Tahiti truly is 'the paradise of the world'

By Scott Archbold

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, July 12 2013 3:10 p.m. MDT

A view from the over-water bungalow on Bora Bora.

Mary Archbold, Deseret News

MOOREA, French Polynesia — We were awakened from a sound sleep by the sound of a rooster crowing. Upon looking out the window, my wife, Mary, and I were reminded that we were indeed not home but on the beautiful island of Moorea.

We were visiting Tahiti, a fulfillment of a lifelong dream of mine. Why Tahiti?

Perhaps it was my imagination fueled by reading about the early European explorers in the Pacific and the mutiny on the Bounty. Or maybe it was remembering a 1950s television show my mother watched called "Adventures in Paradise" or just the thought of being with my wife on a tropical island. Whatever the reason, the motivation to visit Tahiti has been there for as long as I remember.

I was worried that since I had wanted to visit for such a long time that actually being there would be a disappointment — maybe it wouldn’t be as beautiful or the experience as nice as I imagined. I was wrong on both counts.

The islands are so pretty that words and even photographs can't portray their beauty adequately. In addition, the Polynesian spirit of hospitality is alive and well in these islands.

Moorea

Moorea is stunning. It is considered by some to be the inspiration for Bali Hai from author James Michener. It looks like a jewel from the airport and ferry dock 12 miles away in Papeete and only gets better upon arrival. The island is covered with verdant green flower and fauna everywhere. The exception is the steep mountain cliffs visible from most of the island.

Our accommodations at the Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa were a separate bungalow with a small splash pool. This allowed us to relax, get some sun and cool off in privacy. We couldn’t see the lagoon from our room, but we were surrounded with coconut trees and vistas of the mountains.

We rented a car and drove around the island. We couldn’t get lost, because there is one main road around the island. But we did lose our way trying to get to the Belvédère lookout from which Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay can be seen. We did make a small detour but eventually found the lookout and the view.

The road weaves around both bays, but being able to see both bays at the same time while behind us was a sheer cliff going up another 1,000 feet (it seemed) was marvelous.

For those interested in learning about Tahitian culture, Tiki Village is the place to go. The village is a small area where the approximately 20 residents are Tahitian craftspeople who live and work at the site. They make a wide variety of handicrafts, and you can even get a tattoo if you like.

A guide is assigned to you, and he or she shows escorts you through the village explaining Tahitian culture and introducing you to the other artists. There is a dance show at lunchtime and a bigger production at dinnertime. A model pearl farm just offshore is accessible by canoe. Our canoe guide was very enjoyable and entertaining and the highlight of our visit.

Tiki Village is much smaller and not on the same scale as the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu, Hawaii, but is nonetheless enjoyable.

Our favorite activity was a jet ski tour. We were soon skipping across the lagoon, out to the open ocean, back into the lagoon and going single file through the coral reefs. We stopped at the mouth of Cook’s Bay, turned off the engine and listened to our guide explaining the history of the island. We learned that Captain James Cook did visit Moorea but never anchored in the bay named for him, but Opunohu Bay instead.

Further down the coast, we stopped relatively close to the InterContinental Resort and dismounted into about 3 1/2 feet of water. Immediately, we were surrounded by manta rays looking for lunch. There were also reef sharks, as well as many other types of tropical fish.

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