Sailing in the Pacific.
Catriona swims with the fish.
Swaying palm trees.
The traditional dance of the island.
Come on a South Sea yacht cruise that is simply full of surprises ... can you handle it?
Raiatea is an island neatly wedged between Bora Bora and Tahiti, and with Tahaa, forms two mountainous clumps in turquoise water, enclosed by a single barrier reef. The two islands are known as the French Polynesian Sisters.
The largest in the Leeward Group, Raiatea, is important to the past and present. It was the religious, royal, cultural and historic centre of the Society Islands, and Polynesian mythology says that Oro, the god of war and fertility, was born in Mount Temahani, an extinct volcano on Raiatea's north, earning it the name "Sacred Island". It is still the economic and administrative centre of the Leeward Islands. It is also where ancient Polynesian mariners landed from Hawaii.
As Raiatea and Tahaa don't have beaches and are accessible only by boat, they are not as popular with tourists as other islands.
You can hire boats from Stardust Yacht Charters in the Pacific, Mediterranean and Caribbean. The base in Raiatea has 24 bareboats, made up of six catamarans and 18 monohulls ranging from 11 to 16 metres, and one crewed Platinum Bahia 46.
To hire a Stardust craft, you must have a sailing resumé, and if they are at all in doubt, they will accompany you for half a day. If all is not to their standards, their skipper must accompany you for the entire trip. Trying to negotiate the reefs in darkness is a no-no, but everything else is pretty laid back and up to you.
Most people do a round trip from Raiatea, but there is a one-way option. There is a surcharge depending upon where the boat is left, and there is a five-day minimum for bareboat hire.
They collect you from the airport and take you to your boat where you will stay overnight. Next morning, you sail from Raiatea to Tahaa and anchor near a fish park where you can snorkel. Lunch is usually a barbecue on an isolated coral islet or motu.
In the afternoon, you will visit a fragrant vanilla plantation on Tahaa or the Hibiscus Foundation for the Turtle where you can release a turtle into the ocean.
In the evening, you will moor at the Hotel Hibiscus and enjoy a traditional Tahitian dinner and show. The owner of the hotel is also responsible for the turtle release. He purchases those which are caught in fishermen's nets and cares for them until they are well enough or big enough to make it on their own.
The surrounding waters are rich with fish, the mountains wild and perfect for hiking, and the people are happy and friendly. The mountains here are home to the extremely rare tiare apetahi, a delicate white flower that grows nowhere else in the world. This is the place to sail away and really escape and enjoy what the water, blue skies and sunshine have to offer. Bliss!
Raiatea and Tahaa in French Polynesia.
Sunsail Bareboat Charters start at $4050 for a week.
Qantas flies to Auckland with Air Tahiti Nui connections to Papeete starting at $1379 from Sydney, $1413 from Melbourne, $1414 from Brisbane, $1803 from Adelaide, $2428 from Darwin and $2587 from Perth, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Ph: 1800 803 988
Fax: 02 9955 2722
Ph: 02 9281 6020 1300 655 563
Fax: 02 9211 6589
Qantas: Ph: 13 13 13
It is recommended travellers to French Polynesia see their doctor at least 6 weeks before departure. Prior to travel, travellers should be ‘in date’ with vaccinations listed on the Australian Immunisation Schedule, as well as vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, tetanus and typhoid fever. Depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions are recommended and best discussed with your doctor.