Raiatea the cradle of the Maori civilization, an island that is actually joined by asubmerged isthmus to Taha’a and that surprise by its natural beauties. This island come out of the tourist scheme of Polynesia. I think this island may or may not like it, without average terms. Without large and luxury hotels or restaurants, except for one in Taha’a, these islands should be seen to meet the wild side of French Polynesia, to see the day-to-day life of an island life.
Before deciding to go to Raiatea, we went through our heads and the budget: Rangiroa and Tikehau. We dreamed of going to Rangiroa, but reviews about the accommodation and the price made us give up. I do not deny that the landscape of these two islands should be wonderful, but if there is one thing that we admire in Polynesia is the combination of mountains and sea that is incredible, and it is not the case of those two that are atoles, and in the end only tongues of land in the sea, beautiful without a doubt, but the abrupt of the Polynesian mountains captivates us so much.
We decided Raiatea because it was already included in the Air Tahiti pass, because we had seen it from the plane on our previous trip and we found it impressive, because we wanted to know the cradle of The Maori culture and well, anything else that went through the road. The truth was not expecting a fantastic sea or wonderful snorkeling and we were mentalized for it.
Our first impressions of Raiatea
Arriving at the airport surprises us at the volume of people, the movement, ten times greater than Moorea’s. There are musicians at the airport and a girl who gives a flower to those who arrive, but there were so many people that we couldn’t even see them, only the Hear. We spotted a huge Polynesian girl with a sign carrying our name. He hugs us and gives us a kiss as if he were getting us a Friend. It tells us to wait, meanwhile, we give a quick eye to the little tiendi of Souvenirs.
The girl’s going to get her minivan that has cutlery seats with a blue cloth with white prints gigantic Polynesian flowers, very nice, the air conditioning works Wonder. Good, because it’s unbearable and damp, and we didn’t know yet as far as the heat could get.
The road was neither very fast nor too long, we were seeing along the way what could be Raiatea. We didn’t know much to expect. At any rate, you could see a super lush vegetation, green everywhere, flowers of Tiaré to profusion.
So we arrived at the hotel; the Raiatea Lodge, we were told not to take care of the luggage, that they would. We were greeted by a super energetic girl, she explained all the themes of the hotel: breakfast and dinner times, if we needed excursions or cars, what we could do, in short, everything.
Then we were led to the room, which was, nice and comfortable, spacious. The only freckle for me was the bathroom, a little basic and that did not allow to make a shower comfortably, because the shower is open and the shower is poorly located. In order not to make a lake in the bathroom, you have to take the shower almost glued to the wall. Apart the plastic water hall made a bad impression, and it downgraded to the bathroom.
After settling in and running the air conditioning so we could fight the heat, we went for a walk and saw the famous pontoon everyone was talking about. Phew!!! the view of the sunset with Bora Bora in the background was beautiful.
The beach did not captivate us at first glance, also with the sunset light it is difficult to capture the true colors, but we saw at the tip of the pontoon, a great variety of fish.
The first night we ate at the hotel’s restaurant, which has very good reviews. I don’t know if by the wonderful reviews we expected many more, or the truth in Moorea we ate so but so well, that maybe we had the very high evaluation bar.
In any case the food was ok, but we were not surprised, nor did it particularly mark us. Set aside that night into a hellish heat that could put anyone in a bad mood, and those who take away the urge to eat. Not to mention the mosquitoes that ate us with more appetite and enthusiasm than we had ourselves.
Today we will meet The Island vanilla: Taha’a
The next day we had scheduled an excursion to Taha’a with Arii Moana Tours. We were picked up at 8am in the pontoon in front of the hotel, where we settled and they arrived on time with another passenger, Francesca, an Italian girl who was traveling alone in Polynesia, . We got on the boat, and soon after came a group of seniors French who would found out later that they were also staying at the hotel and that they were super friendly. There were only 7 people and that made the excursion super convivial.
In principle, we sailed as for 20 minutes to the Pearl Farm in Taha’a, there you see people working the oysters, cleaning them, doing the grafts. A local boy explains the process to you, while you see it at the same time. Then it shows you the different stages of creating a pearl, already on the beach, near a colonial-style house, very nice, where with a girl (Spanish by the way) you learn other things linked to the design of jewelry and the classification by quality of the pearls. You see so many that it causes them to take them as rice (if they weren’t so expensive!).
After the perlera farm, we sail to the Coral garden of Taha’a, and already arriving you can see the change of colors. There we enjoyed a magnificent time, after a slight rain we refreshment during the talk about the pearls that took place on the beach of the farm, now we had a blue sky that allowed us to see the bora Bora silhouette in the background clearly.
Julien, our guide, explained that to swim through the coral garden, we had to go to the entrance of the ocean at the barrier, what in French they call ‘passe’. That we would walk there, and that if we needed it he would guide us, literally loaded, through the canal.
It sounded complicated to me, other than that I’m afraid you won’t tell me how to cut myself with the coral, and as we advanced along the shore I was already starting to freak out. I looked at that canal full, but full of coral and wondered where we’d go. So we get to the starting point, the entrance of the ocean through the barrier. The pristine water, but it is that the current was impressive, like a river. Julien told me and Francesca to float in the water, and that he would drag us across the canal. Uuhhh sometimes you pass so close to the corals. I used to put water in the mask twice, but then we understood that it’s because we didn’t buy the right size.
