Taha'a & Raiatea - Part I

Sunday, August 17, 2003, 11 a.m.

Faaroa Bay, Raiatea, French Polynesia

Click here for Part II

Raiatea's Teavipiti Pass; Taha'a in the distance

 

Dear friends and family:

Raiatea is the sailing headquarters of French Polynesia, and Tahaa, the less civilized island within the same fringing reef, is one of the destinations.  Or perhaps I should say, many of the destinations.  We anchored in five different places near Tahaa.  After leaving Baie Hanamene (where I last wrote), we spent the afternoon looking for a suitable anchorage near the fringing reef.  The water is much clearer near the reef, and thus much more inviting for snorkeling.  But north of Tahaa, the transition between the deep water (90 feet deep) and the banks inside the reef (3 feet deep) takes place in a distance of about 20 feet.  Nothing to hang your anchor on before you're aground!  

 

Night club? Loud party!

 So we gave up on that and headed toward an anchorage on the northwest corner of Tahaa, marked in Charlie's Charts, anchoring just before sunset.  Unbeknownst to us when we anchored was that there was either a nightclub, or a very loud party just beginning to work up steam on shore. At first it was like an extremely loud boombox, but we quickly decided it was too loud for that.  The slightly off-key voices clued us in that we were listening to a live band, probably with a drum machine.  We figured it for a garage band, and that they would knock of within a few hours.  Boy were we wrong!  They were still going at 6:00 a.m.  We turned our fans on high speed just to drown out the sound so we could sleep.
 

Above: Interlude anchored near the Taha'a Pearl Beach Resort on Tautau Island

The next day we found a spot on the reef near Tautau Island, where the transition between deep and shallow was somewhat more gradual.  A number of boats were anchored there (including our friends, Kurt and Katie on Interlude, and Debby and Terry on Wings), and the water was delightfully clear. 

 

Wings at the Tautau Island anchorage

  More recently than our various guidebooks were published, a big resort was built on Tautau Island, complete with bungalows out over the water, docks and fancy central facilities on the island.  We speculate these resorts must be immensely profitable, since they must necessarily be wiped out the next time a hurricane comes through.  It's big, expensive sophisticated kind of gambling.  We thought at first the resort was half empty, since we didn't see very many people.  But Kurt and Katie went ashore to try to get dinner reservations, and were told the restaurant was full up; the resort was 100% full.  They must all be honeymooners who aren't leaving their bungalows much...

Bora Bora in the distance, from the Tautau Island anchorage.

We anchored next at Baie Hurepiti (still on Tahaa).  We invited the folks from Interlude and Wings to celebrate my birthday with us, and we had a delightful potluck dinner, complete with birthday cake baked by Craig.

Below, from left: Craig; Terry & Debby from Wings; Kurt & Katie from Interlude.

 
We had hoped to take the "Vanilla Tour" which starts in Hurepiti Bay (led by a botanist), but it's booked for weeks ahead.  Instead, we moved on to Marina Iti, a resort at the south end of Tahaa.  We had heard that they have fabulous French dinners, and you can use their mooring buoys.  All true.  The restaurant is completely open-air, with kitchen, bar and offices in the back.  The owners are delightful French expatriots who love to talk, cook and host yachties.  We went in to make reservations in the early afternoon, made our menu choices, and then spent the better part of an hour talking with them and one of their guests.  The guest was a Frenchman by birth, American by choice, who divides his time between Normandy (France), La Jolla (California) and the Marina Iti resort.  He explained that he was a child in Normandy, living at Utah Beach, at the time of D-Day.  He was so grateful to the Americans that he swore he would become an American citizen, something that he achieved only last year.  He had strong political views which seemed to include a mistrust of non-European immigrants to France.  We held our tongues.

Walking back out the dock to retrieve our dinghy, we met two French families who were on a charter boat.  One family lived in Long Island, so they spoke English pretty well.  They were taking advantage of the hose bib on the dock to do their laundry.  There were lots of children swimming off the dock and shrieking at each other in French.  We met the families again at dinner that night.  The little girl, about 8 years old, spotted a hermit crab making its way across the floor of the restaurant.  His shell was about 3 inches across, and she picked him up fairly carefully.  The crab at first withdrew into the shell, and then stuck his legs and claws out, a distance of about 3-4 inches from the shell.  She took the crab in his shell over to the family table, and they watched him walk around.  We momentarily lost interest, and then there was an ear-splitting shriek from the girl.  Evidently the crab had found her finger.  Her Dad explained to us that this was not the first time she had been pinched by a crab -- they had been to French Polynesia several years before, and it had happened then as well. 

 
Taha'a & Raiatea Part II

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