5.21.2011

French Polynesian Adventure II: Huahine



To read Part One of this series, check HERE.

As with so many inter-island flights, we had to return to Tahiti to fly to Huahine. Isn't it amazing how much more time we seem to spend in airports than on the flight itself? But Tahiti is the hub of French Polynesia, so back we went.

As I'm sure you've noticed this trip was more a watersport-oriented than a food-oriented vacation. We're both foodies, no question, but we didn't often have a choice about where we ate. So many of the islands we visited had no outside restaurants, just the resort. And when we did have choices on a couple islands, we always chose funky and unusual rather than ordinary, although I doubt you could call ANY restaurant in these islands ordinary.  :)

Huahine

The flight to Huahine was about half an hour. Upon our arrival, we were surprised to find our trip was not quite over. It appears there's no road to our hotel, so we were driven to the village of Fare to wait for a small shuttle boat for the 10 minute trip to Te Tiare Beach Resort.  The reception building is built on a large dock over the lagoon and it also holds the lobby, restaurant and bar.

It's kind of a fun arrival as it's traditional at Te Tiare for someone to blow a conch horn to welcome the arrival of guests at the reception building.

Huahine's two islands, Huahine Nui (big Huahine) and Huahine Iti (little Huahine) are joined by a small bridge and are enclosed within a protective ring of coral.



Huahine is pronounced Wa-ee-nee by the French and Who-a-hee-nay by everyone else.
This island is one of the three most important Polynesian archaeological sites. Ancient chiefs built Maraes (a communal or sacred place which serves religious and social purposes) which have been restored and are fascinating to visit with an informed guide. We took a tour there which I will tell you about later. It was rather like an outdoor museum. Known as the Garden Isle, Huahine is one of the last places in the Society Islands to be touched by tourism. France did not annex Huahine more than 50 years after Tahiti and the 5500 residents are very independent.

My daughter and I were both enchanted the minute we landed. Even after we had visited all the islands, we both agreed Huahine was our favorite. A difficult feeling to describe and there were probably many reasons for it. For one thing, by this time we were well into "island time", an expression often used in our family to describe the laid back pace and pleasure one finds on most small islands in the Caribbean (and now I include French Polynesia).  And of course another big plus was we had an over water bungalow here. I mean c'mon. Who isn't going to love this?


We didn't have a fish-viewing glass panel in the floor, but the bungalow was very comfortable and we had a huge L-shaped deck, half of it under the shade of a thatched roof. There were privacy screens so your neighbors couldn't see you. Luggage and anything else you needed was brought by bicycle out onto the dock.


 I was in heaven because after Tracy left for her dives each day, I would just drop off the side of the bungalow into the water and snorkel to my heart's content.


As far as the diving was concerned, Tracy loved it. Huahine is still fairly unknown as a dive destination, so the waters are not overrun by humans. A barrier reef surrounds the island and she saw rays, sharks, turtles as well as a variety of fish and coral. Quoting my daughter: "I remember one really exquisite dive where you could see all the shelves going deeper and deeper into the sea, the water was so clear."

On Huahine we met and made friends with several couples we saw intermittently throughout the rest of our trip. It turns out many honeymooners board a sailboat at some point during their trip, see some of the other islands and then we would run into them later on another island or at an airport making a transfer. This socializing with other guests made Huahine much more fun for both of us, even though we were still the only unattached women. And finally, here, not everyone was on a honeymoon. Still, we saw very few children. I imagine this is rather an expensive vacation to include entire families. There were lots of Americans and British here, so everyone was comfortable with language.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention: when we arrived at each island, we were greeted and given a shell lei. There were floral leis for sale on each island as well. We both still have our collections of shell leis as they hold so many memories. I hang my collection over a folding screen in the bedroom, but have worn some of them on a couple occasions.



There was some shopping in the reception area, not much. We both loved a jewelry store that carried the most lovely sea urchin spine necklaces. We both bought several.




 We took time out from diving and snorkeling one afternoon to take a tour and learn something of the island's history. We took a boat back over to Fare and picked up a tour guide. 
Fare is Huahine's main village. There's not a lot to do, but that's part of its charm. The guide took us around the huge network of restored ancient royal sites, the Maeva archeological village. The royal village of Maeva, is considered to be one of the most important archaeological areas in all of Oceania. Traditionally, Maeva was the seat of royal power for all of Huahine. Mata'ire'a Hill - located just above the village of Maeva, is home to more than 200 stone structures, including maraes, agricultural terraces, house foundations, fortification walls and burial platforms.



We were taken next to a vanilla bean plantation. I was fascinated and amazed to discover that it takes between 18 months and three years from planting a cutting of the vine till the plant produces flowers. They bloom and die within a few hours unless they are pollinated by hand. The beans (which are actually seed-pods) must stay on the vine for nine months before being harvested. No wonder vanilla beans are so expensive. Of course, we brought some home with us. Mine came in a sweet little bamboo cylinder.

