We knew that the first leg of this trip was going to be rapid fire, as we made our way from Taupo to Auckland, hopped on the plane, got into Papeete (Tahiti), and made our way to our overnight stay in Papeete. There was a great little trio playing traditional Tahitian music as we came into the airport quite late at night, which was nice to get us into the mood of the area.
We lay our heads down on the “who cares how hard the beds are” and had a quick sleep, and then get up to go get on an early ferry over to our final destination, Moorea. So, we got picked up in a taxi by a lovely older woman with a traditional Tahitian headdress (I guess that is what you would call it), to drive us over to the ferry terminal after we had a quick and dirty breakfast at the bed and breakfast.
We bought our tickets and jumped on board the high speed ferry, which was only a 30 minute ride, which was good so that we could get to our final destination quickly and enjoy the amazing day that lay before us.
We jumped off the ferry and hopped into a taxi on the main, and only, street in Moorea. Our cab driver was a Moorean, born and raised, and has lived there for the past 81 years old. She is well known, and her drive to our place, only 15 minutes away was very entertaining and enlightening about the area.
We pulled into our AirBnB where Stephan, one of our hosts for the 5 day stay, was ready to greet us and show us around. It was very hot, with the temperatures reaching in the high 30s during our stay there. Sweaty did not even describe it. So, a swim was in order for sure…
The water was incredibly clear, and we could see the sandy white bottom of the beach that was out in front of Poerani just begging us to come in. Kind of like Moana when she is standing on the beach… In fact, this whole island looks “Moana-esque”.
After the briefing was over, there was the “last one in is a dirty rotten egg” cry and we ran into the water to cool down. But it was quite warm until you made it out to the deeper area, which was 50m away from the shore, and the current in the navigational pathway that existed around the island was nice and cool…but you had to work at not getting swept away!
After we cooled off, Wilson and I braved the mid day heat and walked down to the grocery store to pick up some essentials so that we could have breakfast, some lunches, and a couple of dinners. We planned on eating out while we were there for more dinners, but the food was very expensive…which you could imagine as this was a remote island off of a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most food was imported other than a lot of the fresh fruit.
The pineapples were simply amazing, and we ate one or two of these a day. Even these were expensive by our home standards, and they were half the size, but they packed an amazing punch when it came to taste.
The rest of the day was spent escaping the heat, enjoying the water and lounging around. Not much else to say other than that.
This was our “island vacation” part of the trip. To “reward” us for travelling together for 6 months, and to unwind a bit from the incredible speed at which we travelled and did things on the trip.
I made dinner in the easy bake oven that was there for us to use, and surprisingly it worked well enough to make beef bourginon. Well, I had help from a pre packaged sauce from the grocery store in New Zealand, so not from scratch.
The next morning we woke up and enjoyed the birds singing, the roosters crowing, the waves lapping up on the shore, and sipped back our coffee. The kids had a nice sleep in, so I took the advantage of the fact that the place we were staying had bicycles, so I grabbed one of them and headed down the road to Manava Resort to talk to the dive shop there about going diving the next day.
I have heard that the diving is amazing here, with lots of rays and sharks to compliment the usual tropical fish.
They had room for me on the dive that day, so that was great! There was also a Discovery Dive in the afternoon which the kids could do as their first dive. They weren’t too young, and this would be an amazing opportunity. Lulu had expressed interest in going diving ever since we did our snorkelling in Western Australia, so this was great that she wanted to try it out. Wilson wasn’t sure, but I told the lady that I was signing up with that he would more than likely fall into the “FOMO” (fear of missing out) category and he would want to do it if he saw Lulu do it. We would have to see if he went for it.
I got back and everyone was up, so we played in the water, and had a kayak ride up the current to the Manava Resort which had the quintessential huts that were suspended above the water.
It was nice, but our place was nicer.
Sure our house wasn’t suspended on stilts above the water, but there weren’t really any other guests there other than a couple of days that we were there, and we had the run of the place. We had kayaks, snorkelling gear, air conditioning, and best of all, sangria that the sangria master Deb made.
Best of all it was made with local fruit, and we just kept adding more wine and more juice to make it to the potency that we wanted it, day after day, in the salad spinner bowl (they didn’t have a pitcher, which was fine as we could make a bigger batch!).
The sun was setting just down the coast from us, with big billowing clouds that rolled over the central mountain that the island had.
I went out that night while everyone was chilling in the hut, and took advantage of the dark skies outside, and the fantastic night skythat was out there.
The moon was bright which made it hard to take photos of the stars being completely white against a black background, but it offered up a daytime look to the photos with stars in the sky. A neat perspective to night sky photography that I hadn’t done before.
