also as the Austral Islands, the southernmost islands of French Polynesia.
The 118 islands that make up these archipelagos offer such a range of incredible experiences that it really comes down to what particular interests you have in mind. If it’s complete relaxation that you are after, then what better way to do it than to stretch out on the pristine sand, soaking up the sun, with an occasional dip in the warm tropical waters and at night, be lulled to sleep in your overwater bungalow with the soporific distant sound of waves breaking on the reef. Oceania Expeditions hope to entice you from these sedentary but no doubt pleasurable pursuits with many unforgettable adventures both on land and sea. Here is a brief range of what we believe are some of the highlights of French Polynesia.
Although these islands cover such a vast area of Oceania, the actual total land area is incredibly small, (smaller than Rhode Island), and much of the land remains unexplored as the predominant interest for travellers to Tahiti and beyond has been the magnet of the ‘Blue Lagoon’. But when you cast your eyes to the islands, the incredible mountain peaks, often shrouded in clouds dominate the landscape. These mountains, mostly extinct volcanoes, veiled in green with their lush jungle valleys offer some incredible hiking experiences. Oceania Expeditions can take you there with experienced guides to create the hike best suited to your physical condition and experience. The many waterfalls can be rappelled down as they tumble through canyons on the way to the sea. There are also family friendly treks on some islands as well as guided four-wheel-drive safaris that explore many of the Polynesian cultural and archaeological sites, World War Two relics and cave formations.
For an alternative and exciting way to explore the many tropical highlands, hit the mountain bike trail networks that exist on some islands,. Mo’orea has an extensive network that has signposts and markers to follow, or alternatively, we can organise an expert mountain bike guide to take you through the more challenging tracks. Just like all the other French Polynesian adventures OEX can personalise the experience to suit your needs.
What Lies Beneath
The pièce de résistance of French Polynesia lies in the waters that surround the islands, whether it be in the calm inner lagoons, the outer reefs or deep water bays, all teeming with marine life, a veritable wonderland waiting for you to discover. Depending on your skills and experience this world can be observed from glass bottom boats, snorkelling or scuba diving. A yacht charter is the perfect way to navigate the waters, stopping to explore what lies beneath, relaxing to watch a beautiful sunset across the reef and perhaps dining on the catch of the day. OEX customizes the adventure just for you!
Here are some of the highlights on offer:
In the deepest blue of the outer reef off stunning Mo’orea Island you can dive with humpback whales, these great denizens of the deep travel from Antarctica to the warmer waters to birth and raise their calves, before returning south. The whales are usually seen during August and September and swimming with them is carefully supervised so as not to endanger mothers and calves. Very close interactions with spinner dolphins and rough toothed dolphins occur regularly in this deeper water. In Shark Bay’s crystal clear waters swimming with playful manta rays and blacktip sharks makes for a very personal and never to be forgotten experience.
Bora Bora, famous for its seclusion and incredible scenery, is known as the ideal honeymoon destination, it certainly offers a unique and highly romantic experience, diving for your own black pearl! Imagine snorkeling into the turquoise lagoon from the traditional Polynesian canoe that has taken you there, reaching for the lines of oysters that are hanging only 2.5 metres from the surface, taking two lines from which you select one oyster.. Your expert guide opens the shell for you, revealing the beautiful iridescent black pearl that becomes an exquisite reminder of your experience in romantic Bora Bora.
French Polynesia and Popular Culture
You don’t have to go far to hear and learn about the influences that this remote and exotic part of the world has had on writers, artists and filmmakers since Europeans first discovered these incredible islands. From the writers, Herman Melville to Robert Louis Stevenson, the artists, Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse, and the iconic film ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’, starring Marlon Brando, French Polynesia has conjured up creative responses that have endured the test of time. We at Oceania Expeditions can highly recommend you pursue your knowledge of these cultural influences to whet your appetite before embarking on your travels. Check out our Conch Shell Magazine for some insights into some of these cultural icons.
We can’t leave our overview of French Polynesia without talking about food. Yes it is a factor we all care about when we explore new horizons, and what better way than to visit a tropical paradise that has such strong French flavours in its cuisine. The pleasure of great coffee and delicious French bakery treats to enjoy are readily available. The traditional Tahitian dishes have a strong French influence and there is a cornucopia of fresh tropical fruits to indulge your appetite. The availability of Chinese food also reflects the impact that Chinese migration to Polynesia had on the islands. We can recommend buying a firi firi from a street stall, this mouth watering Tahitian doughnut is infused with coconut milk and is best eaten warm, either dusted with sugar or accompanied by fruit jams and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate on the side. Bon appetit!