And to cap off the afternoon,  n
ear the village of Faie, on the opposite coast from Fare, we were taken to see Huahine's sacred eels. These freshwater eels measure three to five ft. in length and jump out of the water to be hand-fed by locals who stop by with cans of mackerel. No, I didn't do it. Ick. The eels are considered sacred because of local mythology; the legend states that the first eel to crawl across the mountain married a beautiful maiden from Mataiea, Tahiti -- and that present day inhabitants descended from the unlikely couple. Mainly they were gross, but you couldn't help but be fascinated.


 Another afternoon, we got someone to take us in a boat to a black pearl farm. 
It was out on stilts in the water. You can see it in the background on the right in the photo.

Black pearls mean the marine cultured pearls produced from the black lip pearl oyster shell and as a result, there are lots of oyster shells used in decoration all throughout the islands. Baby oysters are called spat. The pearl farmer collects the spats on artifical collectors in the lagoon.   They are reared on underwater lines for more than three years  when they reach maturity. We each bought one. They weren't cheap...as I recall we paid well over $100 for each of them.


Te Tiare had a really cute bar, which seems to be common around these islands, and the food was excellent. In fact, I can't say enough about what wonderful friendly service we were given at Te Tiare.


There was yet another South Seas Island review here and I only mention it because the women wore coconut halves as bras. Tracy was intrigued, asked one of the dancers about it later and she sent her to a guy on the beach who made one for her. Trust me when I tell you it was most uncomfortable to wear. :) I believe Tracy still has it someplace. If you look closely, you can see a woman wearing one in the photo below. After looking at the video at the end of the post, it appears they don't wear them anymore. Smart move. If  you look closely in the background of the photo below, you can see the male dancers. Aside from some sort of wrap around their waists, they wore an arrangement of fresh palm fronds tied just below their knees, so the fronds hung down to their ankles. (Sorry the photo is so dark.)  


We were both really sad to leave Huahine, wished we had planned to stay longer, but our next stop was Moorea, which we were both looking forward to.


Amazingly (doesn't everything eventually find its' way to YouTube??) I found some videos of the Polynesian dancers and drummers in Huahine, taken at our resort. The palm fronds on the skirts are real as are the leis. 
Enjoy!









56 comments:

  1. Wow, what an amazing trip! It looks like a very magical place - thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. I feel like I was there:) Also, very interesting to learn that about vanilla beans because they ARE expensive - lol!

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  2. How amazing!! To just stand outside and snorkel...lovely.

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  3. Barbara this post was facsinating for me to read. I think Huahine sounds like a wonderful place to vacation for you and your daughter who love diving and snorkling. The sacred eels seem a little creepy, but hey, to each his own! I think I just may have never ventured out of that awesome little hut you stayed in!!! I could tell by your writing that this just may be another destination for you in the future.
    hugs from here...

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  4. Barbara! this look heavenly and amazing,What nice and fun time you and your daugther had, is lovely, huggs gloria

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  5. This sounds like such a wonderful adventure. Your photos of the trip are really wonderful and must bring back very pleasant memories for you. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  6. What a fun post!! I love the idea of just stepping off the side of the house to snorkel...

    Love the shell leis too. Thanks for sharing your travels with us!

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  7. What a great trip! I love everything! The bungalow is awesome!

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  8. What a fantastic trip! The bungalow looks amazing. Fun post, enjoyed hearing about your adventures with your daughter!

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  9. I always wanted to go to a pearl farm since I love pearls. I'm so jealous. Your "bungalow" hat is so adorable, and those necklaces are so exotic, love it. The Vanilla Bean plantation is interesting.

    You have such amazing adventures! XX

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  10. I'm loving reading about your travels! Huahine sounds terrific, especially for diving. How wonderful to stay in an over-water bungalow!

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  11. ok, I'm loving those huts on stilts. Thanks for sharing your trip Barbara.

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  12. Fotos impresionantes que paraiso terrenal ,me gustaría estar allí,que bellas se ven un baile muy lindo, aquí en Chile tenemos el mismo baile de los pascuense que me gustaría lo conocieras,cariños y abrazos.

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  13. What a lovely holiday! So exciting.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  14. My husband and I are scuba divers and this is a dream trip for us. So fun reading about your adventures.

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  15. Hi Barbara,

    What an amazing place to go for your holiday and loved your burro out over the water ( that looks so beautiful)
    Oh yes, ... Island time, isn't that wonderful!
    So glad that you and your daughter were able to have a fabulous holiday there and thanks for sharing your photographs.

    Happy weekend
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  16. Such an amazing place! You've taken such gorgeous pictures as well. Thanks for sharing. Hope you're enjoying your weekend.
    Blessings, Kristy

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  17. Barbara, Huahine sounds & looks wonderful, what an amazing trip you had and what fabulous memories to share forever.
    Although I'm not a diver, can't even snorkel your "trip report" makes me want to go there, now!

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  18. oh my! what a gorgeous place!!!

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  19. Barbara, this is such a great place to spend the holiday! Photos are breathtaking!
    Continue enjoying your holiday in Moorea!