While all hotels and almost all excursions give you snorkeling masks, it is best to buy them before the trip, take your time to try the different qualities. Choose the mask that best suits your face and with which you feel most comfortable. And he always asks the store for advice. That will allow you to enjoy the activities more.
Despite the fear of corals, beauty is such that you can just be left contemplating and admiring what nature has done. Letting yourself be carried away by the guide is the best thing, because it’s not you think a lot about the tour and you go see every little corner where you hide the dozens of little fish of all colors and sizes. Diversity is incredible, and I think it’s one of the places where we saw the most variety of fish.
After touring the coral channel, leave us time for us to swim freely near the boat and we can keep snorkeling. I enjoy still seeing fish in that extraordinarily crystalline water. Then we were invited to have a drink in the boat, and we were announced that in a few minutes we would depart, heading for the place where we’d have lunch.
And so, with our eyes full of colors, we went sailing to a motu where the Pension Atger is located. There would be lunch, we had to wait for the group on the other excursion and we did it by drinking fruit punch and beers. Until finally they presented the food consisting of a buffet volonté: poisson cru, coconut bread, shrimp, rice, noodles, a baked fish in a vanilla sauce that was a poetry… in terms of food nothing was missing and you could eat profusion.
The moment of food it was nice, we talked a lot with our fellow travelers. Did a little translators between Francesca and the group of Frenchmen. Finally, between conversations and cymbals, we also drank quite a bit. A slight rest and we kept our excursion, this time with the visit of a vanilla plantation. Already this point must have realized that the tour is super complete and it really lasts the whole day, so you have to leave with a lot of energy to Enjoy.
Between jokes by some vessels of more than Planteur, and its possible consequences from the wobble of the ship, we set sail again, heading to the place where we would see the plantation of Vanilla. This time Julien let us go with the girl who accompanies him on the boat. We walked a short drive between the small pier and the entrance to the plantation, it was a dirt road lined with a lot of Tiaré flower trees and Frangipanier, I liked taking some to admire their fragrance and use them ornament in my hair.
The more we walked the smell of flowers was impressively joined by vanilla. And there at the bottom of the road a great mother, as they call it in Polynesia, was waiting for us to explain to us the secrets of growing and harvesting its precious treasure. A again it rained a little during the talk, but the heat was not grumpy. While I counted it all, I kept admiring the vegetation of a profusion and boundless exoticism, challenging green, and with plants that seem to grow on each other, dotted with flowers of all kinds and colors. It calms your soul just being there to contemplate.
In the end he also showed us how you get tamanu oil, quite effective at treating bites, but with an unpleasant smell. You have to decide between smell and annoyance that can generate a nono bite.
On the site you can obviously buy the vanilla they make there, tamanu oil, and also have handmade pareos (the real handmade). Everything has the same price or slightly a little cheaper than what you can find in the Tahiti market, so it’s worth making some small buys. Expect cash because there is no possibility to pay by card.
Once our visit was over and we took our way back to the boat, as the sun began to wane. Sailing back to Raiatea, we said that we had had a wonderful and very rich day of encounters, discovery, and beautiful things. We were really satisfied with this tour.
Our fellow hiking companions had told us that in the evening there would be a dance show in the lobby of the Raiatea Lodge hotel. After bathing we started to feel the Polynesian drums and we soon went down.
We came across a profusion of colors and flowers, when I sit a lady and put on a bracelet of natural flowers. It was a very nice thing, we even danced with them.
In search of the origins of Maori culture
No beach today, it’s not the plan, and that’s least. Something has not been well digested in my stomach of everything eaten the day before and I am not well at all, and the heat seems to intensify symptoms. But nothing will stop me, and we will go to explore the southern part of Raiatea and meet one of the most important Maraes for Maori culture, as they say is the origin of everyone else, and from this must take a stone (ofai faoa) in order to found a new marae and that is considered sacred.
This marae considered the largest in Polynesia and whose name is Taputaatea (in Spanish it seems to be insulting you) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July of this year (July 9, 2017 to be exact).
After having a good time time exploring the marae and reading about the little-known history of this kind of places, we continue our way on the only route that surrounds Raiatea, the idea was to turn it around completely. According to legend it says you must go barefoot to the sacred area of the marae and so we did, ufff but that suffering walk on the ground it was a mixture of gravel and chopped coral. But of the way not we wanted to catch ourselves the bad luck they say is the punishment of what they come in shoes, because I play suffer in case the doubts!!
Thus we went back to a part from which we have a nice view of the Lagoon de Raiatea, a pity that the day was not very clear.
Last day in Raiatea and departure to Bora Bora
Today it starts with rain, so much rain, during the breakfast we see the rain fall, and well, we did not more at all because we will travel to Bora Bora in the late afternoon and it’s going to be very well just to rest. We didn’t plan on moving much.
The hotel owner allowed us to leave the room later than planned so that we can take the time it takes to prepare. So we tell ourselves that we have time to snorkeling on the pontoon when the rain has stopped.
The experience of this snorkeling exceeded our expectations, although the water is not of those blue electrically visible in Bora or Moorea, there is a lot of visibility and the quantity and variety of fish is impressive. The end of the pontoon is in the edge of a reef, right there the water gets deeper and can be seen fish of all kinds and in large quantities.
When we were leaving we lent a transit room to change us and shower, here the shower was magnificent, a thousand times better than the room, we would have wanted it would have been like this.
And we are more than ready to return to paradise: Bora Bora!