The End of Our French Polynesian Adventure: Taha'a
No...this isn't where we've just been, but it's the last post on French P0lynesia. The Nevis post will be coming soon.
Our final island, Taha'a (pronounced Ta–ha-ah), was recommended by the travel agent. We shouldn't have listened. It was lovely and so was the resort, but definitely a mistake for a mom and daughter to have spent so much time there. I'm glad we saw it, but it was another honeymoon resort and on this island, we ran into some American-hating British. Quite overt they were about it too. We also weren't terribly happy with the service...a superior attitude, which, at these prices, was quite a mistake.
Do I sound like I'm always finding fault? Well, here's some good news: for once, the food was wonderful.
There's no airport on Taha'a, so we landed on Raiatea and took a 35 minute boat transfer to our hotel, Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa, the only Relais and Châteaux destination in French Polynesia.
Raiatea and Taha'a are two islands enclosed in a single barrier reef. Taha'a, slightly smaller and less populated than Raiatea, has a population of around 4500 people. Taha'a is the only island in the Society Islands that can be completely circled by boat inside the protected lagoon. Taha'a's nickname is the "Vanilla Island"- because of it's constant rich aroma of vanilla. In fact, the Island boasts a full 80% of all Tahiti's Vanilla production and is also inundated with pearl farms. Because we had already visited both, we didn't go on any tours here.
On the map below, notice where Le Taha'a Resort is located...on a motu, upper left
Our resort's main selling point is its location on the small, stunning islet of Motu Tautau, off the coast of Taha'a. (Taha'a itself is just 34 square miles.) The resort faces the island of Taha'a on the lagoon side and offers an unsurpassed view of Bora Bora island on the ocean side.
You can walk 100 yards into the water here and still be only knee-deep. The surrounding waters are also advertised as "calm" which, unfortunately, was not the case while we were there.
We adored our overwater suite...it was the most elegantly appointed of any resort we visited. The woodwork was beautiful. I tried to take photos of as much of the paneling as I could. Everything was very nautical, even the entrance to the lobby, which you can see in the slideshow....an outrigger canoe with sail. Another fun little aside: guests in overwater suites can request breakfast brought to the room by canoe. No, we didn't do it, but we saw it being delivered quite often to other bungalows. It was quite a lovely ceremony, actually.
And yes, that's a glass floor for viewing fish at the foot of the bed.
There are three restaurants (important, since there's nowhere else to eat), tennis courts, a lovely swimming pool which I ended up using each day because of the wind. It may seem that there's no reason to leave the resort (which we didn't), but a visit to mainland Taha'a may be your one chance to see what French Polynesia was like before it got so popular; locals say this island is what Bora Bora was 20 years ago.
The resort’s indoor-outdoor main restaurant, Vanille, is named after the fragrant brown beans that are cultivated on Taha’a island. We ate breakfast there every morning and it was a delight. For lunch, we always ate at La Plage--“the beach”-- which served light fare like sandwiches and salads. It was located near the pool area. In addition, Manuia Bar was located beside the pool and they whipped up cocktails, juices, and smoothies.
We had two choices for dinner: Vanille or Ohiri, their upscale (and shockingly expensive) restaurant. The food at Ohiri was fabulous. We had a couple festive buffets at Vanille which were lovely.
The bar had entertainment each night which was most enjoyable. One night, while enjoying a buffet at Vanille, there was a floor show. Part of the show was an extraordinary man covered with tattoos. Face included. Not a square inch of skin left unadorned. (That I could see anyway. :) ) He was quite famous in these islands. I've forgotten his name and I wish I had taken a photo, but it was dark and the tattoos would never have shown up. I remember him climbing an extremely tall palm tree right to the top directly in front of us, using nothing but his feet and hands.
Tattooing is an important part of the culture of the Polynesian islands. South Pacific Islanders have been decorating their bodies with symbolistic art for many hundreds of years, if not thousands... In fact, it's popularly believed among historians that the first and oldest Tattoos known to man were from the South Pacific Islands, (probably the Marquesas). Originally, tattoos indicated genealogy, rank and wealth as well as strength and ability to bear pain. Twelve year old boys were tattooed to prove they were men, while girls were tattooed to indicate sexual maturity. Tattoo artists had an honored place in society.
(No, we didn't get one!)
As far as the diving was concerned, Tracy said some dives focused on shipwrecks or submerged caverns, but most were coral reef dives. Most of the good snorkeling took place in a short inlet that ran between the lagoon and the ocean. Photos below; these are views from the inlet towards the ocean and Bora Bora and the other towards the lagoon.
What did we remember most about Taha'a? Sadly, the rudeness of the young British honeymooners stands out. But because I hate to end our Polynesian Adventure on a bad note....I'll remember how esthetically beautiful this particular resort was and the excellent quality of the food. If you were going on a honeymoon, this would be the perfect choice.
You've been patient with these many posts...I know how time consuming it can be to read from start to finish. But I did want to share with you. We had such a delightful time at every island, each different in its own way, but Huahine reigns supreme in both our minds!
(For all the previous adventures, check the sidebar.)