Tahiti Bareboat Yacht Charter
We arrive in Tahiti to the sounds of music wafting through the humid air and the scent of vanilla filling our nostrils. Beautiful locals Tahitians in bright shirts welcome each new arrival with a
native Tiara flower to wear behind their ear.
French Polynesia is thought of as a land of mystic charm, striking landscapes and welcoming people – an epitome of tropical paradise. Coming to a place with such a reputation, I always brace myself for disappointment as it would be difficult for anywhere to be quite so perfect. As we arrive however, the Pacific warmth infiltrates my senses and one feels the glimmer of hope that it could indeed be as magnificent as they say.
A short flight from Papette to Raiatea offers fantastic views from the left hand windows and a prelude to the Society Islands which we’re about to sail on our Lagoon 380 charter yacht. A Sunsail representative meets us at the airport donning freshly made lays. It’s a very short drive to the base and another Sunsail rep greets us and is keen to start the briefing and get us away. The briefing was very comprehensive and included full boat, inventory and a good chart briefing. The staff at the Sunsail base were very helpful and even helped us with a few extras including water and mossie repellent (two things you can never have too much of!)
Fortunately two of our group had arrived earlier and had already gone into Uturoa to provision for the week. In Tahiti, I’d generally recommend one does their own shopping to ensure you’re getting the freshest fruit and veggies. Also bring as much duty free as you can because Tahiti is ridiculously expensive and the local and imported wines are often corked…..or simply very ordinary and expensive. Most imported items are very expensive however if you stick to local produce, you can provision well at a reasonable price. December is part of the season of abundance and there’s plenty of delicious fresh fruit, veggies and fish. With the very well equipped galley onboard, our master chef and the fresh tropical produce, our meals onboard are destined to be nothing short of spectacular.
Day 1: We set sail to our first overnight anchorage at the Taravana Yacht Club in the South of Tahaa. This is a very easy and short sail from the base and perfect if you’re getting away at around midday. The Taravana Yacht Club is happy to allow boats to pick up a mooring provided they use the bar or restaurant facilities - otherwise there’s a charge.
In Tahiti it’s HOT and as soon as we were safely moored, we were straight over the side reveling in the refreshingly cool, clear water. The afternoon slipped by as we snorkeled, relaxed and caught up with old friends. At dusk, we ease into the tramps to enjoy sundowners under a moody Pacific sky sunset. The crescendo of local drums wafts from the local village ashore and there’s absolutely no doubt that we are somewhere totally romantic and exotic. The night ends as we’re gently rocked to sleep with the sound of water lapping against the hull and a quiet anticipation of the adventures to come.
Day 2: Our aim today is to see the best of Tahaa and that involves a circumnavigation. Whilst Bora Bora is the most famous of the Society Islands, Tahaa, Raiatea and Huahine are known to be the most beautiful and we’d like to see as much as possible. From very early, the sun is bright and hot in the sky and the water inside the lagoon is like glass. This lagoon is beautiful with Tahaa on one side and scattered motus on the other. The four small motus near Ilot Tautau provide our first glimpse of picture postcard perfect Tahiti. Lush tropical greens are surpassed in vitality only by the kaleidoscope of bright blues. These motus offer a shallow anchorage and an excellent snorkeling spot with a spattering of corals and sealife. One could easily whittle the day away enjoying this magnificent anchorage however with so much to see, we savor a lunch of fresh tuna and salad before continuing onto the Hibiscus Yacht Club in late afternoon. The moorings here are free for patrons of the bar or restaurant and the welcome we received was warm...the rums rather potent!
Day 3: Considering December is traditionally wet season, we’ve been enjoying unseasonable bright sunny days and we awake today to another searing day with clear blue skies and only a light northerly breeze. After heading ashore to stock up on a few provisions, we set sail around the south of Tahaa to the reef exit for Bora Bora. With little wind, the crossing takes around 4.5 hrs so upon arrival we head directly for the Bora Bora Yacht Club where we pulled up a free mooring. We enjoy a leisurely afternoon and another sumptuous dinner onboard. The night air is filled with the distant sound of drums, music and a messiah of local dogs and roosters.
Day 4: Today we explore the lagoon of Bora Bora. The mountainous landscape here is undeniably beautiful but no more so than Tahaa. The lagoon is certainly much busier and the tranquil beauty is altered slightly by the endless resorts and their overwater bungalows. The northeast of Bora Bora lagoon is scattered with shallow reefs and as a precaution, we had someone on ‘bomby’ watch for most of the afternoon to ensure the odd coral wasn’t going to rear up from out of nowhere.
