Adventures in Paradise
On a cruise of the Pacific recently we spent three days in the French Society Islands. The three major islands being Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea with Tahiti being the largest. These islands are due south of Hawaii on the other side of the equator.
Tahiti is part of a volcanic chain formed by the northwestward movement of the Pacific Plate over a fixed hotspot similar to the process that formed the Hawaiian Islands. Tahiti consists of two old volcanoes—the larger Tahiti-Nui in the northwest and Tahiti-Iti in the southeast connected by an isthmus. Tahiti-Nui was round when it first formed as a volcanic shield between 1.4 million and 900,000 years ago. Tahiti-Iti probably formed about 250,000 years later.
Tahiti has a long and rich history. The islands were first settled by migrating Polynesians as early as 500 BC. They were later discovered by European explorers during the 16th century but there is controversy over who was the first but the islands were eventually colonized by France. In August 1768, Captain James Cook set sail from England to visit Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus across the Sun and mapped several island groups in the southern Pacific that had been previously discovered by other explorers.
Our first stop was Papeete, Tahiti during The Mutiny on the Bounty Festival which seemed mostly an activity focused on selling T-Shirts and books. Papeete is the governmental center of The Society Islands with Jardin de l’Assemblée de la Polynésie Francé being the house of the assembly.
While short on historic sites there is the Notre Dame Cathedral, a historic building with a mix of Colonial and Gothic styles. It is a Catholic church opened in 1875 and is noted for housing three bells.
The truth is that most people don’t visit these islands for history but for the beaches and clear azure waters. The islands are surrounded by coral reefs that act to protect these islands and the diving is some of the best in the world. There are fewer resorts on Tahiti than the other islands with only three really highly rated hotels (the InterContinental Resort Tahiti being the highest rated).
Bora Bora seems to offer the better selection in resorts with over a dozen four star properties including the iconic Bora-Bora Pearl Beach Resort with its over water bungalows (in season rates start at US$600 a nite).
While Moorea is beautiful it’s Bora Bora that steals the show. It includes breathtaking scenery with towering peaks, natural lagoons and spectacular coral reefs circling the island. If we could afford to spend time here this is the island we would come back to.