island seen from above Moorea island's best beach, Temae, northeast
coast. Moorea's ring reef that runs all the way round the island,
keeping inner waters calm, is clearly visible.
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Tahiti is a tired ex-paradise that’s well past its sell-by date, 100
years past it according to Gaugin who arrived for his second visit
in 1900 and declared it too spoilt by civilisation even then. Big
G immediately took off for the Marquesas Islands, where he died. Ironically
the Gaugin museum is one of the best 'sights' on an island
that is pretty short of exciting things to see.
is expensive but has an international airport (Faaa) and frequent
flights that arrive very late so many visitors have no choice but
to stay a couple of nights en route to far more attractive Bora Bora,
neighbouring Moorea or other lesser know islands.
114km (72 mls) ring road, showing typical black sand beaches
and moderate surf.
can drive around Tahiti in four easy hours on a circular road running
beside the sea, lined with tropical vegetation and little plasterboard
bungalows, unexciting but pleasant, in spite of fairly constant traffic.
En route you will come across rocky black sand beaches (with reasonable
surf because there's little protective barrier reef on this island),
and one or two anaemic sights - tall waterfalls and sea puffing lava
tubes. The lagoonarium is especially knackered.
Best Tahiti weather: May, June, September, October. Tahiti and Moorea are warm and humid all year.
The dry season is climatically the best, from May to October, but,
July and August can get very busy.
Beware the November to April wet season. It may rain for an hour, it may rain for days on end, and even when
it isn't raining the cloud cover, winds and choppy water make marine activities less attractive.
Tahiti's capital, is car dominated and lacking in any kind of ethnic
niceties or even decent architecture but does offer some excellent
pricey restaurants and shops. With a large port (unseen, over to the left), dark,
stony beaches and a lot of unprepossessing buildings it's hardly a beach
paradise though there are some stunning and secluded hotels where
it may seem that way.
The best thing about Papeete is the evening mobile kitchens set up
in the main harbourside plaza and delivering quality food outdoors
for a fair price, though no booze is served.
of the back streets of Papeete. Nice people, pity about the shabby,
sticky environment totally lacking in heavenly attributes.
Gauguin, a French stockbroker, abandoned his wife, six children and
Paris life in 1891 to sail to Tahiti and develop his passion for impressionistic
painting. As it happened he also developed a passion for lithe and
liberated Polynesian girls, painting them vividly and nakedly as well
as interacting with them on a more physical plane, outraging French
colonial society and ensuring that he would be an outcast on the island.
Paul Gauguin Museum.
Gauguin particularly disliked Papeete, the capital (who doesn't?),
and lived for two years on Tahiti's south coast. He then made a trip
back to Paris, perhaps as a marketing exercise, perhaps because he
tired of the tropical life but whatever the reason France didn't work
for him second time around either so he returned to Tahiti in 1990.
Unfortunately civilisation had arrived in the meantime and the island
was way too sophisticated and spoilt for him, so he sailed off to
the Marquesas Islands where he died, penniless, in 1993.
Gaugin's paintings are now worth many millions of dollars.
Gauguin Museum is user-friendly with a relaxed and varied collection
of copies, artifacts from that era and stories about the G man.
Map of Tahiti and Moorea islands in French Polynesia.
Moorea is much closer to
most people's picture of a tropical paradise.
French Polynesia Downsides:
- traffic: all the islands experience different degrees of traffic
noise around the usual circular coast road; even heavenly Bora Bora
suffers from scooter whine.
- tropical islands see regular cloud and some rain due to the heat
and humidity, so don't expect constant sunshine even in the dry season from May-October.
- the islands see a fair bit of thieving from hotel rooms, even in
good resorts and Papeete's back streets can get dodgy after dark.
- mosquitoes will always be out looking for blood so prepare yourself.
For outdoor patio life, i.e. having a drink outside your bungalow
after dark, the old favourite mosquito coils can't be beaten by electronics
and are for sale everywhere while inside mesh nets on windows, mosquito
nets over beds or electric mozzie-mats are preferable (not available
Sunset over Moorea island seen from a luxury hotel in Papeete, Tahiti; photo by Remi Jouan. Next, Moorea Pictures
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