Adventures in Paradise
Called the French Society Islands they are better known by the individual island names of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea with Tahiti being the largest. The 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 the first eruption that formed Tahiti as a volcanic shield cone between 1.4 million and 900,000 years ago. Tahiti-Iti probably formed about 250,000 years later.
Where Your Ship Docks – In Papeete, Tahiti there are piers capable of docking large cruise ships right in the center of Papeete’s waterfront. Within a couple of blocks there are public facilities an outdoor market building and numerous shops.
Visiting Bora Bora and Moorea ships anchor out and use tenders to take passengers ashore. While both of these islands are famous for their resorts they are still significantly rural without much of a central town. Near the tender docks on both islands there are some shops and facilities and usually craft stalls are set up nearby when cruise ships are visiting.
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. The islands were eventually colonized by France and remain French today. 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.
Getting Around – Except for taking a ships tour, the best way to see these islands is to rent a car. There are several major rental companies and day rates are moderately priced.
Language – The islands language is French and few locals speak English so you may have issues being understood.
Money – The islands use the French Pacific Franc equal to about one US penny. Some places will accept Dollars but don’t count on it. Credit cards are welcome almost everywhere.
Attractions – Papeete, Tahiti celebrates the Mutiny on the Bounty Festival each year in late October which usually offers an opportunity to hear lectures on history, buy T-Shirts, souvenirs 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 Tahiti is 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 in its tower. The truth is that most people don’t visit these islands for history but for the beaches and clear azure waters and coral reefs. The islands are surrounded by coral reefs that act to protect these islands from storms 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 top rated.
Bora Bora seems to offer the better selection of beaches with a dozen four star resort 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 for scenery. It includes breathtaking towering peaks, natural lagoons and spectacular coral reefs circling the island. If you’d like to spend time in these islands this is the island to come back to.