The next day was ocean adventures day. The wind had picked up over the night, so the water beyond the reef that encompassed the island looked a little rough for diving. Luckily, I am not one of those that gets sea sick very easy.
Plus, when you go diving under the water, you aren’t affected by the swells. You don’t go up and down with the waves, rather you certainly get pushed forward and back as the undertow carries you along the floor of the ocean.
When we pulled up to the first dive site, the marine life, aka sharks, was already circling our boat.
No need to worry….if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you, and they don’t want to eat you. If anything, they just want to taste you to see what you taste like. But these weren’t those tasting kind of sharks, I was assured.
The first dive we did took us along some beautiful coral structures, and we saw a number of lemon sharks and white tip sharks which were just cruising around the bottom of the ocean at about 25m where we were diving to.
Sitting on the edge of the boat I fell back into the water and was amazed at the water. It was incredibly blue. The water was also crystal clear, and you could easily see for 100m, which, as I was told just a ho hum day. Wow!
There were red snappers, yellow finned angel fish, and a big ole turtle just hanging around for us to gawk at.
The coral under the water was supposedly very young as there was a large tropical storm a few years back that wiped a large amount of it out.
So, these looked like young broccoli flowerettes growing everywhere over the ridges of lava flows that were under the water.
It is incredible diving, and I for one (and hopefully Deb) am so looking forward to introducing the kids to a whole new world within our world.
Terra firms only makes up 30% of the surface of our planet, which means there is a whole other 70% to explore. Even if we, on our world tour, just touch on a thin strip the world, I can increase the breadth of what I see where we are by simply going under water and exploring.
Wilson and I stayed on board while Lulu got fitted up with her gear and started to climb down the ladder.
Hesitation. The ocean is big, deep, and there are some sharks in there. Big breath. Jump in.
When you jump in the water, there are bubbles all around you, and you can’t see what is right around you. But when the bubbles clear and you quickly orientate yourself to your new surroundings of the underwater world, you just see how beautiful and wondrous the ocean is.
I still remember the first time I jumped in the water, and that big “ahhhhh” breath that you get when you see the amazing sights. It still happens to me every time I get into the water. I love that feeling.
Deb got in, and was going down with Lulu and our dive guide. Lulu grabbed the hand of the guide and they started to head down the rope that anchored the boat to the ocean floor and they started to cruise around the bottom of the sand bar that was dotted with coral mounds.
There was a brief period of panic that brought Lulu back up to the surface of the water, but then the three of them dove back down for a while longer.
Wilson was pacing back and forth on the boat deck, and was nervous for what he couldn’t see, and what he couldn’t control. All kinds of “what if” questions were flying at me, in anticipation of our turn when they returned.
Lulu finished her dive, took the regulator out of her mouth and put on a massive smile on her face. Wonderment achieved. She had a lot of fun. It was funny seeing her bob around in the water as the equipment probably weight as much if not more than her, and easily doubled her size. But it was so cute. She couldn’t believe how much fun it was, and how beautiful it was.
This put Wilson at ease…a bit. So we got his gear on, and I jumped in off of the side of the boat backwards, and encouraged him to get in.
There was a slight hesitation in his step, and said “We will only be down there for a short while, right dad?”. “Yes, what ever you want….this is your dive”.
With that, he got into the water and had his bubble panic moment….then he looked around. The dive guide helped him into his BCD and tank, and he put the regulator in his mouth and we went under.
I was so proud to see him swim around under water and he looked so comfortable with his surroundings.
We saw all kinds of fish, and a turtle floating around. Deb and Lulu saw a stingray while they were down there, but we couldn’t find the ray hiding anywhere. No problems…it was a great accomplishment to get the kids, especially our nervous Nelly down there.
We spent more than the “few minutes” down there compared to what he was expecting. He came up, like Lulu, all smiles and he couldn’t stop talking about what he saw, how he felt and he was so proud of himself. That was awesome.
We jumped back on the boat and got back to the shop where the kids got their “first dive” certificates, and we headed back to our place for dinner. Another day in the books, and we had more adventures awaiting for us the next day.
We decided to rent a car for the day to drive around the coastal road which was a grand total of 62km to go around the whole island. I was hoping to rent a road bike to bike around the whole island, but the only bikes they rented were either mountain bikes or single speed bikes. I certainly wasn’t going to be biking on one of the ones that Poerani had. They were comfortable and functional for the 2km bike to town, but not 62km even though it was relatively flat.
Our first stop was to drive up to Belvedere Lookout. This was a long climb that switched back and forth to the top. There was a number of cyclists from an all female triathlon club on the mainland in Tahiti that were biking up to the top. One of the husbands drove a support vehicle that was waiting for them with refreshments at the top. That would have been a great Strava segment!
