The French Polynesian islands may be best-known for their most populous destination, Tahiti, but there’s much more to discover on these 118 beautiful islands that lie deep in the South Pacific. French Polynesia is divided into five main regions, with each group of islands offering something different, whether luxury five-star resorts, or an adventurous, off-the-beaten-track holiday experience.
Encompassing the tourism hotspots of Tahiti and Bora Bora, the Society Islands are the most inhabited, and most-visited region in French Polynesia. There are many things to see and do in Tahiti, whether the attractions be man-made or beautiful forces of nature. Gaze at the white water gushing from the Arahoho blowhole on the north side of the island. While you’re in the area, enjoy a dip in the cool green waters of Le Trois Cascades, with three misty waterfalls overhead. Tahiti is also a great destination for art enthusiasts. The world-renowned Gauguin museum is the perfect spot for a brief break from the summer heat.
Elsewhere on the Society Islands, Bora Bora is the ultimate luxury scape, with the iconic overwater bungalows dotted around the ocean landscape. The impossibly deep blue waters of Bora Bora are surrounded by volcanic mountain terrain, with the two peaks of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu dominating the skyline, with the highest peak rising more than 700 metres. The lagoon of Bora Bora is home to a vast array of marine life, including hundreds of varieties of fish, as well as sharks and rays, providing the perfect conditions for a spot of diving or snorkelling. For a unique underwater experience, visit the famous Lagoonarium – much like an open-air aquarium, where you can swim amongst and interact with the creatures of the lagoon. There’s also shark and ray feeding demonstrations.
The Tuamotu Islands are a spared-out, sparsely populated group of islands, that feature some fantastic diving spots. The most easily accessible of the islands in the Tuamotu archipelago is Rangiroa. This island is worth the visit for the world’s second largest atoll – an island made entirely of coral, surrounded by a lagoon. If you dare, venture to the Blue Lagoon, where you’re almost guaranteed a sighting of the blacktip reef sharks, with up to 50 gathering at one time.
Away from Rangiroa, the remote lagoon of Fakarava island features some of the clearest waters in French Polynesia, with little pollution, to get an up-close view while snorkelling or diving. If you’re really after a back-to-nature holiday, away from the hustle and bustle, head to Manihi, which has remained largely untouched by development and commercialism. There is just the one resort, and very few motorised vehicles. The best way to get around is by bicycle, which are provided free of charge for resort guests. On Manihi, the primary industry is black pearl farming, and you can learn more about the local way of life with a two hour tour. Cap off a leisurely day with a prime vantage point for the sweeping sunset – the airstrip provides some of the most unobstructed views.
The Marquesas Islands are home to some of the most spectacular natural scenery in French Polynesia, if not the world. The two to visit are Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, with many of the region’s other islands remaining completely uninhabited. Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesas group of islands, and is also known as Mystic Island. Nuku Hiva is a visual feast, with many sharp, jagged green mountains looming all around. The deep green of the lush valleys provides a striking contrast with the dark blue and aqua waters of the lagoon. The neighbouring Hiva Oa island is home to the burial site of famed artist Pauil Gauguin, and as in Tahiti, there is also a dedicated museum here. Hiva Oa is a great spot for the adventurous traveller, with some challenging hiking trails. You’ll need a guide though, as many are not marked. If you prefer, see the island on a 4X4 safari tour, or even on horseback. There are also many fascinating historical and archaeological sites to be found on Hiva Oa, featuring some of the best preserved tiki statues in French Polynesia.
For more information, or to book your getaway to French Polynesia, see your personal travel manager. Visit http://www.travelmanagers.com.au/ptm-search/