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Enough with excuses, here’s my post about our trip to Tahiti…
Imagine, it’s October 2006 and Neil is turning the Big 40! Going through my head is “ What to do, oh what to do…” TAHITI!!! So after talking to my fellow agents and the inability to choose which island, a cruise seemed the best option! We chose to do the 11 night Tahitian and Marquesas Islands route on the then named Princess Cruises Tahitian Princess. Knowing that the Tahitian was an old Renaissance ship and Princess had let her go a bit, we knew not to expect much from the ship. Trust me – the destination well made up for it!
So the birthday adventure started in Los Angeles with dinner with great friends in Marina Del Rey. We stayed at the Westin Los Angeles Airport and the next day we boarded Air Tahiti Nui for our non-stop trip to Papeete, Tahiti. What many people don’t know, is that Tahiti is approximately 8 hours from Los Angeles, which is only 2 hours more than Hawaii. So next time you are thinking about that Hawaiian getaway, don’t bother – GO TO TAHITI! So back to Air Tahiti Nui – what a wonderful airline! It brought me back to the days when it was actually a pleasure to fly. Flight attendants were dressed up (not in their khaki shorts, cracking jokes), passing out FREE French wine (all you can drink), edible food and provided the Jet Blue experience with your own TV’s in the seat in front of you. You also get a care package with ear plugs, eye shades and socks to keep those tootsies warm. As Neil said, he’s had “longer flights to Boston!”
So we arrived at about 7:00 p.m. in Papeete and went directly to the ship. She is small and only holds 600 passengers. We checked into our mini-suite (remember, it was Neil’s 40th…). As expected the ship looked tired, but who cares – IT’S TAHITI!
First stop – Moorea. We traveled really far from the Port of Papeete – 1 hour ;-) Moorea is absolutely beautiful! I actually preferred it to Bora Bora, because I found it more remote and quiet. Also, for those budget travelers out there – it is far cheaper than the much publicized Bora Bora. More about Bora Bora later…
We chose to spend our day on a private Motu. <yes, I can see the poodle head cock again> A Motu is a small island off of a larger island, surround by a coral reef. So we spent the day snorkeling, making friends with the Manta Rays and just lounging around.
Let me back track here for a moment – in preparation of this trip, Neil purchased a rather expensive way to use a digital camera underwater, but it was still cheaper than purchasing the Olympus underwater digital camera. This gizmo (just imagine a Ziploc bag – warning #1) came shipped directly from England (warning #2). Neil put it though several trials with objects other than the camera. First the sink, then the tub and finally the pool. Once it passed his inspections, he placed the camera in the “expensive Ziploc Bag” and took pictures of the pool and the shots were very clear. So back to Moorea…picture Neil in his full gear – fins, mask & snorkel, bathing suit and of course his “Ziploc Bag!” (see bag on table below)
He dives on in to snorkel and take pics of the Manta Rays. Can you guess what happens next???? Well, let’s just say the poor guy was devastated to find out the “English Ziploc” had failed him and fried the camera. He spent the whole day trying to dry it out and praying it would work again. (I knew better) The good news is, I still had my camera and the $10 disposable underwater camera I purchased at Walmart! Even better news, Neil was able to save the memory card from the waterlogged camera, giving us this memorable picture. Nevertheless, we had an amazing time and I walked away with knowing I got to be intimate with a Manta Ray and lived to tell about it!
So we arrived 2 days later in Nuva Hiva (part of the Marquesas Islands), ready to go with our brand new digital camera we purchased on the ship! This particular island is where they filmed the reality TV Show – Survivor #4.
Since this island is rarely visited, they do not have an infrastructure for tours. So Princess, hired locals with vehicles and off we went to tour this island and even one of the Survivor sites. It was disappointing! These “survivors” were not in a remote location! If they just hiked over a small hill, they would have had access to a small village with running water & electricity. Moving on – we took a heck of a hike into the jungles to see a ritual sacrifice site. Honestly, none of us thought we would make it! It was steep & hot and hot & steep.
Yes, the ruins were amazing, yes, I would have appreciated them more if it was cooler, and yes, I would do it again! The ancient Tahitian people were not the friendliest – they conducted religious ceremonies, that included human sacrafices. Ewwwww
We were not surprised about not being able to anchor for the day, but disappointed all the same when the waters were too rough for us to get off the ship to tour Hiva Oa.