The lookout was nice, but not the best place that we had ever seen for a lookout, but for Moorea it was very nice. There was a stall at the top of the lookout that was selling coconut chunks and milk for those folks who hiked or biked up the hill…and it seemed like the roosters enjoyed it as much as the people did.
We went down and then went to the Hilton Intercontinental where they had a turtle sanctuary and hospital for local injured and orphaned turtles.
The turtles were very cute, and there was a number of different varieties of turtles there, and some were swimming free in larger pools while some were in pens. Not sure why, but there they were.
The hotel also had a “Dolphin Experience” that seemed expensive for what you got. 15 minutes of education and 15 minutes of hands on in the water experience. But, we could watch the dolphins from the bridge that led over to the centre.
All the kids (and us) wanted to see were the dolphins doing some tricks and flips. We watched long enough that eventually they did!
The kids were super excited to see them do these tricks in the semi-wild…haha.
There was a storm brewing off in the distance over the ocean, so we wanted to get going to our next stop as this required us to get back in the ocean….
We drove to Les Tipaniers hotel, which was a bohemian style resort that seemed fairly basic compared to where we were living, but it must have had some appeal since the place and the restaurant was packed.
We went and rented a small boat that did not require us to have a boaters license, so that we could go about 500m away to a sandbar where you can swim with sting rays and black tip reef sharks!
Super cool! We hopped in the boat and made our way out to the navigational canal, which is a water road that goes around the island, inside the reef. There is a channel that is deeper than the rest of the waters inside the reef, which all of the boats drive in to go from one place to the other.
We got to the sandbar, and tied off the boat to one of the anchors, and got our gear on.
Of course, shark bait, aka dad, had to get in and swim around to see everything before anyone else got in.
I got in, and there was one ray, and one shark in the water, but then they left. Great!
But then they came back with a lot of their friends, either because they thought we had food for them, or they thought that we were food. I hope it was the former, and not the latter!
Wilson jumped in next, and swam very close to me, but then he saw how amazing and safe it was then he went off on his own.
Then Deb got in and she swam pretty close to the boat, trying to encourage Lulu to jump in the water….which she eventually did but kept a firm grip on the ladder in case she had to escape quickly…
It was such a neat experience to see these animals up close and personal since there really is no other place in the world like this, and it is a good place where the animals are truly in their own environment and we are there visiting their home to simply observe and enjoy the beauty of the beasts.
We swam around for around an hour and then headed back to shore as the storm seemed to be getting closer, and we had about half of the island to still drive around.
After this, we back in the car and did a nice drive. The place was very quiet, as it was a Sunday and everyone was with their families enjoying barbecues along the shores of Moorea.
We got back to the house, and I went out in search of a place for dinner as the supermarkets were closed, as were most of the restaurants. So, we ventured out to get some food at one of the food trucks that were open along the road, and it was very good, but the chicken tasted like the beef which tasted like the fish.
Lulu had a little bit, ut there was a crab that was in a hole at the base of her chair that kept threatening for it to come out and nip her toes.
So, what does dad do? I tormented it a bit and taunted it a bit…haha. At one point it looked like it was going to jump right onto me out of the hole! I am glad that it didn’t as that would have caused quite the scene.
We went back home, and packed everything up as we were going to be making our way back to the mainland to fly out to Easter Island the next day.
There was a whole lot of stuff, including shells that we had to find into our packs, since the luggage had exploded all over the place because of our “extended stay” part of the trip.
It took a while, but we got it all put away and we went to bed.
The next morning I drove down to the ferry terminal to put gas in the car and then dropped it off, and got a ride back to the house to gather our stuff up.
We had to check out at 11, so, we had a little time to go souvenir shopping at a little shack that was close to our place, and then jump in the taxi to go to the ferry terminal.
We had a great stay at our accommodations on Moorea, and we hope that we can go back there some day. It was, in no uncertain terms, paradise.
The ferry ride was uneventful back to the mainland, and we walked over to the public plaza where there were a number of food trucks that were making some traditional dishes, but a lot of chow mien for some reason. I didn’t know that was a local dish. Regardless, we had a quick and cheap meal and then went to our hotel for the night which was close to the airport, but since we had to get up at 1am for our flight out at 3am, we weren’t gong to be using the hotel for anything more than a quick place to lay our heads.
We were excited to go to Easter Island to see the Moai, which are the famed stone heads that I have only seen in the Encyclopedia Brittanica or National Geographic, as is the case for most people.
We reminded the kids that Easter Island was somewhere that most, if not all, of their friends would never have the chance to visit due to its remoteness and obscurity. I think it will be an awesome opportunity to see somewhere that is steeped in historical mystery, as well as a civilization that has seen a lot of changes since its first inhabitation in the 1500s.
We were sad to say goodbye to this paradise, but that only means that we will say hello again some day!