We’ve now been onboard for a few days and this afternoon we’re ready to stretch our legs. The Motu Piti Aau in the South East of Bora Bora has a long magnificent beach and some basic walking tracks through tropical foliage to the beach on the outer side. After days of perfect weather and calm still lagoons, the raw wildness of the exposed sea is quite refreshing and we expend some energy with a long stroll along the coral beach.
With the intention to depart early tomorrow for Raiatea, we head back to the Bora Bora Yacht Club for another night on a secure mooring. The yacht club is very romantic with candlelit tables set up on the jetty over the lagoon – this is the ideal place for a quiet sunset cocktail.
Day 5: We awake again to virtually no wind so head off under power for Raiatea. We head for the Reef entrance on the far southern side. Once we’re inside the reef, we cruise past some absolutely beautiful motus and landscape to settle off I. Naonao – another picture perfect setting. It’s quite late by the time we arrive so we simply enjoy the vista with the intention of heading ashore tomorrow to explore.
Day 6: First thing in the morning, we launch the tender and head ashore. We are greeted by hundreds of mosquitoes and the most interesting variety of live crabs and shell creatures we’re ever seen. Every shell in the sand was moving with the strength of a living creature inside. This island is private property and a young local boy in an outrigger appeared from nowhere (or Raiatea perhaps) immediately. We greeted him with warm ‘hellos’ and in return, we got a small nod. As we walked down the beach he shadowed us in his outrigger, saying nothing but staying put only metres away. We asked if we were allowed to walk along the beach and swim and we got another nod but he stuck with us like a shadow. When we returned to the boat, our shadow followed us and sat off the stern of the boat for at least another 20 mins, still saying nothing. Perhaps he wanted to come onboard? Perhaps he was simply fascinated we the boat or we us? Finally he turned away and paddled back towards Raiatea until he was but a speck on the horizon.
We jumped back in the tender with our snorkeling gear and headed back in. The area between the motu and the reef is supposed to be a good snorkeling spot and even from the shore we could see enough coral to warrant a closer look. The water was a little murky but there was plenty of coral, colorful schools of small fish and even a reef shark. I’m glad the tender was close as although the reef sharks rarely pay much attention to humans, the sight of it was still enough to get the little heart racing!
Back onboard we cruise towards the east part of the lagoon with a course set for Baie Faaroa. This is the site of the old Sunsail base and they still have free moorings there for their boats. We were also told that the river at the end of the bay is the site of the Botanical gardens. As we enjoy yet another delicious lunch, it begins to rain….pour infact, in the way only tropical storms ever do. We’re keen to make the most of it and jump out on deck with our soap and shampoo. These downpours never last long but this was long enough and with this being our last full day, we’re keen to make the most of it - The Botanical Gardens await and after all, a little water never hurt anyone.
We set off up the river not sure what to expect. The mouth of the river is broad; brown and murky with rain. We feel like we’re on a total adventure and could easily have been heading up the Mekong! As we get deeper down the river, the most amazing plants and flowers start appearing on the banks. There are enormous fragrant red flowers, bright pinks and pale yellows. There are huge horny green fruits, bananas, mangoes and paw paws. As with everything else in Tahiti, the Botanical Gardens are totally wild and exotic and well worth a kayak or tender ride up the river to explore.
Back at the boat, we continued around the lagoon towards our nighttime mooring in Baie Tepua. We enjoy a few local beers underway as we take in the endless spectacle of the scenery – the lush green mountains, fresh waterfalls and the clear blue lagoon dotted with fisherman’s huts. A small family of dolphins even come to wave us goodbye.
Day 7: We awake and take a short cruise back to the base. Our adventure has come to an end too soon and nobody is ready to go home just yet. French Polynesia is a remarkable place with an essence that creeps into your soul. The first few days are an adjustment for anyone….especially city folk who are used to activity and entertainment however by Day 4 & 5 the adjustment is complete and by Day 6, one is just beginning to fully appreciate the relaxed pace of the islands. When we return to Tahiti, as no doubt we will, we will be going for longer and intend to include Huahine in our explorations. After Tahaa and Raiatea, it’s hard to imagine it can get much better but we’ve heard that Huahine is one of the most beautiful islands and we intend to find out!
We would like to extend thanks to Sunsail who provided us with our boat.