Situated midway in the Pacific Ocean between South America and Australia, French Polynesia is comprised of 118 islands in the Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Tuamotu, and Society archipelagos spread out in an area roughly the size of Europe.
Papeete on Tahiti is the capital. Within the Society group are Bora-Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Huahine, the jewels of the exotic Tahitian sailing vacation. Because the islands are downwind from Tahiti they’re known as the Leewards. The mountainous heights rise from the sea atop what remains of ancient volcanoes so old the craters have all but eroded into oblivion. Encircling barrier reefs provide a habitat for sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, porpoises, colorful hard and soft coral, and more than 500 species of fish, making the Tahitian Leewards one of the world’s top snorkeling and scuba diving venues. Resorts, watersports, island tours, archaeological sites, and fine dining are just some of the delights of a Tahiti sailing adventure.
NOVEMBER 18-25, 2018
The Sailing Adventure
A Tahiti sailing vacation offers balmy easterly trade winds averaging between 15 and 20 knots throughout the year, virtually guaranteeing a relaxing sail every day in the calm waters behind the reefs and spirited sailing on open-water passages.
Although Bora-Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Huahine are neighbors, each island has a slightly different ambience. Of course, the South Pacific beauty is a common trait. The exquisite reefs, motus, and beaches are too. But on one island the emphasis may be more on catering to the chic, while on another nature is supreme. On still another the handiwork of local artists or the quiet reverence at a stone temple dating back to the earliest times of Polynesian travelers is in evidence. Together, the four treasures of the Tahitian Leewards are an enchanting locale for a memorable Tahiti sailing vacation.
Destination: Apu Bay
Tucked into the south end of Tahaa, Apu Bay provides excellent protection except in south winds. The mountains on Raiatea and Tahaa are magnificent. The scenery is picture-perfect South Pacific and a key reason why yachting in Apu Bay is so popular.
Tahaa’s nickname is Vanilla Island. It has vanilla plantations, and even from the sea, the fragrance of vanilla is carried to sailors on the winds. It is also home to the only pearl harvesting farms in the Polynesian Islands. Enjoy dinner at the Taravana Yacht Club after a stroll around the bay to take in the stunning scenery.
Destination: Pt. Raititi
The lagoon widens north of Pt. Raititi with Povai Bay to the east along the shore of Bora-Bora. The scenery is truly spectacular, which accounts for the several hotels and restaurants in the vicinity and why Pt. Raititi Bora-Bora yachting is so popular. To the west is the small island of Topua, the only remaining vestiges of the massive volcano that formed Bora-Bora.
There are several excellent beaches accessible by dinghy for snorkeling on the nearby reef. Scuba diving is also available here and Trekr Adventures will work with Trekrs to plan for the best dive opportunities. A leisurely stroll ashore takes you to a number of shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Destination: Bora-Bora Yacht Club
Yachting in Bora-Bora waters is a journey through paradise. For centuries the fabled island has drawn sailors and inspired the imaginations of travelers throughout the world. A highlight of Bora-Bora cruising is a visit to the Bora-Bora Yacht Club located north of Vaitape Village, the main town on the island. It’s a favorite spot for globe trotting cruisers, and you’re sure to meet some interesting people as you sip a cool drink at the yacht club bar.
The very name Bora-Bora conjures images of a far-off South Pacific paradise. The island has long been a favorite of sailors, and it still is. A single barrier reef encircles the two islands that make up Bora-Bora. The black basalt rock face of Mt. Otemanu rises 2,362 feet above an azure sea, with impressive Mt. Pahia nearby. Both dominate the heights and provide breathtaking views from the anchorages in the lagoon, one of the key attractions because of its superlative snorkeling and swimming. The smaller island, Topua, is all that’s left of the ancient volcano of Bora-Bora. Secure anchorages, white-sand beaches, restaurants, shops, art galleries, luxury resorts, and island tours are among the pleasures of a visit to Bora-Bora.
Destination: Haamene Bay
The fragrant scent of vanilla fills the air on Tahaa, just north of Raiatea and encircled by the same barrier reef. In fact, 80 percent of all the vanilla in French Polynesia is grown in the mountain valleys of Tahaa, earning it the nickname of the Vanilla Island. Plantation tours are an interesting sojourn ashore. Black pearls, one of the prizes of the region, are grown on aquatic farms, some of which are open to the public. Local artisans craft fine jewelry featuring the pearls, and the intricate and beautiful bracelets, necklaces, and rings are for sale in shops throughout the Tahitian Leewards. Tahaa is home to a sea turtle preserve, where visitors can observe the creatures in a park setting. The island has many fjord-like inlets both scenic and well protected for anchoring, and the snorkeling on the reef is superb. White-sand beaches are ideal for swimming and picnicking.
Destination: Faaroa Bay
Cruising in Faaroa Bay Raiatea waters brings you over the north end of the island of Raiatea, then southeast along the eastern coast. The channel is well marked. To starboard, opposite the Passe Irihu ou Maire, is Faaroa Bay, a fjord-like indentation deep into the shoreline. Steep mountains rise on either side, lush with tropical vegetation and tall palms. Beyond is the valley of Mt. Tefaatuaiti.
The second largest island in French Polynesia (Tahiti is the largest) and the largest of the Tahitian Leewards, Raiatea was known as the Sacred Island. In many ways, it’s still the cultural heart of Tahiti because of its rich history. It was once an important port on the ancient Polynesian routes through the islands, covering an enormous triangle stretching from Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, to present-day French Polynesia. The many fascinating archaeological and historic sites are worth visiting on an island tour. They provide a glimpse into Polynesian culture that must be experienced firsthand. Of particular interest is the site of Taputapuatea Marae, the most significant in the islands. Horseback riding and hiking in the mountainous interior of the island are a splendid way to sightsee in a pristine tropical setting.
Destination: Opoa Bay
Opoa Bay and its surrounding lands are steeped in history. The lagoon was once a major staging area for long-distance Polynesian voyages that led to the settlement of New Zealand and the establishment of the Maori. The sea was integral to Polynesian culture, and thus it is no surprise that the Polynesians would build a major religious center at Opoa because of the area’s great importance as a port. Faaroa Bay in particular was a key location due to its protection from most wind directions. Today, a small village is on the shores of the bay, and there are vanilla plantations inland. Opoa Bay Raiatea yachting is a must during your cruise of the Tahitian Leeward Islands.
Ashore in Opoa is the archaeological site of Taputapuatea Marae, restored in 1994. Work continues to preserve the marae, which is being tentatively considered for inclusion as a World Heritage Site. The great stone altar is the centerpiece, but there are many other interesting points of interest, such as stone figures called Tikis. The size of the complex indicates its importance. It dates back to earlier than 1000 A.D. and was a place of sacrifices to the gods and gatherings of the best seamen in Polynesia who passed on their knowledge to students.