Tahiti and French Polynesia, a Technicolor Paradise
By Captain Claud Akers, M/Y ASKARI
Tahiti and French Polynesia are on the “bucket list” for many adventurous travelers. Lush, green volcanic peaks, black sand beaches, vivid blue waters and fringing reefs … the South Pacific scenery looks like something right out of a movie. By far the best way to see these spectacular islands is from the deck of a private luxury charter yacht. Here is a sample itinerary from the captain of the 108-foot explorer M/Y ASKARI, which operates in French Polynesia year-round.
Day 1: Join ASKARI in its slip downtown in colorful Papeete, capital of Tahiti, just a short car ride from the airport. After the crew welcomes you aboard with a glass of Champagne, you may choose to shop at the local market for black pearls, pareos or other native goods. Once you are back aboard, the yacht heads for the island of Moorea just 12 miles away.
Day 2: ASKARI anchors in Cooks Bay, one of the most beautiful bays in the island chain. You may spend the rest of the afternoon marveling at the scenery with a coconut drink in hand or paddling on a kayak or SUP. The evening dinner is served al fresco in the gentle island breezes.
In the morning, it’s time to feed the stingrays. This interaction is quite an experience as these creatures gently cuddle you. Circling, but at a distance, are shy yellow-tip sharks. A short tender ride away, you’ll be snorkeling over coral gardens. Scuba diving also can be planned for outside the reef. For those who prefer a land-based adventure, ATV tours of the island teach you about the flora and fauna and take you to the highest point for an outstanding view.
Returning to ASKARI, you can admire the scenery from a hammock on the sundeck with a cool drink in hand.
Day 3: We raise anchor very early and head out for our passage to Huahine Island, some 75 miles away. The trolling lines are set as soon as the sun is up as these are good fishing grounds. A typical catch would be mahi mahi or yellowfin tuna, which the chef will filet and serve for either lunch or dinner.
ASKARI anchors mid-day, in time for lunch. Afterward is a good time to soak up the scenery and sun; the water toys also will be in the water, ready and waiting.
Dine ashore this ef vening on a private motu (reef islet), hosted by a Tahitian family with an authentic local experience including local foods, a live band and traditional games.
Day 4: Wake up to a divine breakfast on the aft deck surrounded by fantastic vistas. A full day is planned ashore. Huahine, known as the Garden Island, is exceptionally green with coconut plantations, vanilla orchids, banana groves, breadfruit trees and watermelon fields. You also can see ancient fish traps dating back 400 years that are still used by the natives. Visit the local museum to learn about the ancient archaeological remains that have been uncovered in the area. Known as the cradle of Polynesian culture, this island has the largest concentration of ancient marae (temples) in French Polynesia. Some are believed to date back to around 700 AD.
Day 5: ASKARI gets underway for a three-hour passage to Raiatea, the second largest of the Society Islands after Tahiti. Raiatea shares an expansive lagoon and surrounding coral reef with sister island Taha’a.
Raiatea has the only navigable river in all of French Polynesia. Since there are no rapids, a very tranquil way to explore is by kayak, paddleboard or tender. Tropical flowers line the river banks and it provides a lovely, calm anchorage for ASKARI. Scuba divers can explore the NORDBY, a three-masted schooner built in the 1900s that sank inside the reef. We recommend a visit to the local pearl farm to learn how the pearls are cultured. Choose your pearl directly from the farmer.
Day 6: Another fishing opportunity! Our cruise will take us through the sheltered lagoon waters of Taha’a and out the western pass towards Bora Bora. This remarkable island is a memorable sight as we approach from the ocean. We have a selection of several anchorages in different parts of the Bora Bora lagoon. Diving is very good here outside the pass and there are also good areas for snorkeling in the shallows. The town of Vaitape is interesting and boasts many good restaurants and boutiques.
Day 7: On our final day you can go on safari around the island either by bicycle or jeep. There are many spectacular viewpoints that allow you to see the exquisite lagoon and spectacular mountains from different angles. There is also more time for diving, swimming or simply relaxing aboard admiring the view before heading to Bora Bora’s airport, which has frequent flights to Papeete that take only 45 minutes.