However, we were fascinated with the maneuvering it took the captain and the “pontoon” operators to get the life boat aka, pontoon back on board. It took over 2 hours with the captain finally deciding to pull up anchor, start the engines and then quickly turn the ship to create smooth waters for the little guy to move along side and hooked up! A true testament to – No Man Left Behind!
Where you have Yin, you must have Yang! Rangiroa is the 2nd largest Atoll in the world (go Google the largest…) It is where they filmed the infamous Brooke Shields’ movie, Blue Lagoon. It was such a relief to be in the calm waters of the lagoon. We stepped out on our balcony and were amazed by the beauty and the clear, clear waters! We could actually see the hull of the ship. Thanks to our wonderful friends Doug & Linda we were off for the day to snorkel the waters of the lagoon and dolphin watching! Thanks for such an amazing birthday gift!
Raiatea & Tahaa
Just when you thought it could not get any better or beautiful, we arrived in Raiatea/Tahaa. We decided ahead of time, since this was going to a truly special destination, we wanted to ditch our fellow cruisers and do a private tour. One of the best decisions ever made! There were only 11 of us, plus Bruno (tour guide & boat owner) and his assistant. We first headed over to another private Motu, where had their own aquarium. We got to swim with fishes and even sharks! It was hard to break away from the Motu and the French wine, but there was much more to see! Our final destination was an area in Tahaa where we could drift snorkel. Basically, it is what it sounds like – between 2 Motus the waters come together and you just plop your body in the water, drift and enjoy the sites. Of course, I have to find the loop hole! I got hit by a small rogue wave and tossed into coral and sea urchins. I was sooo excited!!! I couldn’t wait to get out of the water and have Neil urinate on me! He flat out refused and Bruno had the whole first aid kit…Sorry – back to the drift snorkel – This area is located near the Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. This is true paradise! If you are considering Bora Bora – don’t! Stay at this resort and I would be happy to give you further details (see my contact link above).
Now many of you out there were the beneficiaries of our annual holiday card. It took a lot for me to get Neil to agree to the underwater shot we took and put it on a card. But, here I am not going to win. If you want to see the amazing picture you will have to contact me privately to see it. He just will not agree to allow me to post it out there on the world wide web. Something to do with his license, his clients, privacy….
Some would say we left the best destination for almost last. I would argue. Yes, Bora Bora is amazingly beautiful, but I truly thought it was too built up. When I think of paradise, I NOW think of Tahaa. I just think for the money, Tahaa is a better option. With that said, we decided to spend part of our day doing a Helmut Dive. This is where we get to walk the bottom of the ocean (approx. 20 feet down) wearing these hysterical helmets. AWESOME!!! Sorry for the crappy picture, but the $10 disposal camera just did not work well that deep and Neil was not about to try the “English Ziploc” again with the new camera.
Afterwards we got to swim around for awhile and Neil even got to see a shark while swimming. He quickly came back on-board the boat.
Ladies, let’s be honest here with each other! No trip to Tahiti is complete without the purchase of a Tahitian pearl. I know it was Neil’s birthday trip, but we are talking shopping and pearls here!!! So after spending the day in the water, we headed over to the mainland (still in our wet bathing suits) and purchased a necklace with a gorgeous pearl with an itty bitty diamond. We (me) had a great time at the jewelry shop and drank up with all of the free flowing champagne!
Since our flight was not until 11:00 p.m., we had the entire day to spend in Papeete. What I truly enjoyed about Papeete that has ruined the Caribbean for me is that there aren’t fast food joints on every corner. In all of Tahiti there is only 1 McDonalds. No KFC, no Jack-in-the-Box, etc… So as our day began, I think the “hey wait it is my birthday trip” sunk into Neil and of course it did not help when he saw our waiter the night before wearing a “manly Tahitian pearl necklace”, so we were off to purchase his pearl. I am happy to report Neil was able find exactly what he was looking for, but mine is still better ;-) We could not leave these beautiful islands with the memory of shopping. We decided to hook onto a tour of the island and got to see the black sand beaches and a great waterfall.
Truly, Tahiti is a destination that EVERYONE needs to experience, at least once in a lifetime. Contact me to book your next vacation to paradise.