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  20. really fun read, barbara. thoroughly enjoyed this part deux. now, i know you said this would be the case, but where are the pics of you, young lady? of course your daughter is a beauty as well, but your followers want to see the chef every once in a while!

    ;)

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  21. What a beautiful place and how neat that you could just jump off the side of your bungalow to go snorkeling. I'll take everything but the eels :)

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  22. amazing amazing trip! those water bungaloos look incredible. what a neat experience, thanks so much for sharing!

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  23. What a dream place! I hope I can visit some day..I'm a fan of pearls....so it's the place for me!
    Thanks for the virtual visit!

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  24. lucky you I have been In tahiti and I have visted Huahine and loved it !!loved the vanilla there !!
    Pierre

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  25. What a beautiful place to vacation! This looks like the most amazing place to escape horrid cold England (and even now its still not warm). What really kills me though are those gorgeous bungalows!!! Just heaven!
    *kisses* HH

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  26. What a beautiful place to vacation! This looks like the most amazing place to escape horrid cold England (and even now its still not warm). What really kills me though are those gorgeous bungalows!!! Just heaven!
    *kisses* HH

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  27. What beautiful pictures of an amazing trip

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  28. Oh Barbara, thank you so much for sharing your fabulous vacation with us. I like the ring of "Island Time" and it sure sounds like both you and your daughter took advantage of every given moment. Good for you!!!

    The pictures are just amazing! That bungalow is enchanting...

    Thanks again for sharing...I will certainly appreciate the vanilla bean after reading this:)

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  29. Look how clear and blue that water is! I'd love to stay in a bungalow over water one day. And whoa, I had no idea how vanilla beans were farmed. Fascinating! Thanks for taking us on vacation with you!

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  30. Oh wow....beautiful pictures. Looks so serene. A great place to hide away to relax. I badly need that :D

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  31. I think every girl needs to don a coconut shell bra once in her life :)

    Loved the story and all of the beautiful photos! And now I want a mai tai. ;)

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  32. What a fabulous vacation! Everything about it looks wonderful and the color of the water there is stunning. Thanks for sharing your vacation!

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  33. Oh Barbara, I had my breath held the whole way through this gorgeous post. Not sure I'd ever get to Huahine anytime soon (even though distance wise it's pretty close), but if I ever do, I'd love an over water bungalow!

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  34. What an absolutely amazing experience Barbara. Beautifully posted too... WOW!! {Sorry I think I deleted your comment unintentionally from my spam folder. My apologies}

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  35. that is my dream.
    i am dying to go there before i die.
    it's just perfect there.
    i would easily live there if ever given the chance.
    thanks for sharing.

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  36. Love this post! Those little bungalows on the water are to die for. I REALLY want to take a tropical vacation now. You are Tracey sound like your travel perfectly together--lucky for you both!

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  37. wow stunning place thanks for taking u along looks amazing

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  38. Oh Barbara, what a paradise!!!! There are so many places in the world that we could blog on for a life time!!!!! THANK YOU FOR COMING BY with your lovely chapeau! You look smashing my friend and wear it in good health with a smile!!!! I am so happy that you are coming to the party...enjoy! There are at least 55 participants and it will be fun to see everyone's blogs.

    Love to you and enjoy this fabulous spring weather! Anita

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  39. How fun and Fabulous destination Barbara. Wish I am there now :)

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  40. Wow! Fantastic trip!!!Love all the pictures!

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  41. I've always dreamed of staying in one of those over the water bungalows! They look so divine. What a trip Barbara!

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  42. Holy cow. I need a vacation. Immediately. Possibly to this location. Looks so relaxing and dreamy.

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  43. Such a wonderful time at Huahine! Those bungalows are so nice to stay in. The vanilla bean plantation sounds very neat to visit. Alright, i'm ready for a return visit to French Polynesia for sure.

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  44. That bungalow over the water is like a fantasy vacation spot come true. And the color of the water is just breathtaking. What a wonderful experience!

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  45. How fun! I feel like i just went on a whirlwind vacation! Love living vicariously through others!

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  46. What a lovely trip! The bungalow over that gorgeous turquoise water looks like heaven. Wishing I could spend some days on island time soon!

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  47. oh what a fun fun fun trip! exhilarating, i feel refreshed and ready to start my day...even if i have green eyes now...

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  48. I'm completely drawn to the stunning sapphire sky and the crystal clear water...and I'd love to stay in a bungalow! I'm very seriously thinking of making French Polynesia my next travel destination, Barbara. ;)

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  49. i've always wanted to stay in a bungalow for some reason. and wow, that water is simply gorgeous. love these pictures and your commentary, barbara!

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  50. Reading this was such a wonderful escape :) Beautiful photos once again!

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  51. I have to say I am a little bit jealous...never mind..I am A LOT jealous!!

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  52. gosh that looks like a great holiday see you at the party fay

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  53. The bungalow over water is my idea of a perfect holiday! And I can totally understand having to buy one of those beautiful Tahitian pearls.

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  54. So nice to read part two of your amazing Polynesian journey. Huahine is simply gorgeous.

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  55. Nice post, was the Pearl farm located in huahine?

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