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  • Writer's pictureCarol McKee

Falling for French Polynesia

Climbing aboard the party boat with all the locals - because it was Sunday and that was a day with a special price for all the neighbors - and looking up at the mountains surrounding the bay we felt like this was the right day for what we were doing. Blue skies, puffy clouds, and mild temperatures were the perfect combination for our picnic day on the beach with about 50 of our soon to be friends.

We were soon underway gliding over the water past the private yachts, past the mountains of the island of Mo'orea, past the hotels and everywhere there was water like glass. Water so clear that you could see 20 feet to the bottom and catch a glimpse of rocks, fish, mantarays, and black tip sharks as we flowed quietly bye. Someone had a ukulele and the locals were singing a song which to them is just an unremarkable way to pass the time but to us it was magical. The singing and happiness of our fellow passengers added a wonderful extra touch of atmosphere. There was no doubt that we were deep in the heart of French Polynesia.

Tahiti and here sister islands are truly paradise as the flight attendant said when we landed. It's a place with something for everyone no matter what kind of traveler you are.

The culture vultures (like me) will delight in the many opportunities to see the traditions, dance and songs of the people here. The adventure travelers (like my husband Steve) can scuba dive, snorkel, hang glide, hike and do all sorts of things that make their hearts race (and their spouses nervous). There is sand, sun and water for those that just want to soak in some rays and some salt air. There is shopping for pearls and fabrics. And of course there is really good eating.

Foods of an astounding variety of cuisines as well as the freshest of catches from the ocean. This place really has it all. So much so that some like the artist Paul Gauguin decide to stay and never leave.

French Polynesia is made up of some 200 islands — the Society, Tuamotu, Gambier, Austral and Marquesas groups — spread over 1.5 million square miles of Pacific Ocean. Half way between the US and Australia and about three hours flying time past Hawaii - just two cocktails and a good movie beyond they like to say.

The Society Islands, which include the island of Tahiti, Bora Bora and French Polynesia’s capital Papetee, are the most populated and most visited group.

Getting from island to island presents a bit of a challenge because most are pretty far apart. Those with a land based itinerary will find themselves spending a lot of time at the airport in trying to get from one island to the next and flights are typically small prop planes. I believe the better way to see more of French Polynesia is to do so by small ship.

The Paul Gauguin, is such a small ship named for the famous artist who fell hard for Tahiti in the late 1800's, with roughly 300 passengers. This makes the experience very different from cruising on a mega ship with 5,000 other guests. But's don't worry because most of the things you might like about cruising are here just on a smaller scale. And if you are not a cruiser this is rather like a nice boutique hotel. But either way you won't spend much time on the ship.

The point of this journey is to allow you to see several different islands and enjoy what they have to offer. Still, know that when you are on the ship the Paul Gauguin is small and intimate and guests get to know each other and the crew. And because of it's size it can slip into smaller bays and therefore you can access all sorts of places in the islands. By using your ship as your home base you can maximize your time in the islands instead of spending your time at the airport getting from one place to another.

Tahiti and her sister islands are a paradise of blue and green and clear waters teeming with life. The islands are all quite different in a way but each is a version of paradise on earth. Given that this is my new favorite place on earth I couldn't describe it all to you in one article. Look for more from me on this destination in coming weeks.

In the meantime is a little video taste of the Tahiti Islands and here is another video I like in English with subtitles in Japanese.

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