After having spent 17 days in the South of France, 1 week in Moscow, and 1 week in Greece, followed by a family “vacay” of another week in Malta, I needed to run away a bit from Europe.
No many destinations can beat Europe during summer time, but I have heard during August/September it was the dry season in French Polynesia, which is literally in the other side of the world, at 8 hours flight from Los Angeles.
French Polynesia… Everyone has heard about the dreamy blue lagoon and white sandy beaches of Bora Bora with its incredible view to the Mount Otemanu. Looks like a pretty descent alternative to EuroSummer to me.
After some extensive research, I learnt that French Polynesia was as vast as Europe (!), and in fact it is divided in 5 different Archipelago:
1. Society Islands (the most famous one with Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc.);
2. Tuamotu Islands (with many atolls such as Fakarava and Rangiroa specially good for diving and snorkel);
3. Marquises Islands (the most distant ones situated on the North – over 1,000km from Tahiti!);
4. Gambier Islands – the most distant ones on the Southeast;
5. Austral Islands – the most distant ones on the Southwest;
Located at just 5 hours from New Zealand, it’s definitely not a weekend trip (not even for Kiwis). Since the flight is a journey on itself (24 hours), I got this crazy idea to spend 1 month in French Polynesia between sea and land, ready to explore from the touristic Bora Bora to the least visited islands where only locals walk around!
My Journey started precisely with this 11 days cruise from the Windstar giving us the possibility to visit all the main islands from the Society Archipelago (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Huahine) and 2 other ones in the Tuamotu (Fakarava and Rangiroa).
Due to our family vacay in Malta, we couldn’t embark the 13th August in Papeete (the capital of French Polynesia located in the main island – Tahiti), so we managed to fly directly to the first port of call: Fakarava.
I won’t go into details about each island we visited here, as each of them will have soon a dedicated post.
Below goes my photo-diary of the islands we visited with the Windstar and my journey onboard, hope you enjoy.
FAKARAVA, 15th AUGUST
Fakarava is the first stop onboard of the Wind Spirit (we took a plane to get to Fakarava in order to embark) and the second largest lagoon in the Tuamotu Archipelago.In fact, this rectangular reef encloses such a rich ecosystem that UNESCO has designated it as a Biosphere Reserve.
Diogo and I spent our day riding a bike across the island where we explored the small village of Rotoava and saw that many inhabitants also prefer to ride bikes instead of driving.
At 4:30 pm we took a tender (small boat to get us to the Wind Spirit) in order to sail away at 5.
RANGIROA, 16th AUGUST
It’s not hard to understand why Rangiroa has so many diving centers.
Known as “The Endless Lagoon”, is a string of coral encircling a luminous turquoise and jade-green lagoon known as being one of the world’s greatest snorkeling destination.
Rangiroa is a major underwater diving destination because of its lagoon’s clear blue water and exceptionally diverse marine fauna. In fact, it’s the second biggest lagoon in the world!
Since Diogo and I didn’t plan any diving in advance, we decided to explore this very green island and make some new local friends.
TAHA’A & MOTU MOHANA, 18TH AUGUST
In the morning, we visited a local pearl farm and vanilla plantation in Taha’a (known as the Vanilla Island).
For lunch, we head to a private picnic at Motu Mohana (a deserted island with white sand and clear water).
The staff cooked for the guests directly on the beach! It was really cool to enjoy a picnic outside the boat to change a bit.
RAIATEA, 19TH AUGUST
Diogo and I rented a car and spent the day visiting this sacred Island.
Raiatea is very photogenic and has such a vast vegetation!
There is only one road circling the entire island, so you can drive it all within 3-4hours. Raiatea is mainly known to be the centre of the Polynesian culture and have the biggest Mara’e (sacred archeological site) in all the Polynesian world: Taputapuatea.
Every other Mara’e spread out in Polynesia must have a stone coming from this main one.
BORA BORA, 20TH AUGUST
Finally the one & only Bora Bora and its wonderful lagoon!
The Wind Spirit stopped 2 days in Bora Bora so we had plenty of time to explore the main Island where there is the famous Mount Otemanu, the village of Vaitape, the Bloody Mary’s restaurant, spend some time in Matira’s beach, and visit a local pare’o producer.
We also did some snorkel with sting ray and sharks however that morning was pretty cloudy and the water a bit cold for my taste (remember I live in Malta where the sea temperature can reach 32ºC).
Since the ship stopped just front of the Island, we got astonishing views to the Mount Otemanu during our breakfast and lunch!
For the evening in Bora Bora, we went on a private islet (called Motu) for a very special dinner animated with Polynesian dances and performance.
As you may see above, the dancers even played with fire! It was an incredible evening and the sunset from this private Motu a pure bliss!
HUAHINE, 22TH AUGUST
At Huanine (known as the Wild Island), Diogo and I decided to simply relax on the beautiful beach just at 5 mins walk from the Port.
We knew tomorrow it will be a very busy day exploring Moorea.
MOOREA, 23TH AUGUST
Our last destination before disembarking in Papeete was its neighbour island – Moorea.
Moorea is, without a doubt, beyond anything we have seen until now, its Beauty is incontestable and very unique due of its stiff mountains, lush hills and abundant fauna and flowers.
For me, Moorea was the most photogenic of them all and the sunset gave us wonderful colours during our sail away.
It was my very first time sailing onboard of such a small yacht (my last cruise was on the Royal Princess in the Caribbean which was carrying around 2000 passengers!).
Here on the Wind Spirit, we were no more than 130 guests!
It was a much more intimate experience, and after 11 days together we felt like part of a big family.
All staff and crew members knew my name and were all super friendly with everyone. Always on an incredible good mood! During breakfast some waiters will even sing!
Having breakfast and lunch at the Veranda (their terrace restaurant) and contemplate the islands surrounding us was magical.
I’m not sure I could like again big ships now that I have experienced a small sailing yacht. I love the fact everyone knows my name, and treat me like family. No rush, no confusions, a pure bliss!
Indeed, 130 passengers… When we think about it, it’s the same amount of guests than a small wedding ceremony!
I felt like an Explorer of the Sea, sailing away to find new land everyday!
Have you ever been in French Polynesia or onboard of a sailing Yacht like the Windstar? How was your experience? Let me know below!
Photography: Melanie Martins & Diogo Novo
Traveling with:Windstar Cruises (onboard of Wind Spirit yacht)