(August 2 to 17, 2023) The main tourism hub in French Polynesia is the Society Island Group. It includes Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Maupiti, and other small western islands of Tahiti. It is also called Leewards Islands. These islands are easily accessible by ferry service which is fast, convenient, frequent, and punctual. Visiting some of these islands, I finally understand why French Polynesia is one of the dream destinations in the world. The weather is beautiful, the ocean water is a clear turquoise blue, corals are vivid, and tropical fish are colorful and friendly.
All islands in the Society Archipelago are in a Lagoon (lake). Reefs and Motus (small islands) make up the perimeter of the lake. We followed the chart to enter the lagoon. Then, magic happens in the calm water with a view of mountainous islands and snorkeling opportunities everywhere.
Our overnight sail from Tahiti to Huahine island was soothing with a downwind pole setup. Huahine is called the “Woman’s Island” because the shape of mountains looks like a pregnant woman laying down.
When visiting a new place, I always worry about finding a place to stay (anchoring or mooring). We feel that suitable anchoring space and the number of mooring buoys are limited for the number of sailing boats. I sometimes wonder if this is because of post-COVID era.
At Huahine Island, the anchorage looked crowded but we managed to find a space to drop our anchor. As we organized ourselves for a new place, a cruising family came over and greeted us. They were Japanese French. They also informed us that one mooring buoy was available because a boat just left. We thanked them and mentioned, “We prefer anchoring to mooring because we trust our anchor more than a mooring ball.”
Watching the sunset never gets tiring. The winds calmed. Somehow, each boat (monohulls and catamarans) moved in its own direction, sometimes getting too close to other boats. We decided to take the mooring buoy after dark. I snorkeled the next day to check the condition of the mooring buoy. It was in good condition. We met the Japanese family again and thanked them. They said, they didn’t understand why we didn’t take it earlier and waited until dark. LOL
The next day, I went to the town hall to pay the garbage tax as described in the “Cruiser’s Guide Book”. I talked to many people in the city hall but nobody seems to know about it. Finally, one worker told me “Don’t worry and be happy” in English.
Our 90 day stay visa ends at the end of August. It is time to move on. We sailed to the next island “Tahaa”. Here, you anchor and snorkel around your boat, finding colorful fish. Until this time, I hesitated to snorkel/dive because I usually get bites from the tropical ocean and feel itchy for days afterward. I didn’t have this problem here and snorkeled whenever I wanted. There is a place called “Coral Gardens” west of Tahaa Island. The suitable anchorage is tight but we managed to find a good spot. The corals are in knee-deep water in Coral Gardens. I stood up or sat on sands, put my head (with goggles) in the water and took amazing fish pictures. The fish came towards me and posed on my camera.
Both Tahaa and Raiatea island are within one lagoon. It says “Raiatea Island is the sailing hub in French Polynesia”. Many charter boats depart from Raiatea. Most charter boats are catamarans. It is a half day sailing distance from Raiatea to Bora Bora. Also, these islands are accessible by ferry. One time, I saw the speed of the ferry was 37 knots per hour on our AIS. It takes one hour to travel by ferry from Tahaa to Bora Bora Island and 7 hours from Tahiti to Bora Bora stopping at Huahine, Raiatea, and Tahaa islands. (Ferry Information on Apetahi Express can be viewed at https://apetahiexpress.pf/)