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Your cabin in the mountains.
Your cabin in the mountains.
Take a helicopter ride.
The cargo ship.


Thursday, February 7, 2002
Catriona steps onboard a cargo ship in the beautiful South Pacific that leads her straight to paradise ... and has fun on the way.

The Marquesas is an archipelago of 15 islands, lying 4000km south of Hawaii and 1400km north-east of Papeete. They stretch 350km north-west to south-east, and only six are inhabited.

The islands are divided into two groups: Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka and Ua Pou in the northern group of eight are inhabited, and Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva in the southern seven are inhabited.

Nuku Hiva is around 330 square kilometres and is the most populated, with 2400 people living there. It is volcanic, with mountains sweeping straight into the ocean. Unlike most South Pacific islands, it has no reef or lagoon but lots of wild, untouched vegetation. It's not commercially developed and poor roads make driving difficult, but the stunning natural scenery more than makes up for this.

Most people live in the main village of Taiohae. They are shy, gentle and unassuming, unaffected by tourism and genuinely welcome visitors to their island. Their songs, dances, traditional tattooing, carving, tapa cloth and fine cooking make their culture unique in the South Pacific.

The village is on the water at Taiohae Bay and has a bank, supermarket, town halls, radio station, hotel, restaurants and snack bars. There is a cathedral housing a magnificent wooden statue of a mid-1800s bishop, and you can visit workshops of wood and stone sculptors.

On the opposite side of the island is Hatiheu, a small village visited and loved by Robert Louis Stevenson. Not far away are some significant archaeological ruins, including Tahiti's oldest church, still attended by worshippers.

In Hatiheu is Chez Yvonne, a small pension of just five bungalows that face the water. Yvonne is famous for her warm hospitality, personality and wonderful heimaa cooking. This is the tried and true ground-cooking method using hot volcanic rock which is heated for two hours before the food is put in for six to seven hours. Yvonne's specialties are pork, fish, vegetables, banana and breadfruit.

An adventurous way to see the Marquesas is aboard the 105m cargo ship Aranui. A local purchased the former ice-breaker in 1989, refurbished it, and now it does around 16 trips a year, steaming between Tahiti and the Marquesas.

Usually cargo vessels supply lodging and some, if not all, meals. Passenger ships normally supply meals, lodging, games, activities, pools, shows — you name it. Aranui is a combination of both. Your fare covers all lodging, excursions, laundry, daily cleaning as well as meals on board and ashore. Some shore meals are picnics and some are taken at restaurants on various islands.

It carries up to 90 passengers, and there are four levels of accommodation. The dormitory has 22 spaces in one large room, shared showers and toilets. Category B two-berth cabins share shower and toilet with two other two-berth cabins. Category A two-berth cabins have private facilities, and the six deluxe cabins have a large bed, bathtub and refrigerator. The boat is air-conditioned and there are several common areas including dining room, living room, bar, pool and sundeck.

As Aranui is a working vessel, it stops for loading and unloading, and this is when passengers are taken ashore for day excursions.

The 15-day voyage starts and finishes in Papeete, and superb scenery is guaranteed. You will visit Hiva Oa, where painter Paul Gaugin found inspiration and spent his final days. You will also enjoy some great food and meet lots of happy, smiling people.


The Marquesas, French Polynesia.


Qantas Holidays has packages including a 15-night cruise on the Aranui cargo ship, with all meals, return economy airfares, transfers and four nights' accommodation in Papeete. Prices start at $5023 from the east coast, $5248 from Adelaide and $5468 from Perth, per person twin share.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Tahiti Tourisme
Ph: (02) 9281 6020 or 1300 655 563
Fax: (02) 9211 6589
Ph: 0011 689 42 6240
Fax: 0011 689 43 4889
For a safe and healthy journey, talk to the travel doctor: 1300 658 844 or visit
Vaccinations: Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and Measles if under 30 years. Malaria is not a threat. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Gut problems are common so be prepared – take a medical kit such as The Tour Kit so you can treat travel health problems quickly. Be sure you have plenty of sunscreen and an insect repellent containing DEET. Both can be hard to find out of Australia.

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