French Polynesia is a group of 118 islands in the Pacific. It is the epitome of what is considered to be a heaven on Earth, with white sandy beaches, turquoise seas, lush vegetation and marine life and dreamy serenity. It was discovered by European explorers in the 16th century and it has been an overseas territory of France since the WWII.
The islands are divided into five groups and 67 of them are inhabited. The most populous one is Tahiti, where the capital of Pape’ete is located. Tahiti is the most modernized and cosmopolitan as well. The second most popular island is Bora Bora which has lately become the place for the most luxurious vacationing, with lots of celebrity houses and bungalows. Some other important islands include Hiva ‘Oa, Huahine, Mai’ao, Maupiti, Meheti’a, Mo’orea, Nuku Hiva, Raiatea, Taha’a, Tetiaroa, Tupua’i, and Tūpai. What most people end up doing is island hopping and exploring the hidden paradise of the archipelago, with each island being a unique gem.
Nature in French Polynesia is pretty much like what you imagine when you hear the phrase ‘a tropical paradise’. There are aquamarine lagoons everywhere, the sand colors range from white to yellow, pink and even black, the sea reflects in the bluest of hues, and the horizon is endless. There are high mountains on most islands, with many waterfalls and rivers amongst palm trees. Mango trees heavy with fruit and hibiscus flowers are everywhere. Marine life includes dolphins, whales, stingrays and all other kinds of fish you can imagine. There is plenty of sunshine and no pollution, it is as pristine as it gets.
Even though most Polynesians are proud of their connections with France and they speak French, the spirit of native Polynesia is still very much alive and dominant. Heritage and traditions of their Maohi ancestors are maintained. There is a rich oral history with legends of warriors, gods, canoe races and surfing. A little known fact is that the word tattoo actually came from Tohu, the Polynesian god of tattoo and painting. The practice of tattooing has been done ceremoniously since times immemorial to mark reaching adulthood. There is also a rich tradition of dancing as it has been directly linked with all aspects of life since ancient times, accompanied by drums and conch shells. A lot of crafts are still alive on the islands, such as weaving, quilting, making wooden sculptures and bowls, drums and carvings.
We have all seen pictures of Tahitians wearing hibiscus flowers behind their ears or braided into floral crowns. This is still the true picture of Tahiti – floral garlands are used to greet arriving visitors and returning family. They are welcoming and hospitable people, open and outgoing. They usually live in extended family types of communities and children are cared for by many aunts, cousins and relatives. What most visitors notice is that the locals have a somewhat loose attitude to sexuality and there is an uninhibited approach to it, with marital relationships and boundaries often very blurred. Tahitians love life and people and show it in their dancing, singing and openness.
Things to do
Most people like going on the enjoyable Tahiti cruises so they can experience more than just one island. There are plenty of beach activities on offer, ranging from surfing, snorkeling, diving and whale watching to kayaking and fishing. Indiana Jones-like jungles call for adventures, there are ancient archeological sites to visit, Gauguin Museum, botanical gardens, desert islands with oases, and so much more.
Practically, wherever you choose to go in French Polynesia, you can’t make a mistake as you will be surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. The dreamy seascape will take all your worries away and you will experience the bliss of this blue paradise.