French Polynesia

I was recently invited on an educational trip to visit the Tahitian Islands. The beauty and excitement of flying over these lush green islands and their aqua lagoon waters may never get old. My plane comes upon these amazing romantic islands just as the sun is rising.

I prepare to arrive in Papeete, Tahiti’s largest city, where international flights come and go. After grabbing my bags I take a quick walk over to the domestic terminal and hop on a 45 minute flight to Raiatéa. As I walk down the stairs exiting the plane the airport, a small building, is exactly what you envision for a tropical island open to the fresh breeze and resort staff ready to greet you.  The hotel boat picks me up right outside and off I go. As the boat approaches Taha’a, known as the “Vanilla Island”, I begin to see the aqua waters and the overwater bungalows of the small romantic resort. For the next 24 hours I snorkel their coral garden, watch the sunrise over the mountains across the lagoon, sit on my private deck that has steps down to the water and feed fish through the glass box that opens to the waters below and also serves as the footboard of my bed.

Next I’m off to Bora-Bora, a short 20 minute flight from Raiatéa. I cannot take my eyes off Mount Otemanu and the colors of the lagoon waters as the plane approaches. On Bora-Bora, there is a combination of three, four and five star hotel options that include beach villas, overwater bungalows and a variety of amenities.  I am fortunate to stay at three resorts during my stay and visit seven others on the island. While on Bora-Bora, I ride bicycles across Motus, snorkel in private lagoons and eat dinner at a restaurant with sharks swimming under the glass floor while watching a thunderstorm light up the lagoon at night.

After looking at all the beautiful water it is time to get in it. I grab my Go Pro and take off on a shark and ray snorkel tour. Herinue, my tour guide, does an amazing job making this excursion something I’ll never forget.  I swim with blacktip reef sharks, stingrays, beautiful fish and eels. After a few hours snorkeling three different locations around the lagoon we make our way to a beach barbecue that includes a demonstration of how to make poisson cru, a popular Tahitian dish made of fresh fish, coconut milk, fruit juice and vegetables. Amazing!

All good things must come to an end so I pack my bags, grabbing a new sarong and some Tahitian Monoi oil as souvenirs.  I fly back to Papeete and check my bags at the airport bag storage since I have a few hours before check-in. I take a cab over to a local resort to watch a Polynesian show before boarding my flight back to the US. As I’m flying home I reflect on my trip and look forward to making this beautiful destination a part of other’s lives and memories from my experience.

~ Lauren Johnson

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