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March 2000


Today’s Tour Guide: Musclebunny

Tired of the daily grind? Well then pack your bags for an exotic trip to French Polynesia! But first, here’s a little bit about each of the
8 islands to help you plan your trip.

Clear Lagoon in Bora BoraBora Bora: Known as “the most beautiful island in the world”, you’ll love this island’s white sand beaches. Surrounding the small island is the most stunning lagoon in all of the Pacific. And Mount Otemanu stands often draped in white clouds. You can explore the entire coastline on foot, the island is only 20 miles around.

Moorea: This island is less than 20 km North West of the capital of Papeete. It is the sister island of Tahiti, and has often been thought to be the mythical island “Bali Hai” described by writer James Michener. You can explore the majestic volcanic peaks at mount Rotui’s crater, or go through the stone temples before reaching the panorama of the belvedere which offers a spectacular view of the two famous bays.

TahitiTahiti: There’s plenty to do on the big island - from a game of golf on French Polynesia’s only course (72-par with views of the island and outer reed), to a helicopter ride to Mount Aorai. Or you can try big game fishing, water skiing, scuba diving, sailing or wind surfing. Then, if you aren’t too tired. try a tour to Matavai Bay, Cook’s Monument at the Point Venus, the Gauguin Museum, the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, or the fascinating Lagoonarium.

Raiatea & Tahaa: Want to experience the roots of Polynesian culture and the natural beauty that inspired it? Raiatea is revered by the Tahitians as the birthplace of their religion and culture. According to legend, it was from these shores that ancient Polynesian explorers set off for Hawaii and New Zealand. You can venture up the Faaroa, the only navigable river in French Polynesia. Or take a climb up Mount Temehani for a rare glimpse of the Tiare Apetahi, a flower which grows no where else on earth. Tahaa, is a short speedboat hop away, and is almost untouched by the 20th century, with spectacular bays carved from green hills.

Rangiroa & Manihi: 200 miles northeast of Tahiti lies the Tuamotu Archipelago, composed of the largest collection of coral atolls in the world. The waters of the Tuamotus are a scuba diver’s dream. Whether you opt for shallow, ocean or drift dives, the underwater scenery is guaranteed to be some of the most spectacular you’ve ever seen. Rangiroa, largest of the atolls, offers the adventurous traveler the rare opportunity to live amid the wild beauty of the Tuamotus. You’ll find an array of daily aquatic excursions and activities from which to choose. Windsurf on the clear waters of the great lagoon, or snorkel beneath them, letting the tidal currents propel you amidst the fabulous variety of aquatic life. Manihi is a small atoll located north of Rangiroa, 330 miles from Tahitim, with a population of just 300 inhabitants. A trip to the black pearl farm is a must.

HuahineHuahine: This island is the last of the Society Islands reached by tourism, it has remained virtually unknown to tourists until recently. The tiny port of Fare really comes to life on shipping day. That’s when many of Huahine’s 4,000 inhabitants travel to town by “le truck” (an open air bus) to see old friends, swap news, sell their pigs, copra and melons, and buy goods from the incoming supply ships. Make sure to visit the sleepy village of Parea that has barely changed over the generations. There, you can hire horses for a long ride through tropical mountain trails. Or, stop by a vanilla plantation for a handful of aromatic beans. If surfing’s your thing, don’t miss the renowned waves of Avamoa Pass. Unlike the other islands, with more than thirty miles of roads to explore, Huahine can take several days to discover completely.

So, what’s the weather like? French Polynesia averages a comfortable 80 degrees throughout the year so dress casual. During the day, shorts & bathing suits are common. In the evenings, many hotels ask the men to wear long pants and shirt and not go barefooted. Casual shoes, thongs, jeans or slacks and a Polynesian shirt are quite acceptable for the men and a light sun dress, slacks or shorts for the ladies. Between June and September evenings may be cool, so bring a sweater. And even though tropical rain showers are refreshing rather than chilling, a light weight rain coat that folds to fit into a pocket or purse may come in handy.

Meals prices in here are comparable to those in other resort destinations such as Kauai, or Maui. Most restaurants have a la carte menus. Meal plans are available with most travel packages and will generally represent a cost savings, so check with your travel agent. Remember, there are no sales taxes or other hidden service charges in French Polynesia. This one part of the world where you do not tip-Polynesia hospitality simply does not allow it.

Colors in the tropics seem brighter than at home and the nights seem darker. This is particularly true on the "low islands", and a good pair of dark glasses and a small pocket flashlight for everyone in your party is a good idea. I would strongly suggest you don't forget your camera, film or favorite sun screen. If you do find yourself needing more of anything, always try the local products. They are every bit as good and are considerable less expensive than the imported products.

Looking to get married? The picturesque Tiki Village, a replica of an ancient Tahitian Village nestled under coconut palms at the edge of the Haapiti lagoon on Moorea will arrange a wedding ceremony performed by their village "chief" and "high Priest" complete with musicians, beautiful coral crowns and traditional Tahitian dress. Photographs of this beautiful ceremony and a certificate are included in their price. Although ceremonies are not legally binding this can be a perfect time and place to repeat your vows.