We were a bureaucratic nuisance, a couple of Brits, flying into Papeete, capital of French Polynesia from New Zealand. We insisted that as Brits, living in Cyprus, we were EU residents and entitled to enter French Polynesia without having to complete the immigration formalities. Marilyn whispered quietly, ‘Perhaps they think that Brexit has already happened?’ Arriving at midnight, in a long queue, with no Air Con, hot and humid, we were determined if not even smiling. Eventually, we showed our passports and were waved through, just like going through the EU passport line in Europe – well for the moment anyway.
The four and a half hour Air Tahiti Nui flight from Auckland was uneventful. We spent the night at an airport hotel, which was comfortable, and next morning took the short flight to Tahiti‘s little sister island, Moorea. But we had to check in ninety minutes prior to departure for the fifteen minute turbo-prop flight; actually, check-in was rather unorganized as the ground staff were unsure which way they wanted the zig-zag queue to go and just repeatedly changed it before allowing us through. We arrived at Moorea baggage collection point to utter chaos; we noticed that there was not a moving conveyor, rather a baggage dump and scrum – we were pleased to grab our luggage before someone else grabbed it for us! We took the airport shuttle to where we were staying – by the time the other six or so passengers had disembarked, we realized that we were staying on the quietest side of a very quiet island and we had no problem with that.
We’d booked in for five nights to a small resort of eight bungalows overlooking the sea. It’s worth mentioning that there are two sorts of accommodation in French Polynesia, luxury self-contained resorts and small family owned complexes of bungalows. We had a large wooden bungalow, with views of the sea from our bed, with aircon, bathroom and kitchenette – outside we had a sheltered deck, facing the sea, with sun-loungers, table and chairs and four steps to the small beach. We were quickly popular with Moustache, a large, friendly, ginger and white cat. From our bed, we could see the sea and the fifty meter pontoon. Because of coral and rocks, swimming was off the end of the pontoon, circa two meters in depth comfortably warm and for company in the afternoons local nurse and reef sharks but they minded their own business. We had a couple of excellent meals in the village, french cooking with local fish and Polynesian flair, then settled for pasta and salads on our deck and overlooking our magnificent view.
We hired a car for three days, rather expensive for an old banger that was noisy and as we rattled and squeaked along we thought, ‘Why didn’t we go to Avis, the only other car hire company on the island?’ But having wheels enabled us to explore this small island paradise. There’s actually one good road around the perimeter of the island and one road to Belvedere, the highest point on the island with fabulous views. The whole island is extremely lush with beautiful trees and rugged and inaccessible hills and mountains – there are two unusual features, firstly the volcanic mountains provide stunning scenery with jagged edges rising into the sky and secondly everything is covered with trees. We rejected the hiking options because of the humidity and excessive number of day-time mosquitos in the interior – even on the coast, the mosquitos were aggressive and abundant, clevely ignoring patches of skin with NZ 80% deet.
In French Polynesia, it’s still the rainy season. We experienced several typical tropical storms where it rained for a couple of minutes and the sun re-appeared; we also experienced a full-blown storm followed by the changing colours of the sky and that was magical. We were glad that we were eating on the sheltered deck that night and had Moustache for company. During that night we heard what sounded like a hurricane and were pleased that we were in slumberland at that time.
In the morning, we’ve got an early flight to Raiatea, another nearby island. We have a special Air Tahiti ticket which allows us to visit up to seven islands, so stay with us.
Here’s a link to our best photos of Moorea.