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What to see in Papeete

Any visit to Papeete has to start at the market, the heart of the city. It’s a great place to shop for a colorful sarong, grab a bite (fruit on the lower level and fish in the upper one recommended) or simply watch local people go about their lives. The market is located in the center of the city, which is rather small and easy to walk around. Because we had flown in the previous night from Raiatea, where we returned our catamaran, and we were flying out to Tonga that night, we decided to stay at a hotel by the airport. It was quite convenient! To get to the city center, we simply took the public bus that stops right in front of the terminal and takes 15 min, for CPF 130 ($1.5). We do recommend renting a car to explore the rest of the island of Tahiti, as we did on our first day.

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Heiva featured

Lagoons and Heiva in Bora Bora

Our time in Bora Bora was not what we had expected. We arrived at the southwest tip of the island in the afternoon, after spending the morning snorkeling in Tahaa. We were really looking forward to this paradise island, but the weather turned on us. The sky got completely covered, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. As we were fighting the waves (some of us puking our guts out) and trying to enter the protected area inside the reef, our starboard motor stopped working. We troubleshooted for about an hour and eventually resorted to calling the harbor engineer to come on board and help. With his help, we were able to get control of the boat back and anchor near Matira. It was too cold and rainy to enjoy the beach time we were looking for. You probably wonder what you do on a boat when this happens, and the answer is simple: play cards. We spent that whole afternoon playing card games and some charades to mix it up a bit.

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Tahaa and Raiatea, the South Pacific sailing hub

After a fantastic introduction to Polynesian landscapes in Tahiti, Moorea and Huahine, and before culminating our trip in Bora Bora, we spent a couple of days in the central Society Islands of Tahaa and Raiatea. These two islands are ‘connected’, encircled by the same reef and lagoon, and are probably the most sailed area of the South Pacific Ocean.

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Huahine, the untouched island

The 12 hour overnight leg from Moorea to Huahine was a test of our sailing capabilities. To be honest, it was easier than I expected, considering that none of us had sailed at night nor done anything different from ‘line of sight sailing’ (where you can see where you’re heading), before preparing for this trip. We weighed anchor from Moorea’s Opunohu Bay right before sunset, to be sure to cross the reef with enough visibility. Once in open ocean, the night fell quickly, and the pitch darkness was only broken by the position lights of our catamaran and the handful of other sailboats doing the same passage. Our skippers, Erica, Brett and Trey seemed to have everything under control, and we organized double shifts to keep them awake and in good company. We took it slow, and arrived in Huahine when the sun was up, again to find the reef opening safely.

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Sailing and diving in pristine Moorea

After spending our first night on the boat at the marina in Tahiti, it was time to set sail. Moorea was a mere 3 hours away on low winds, and its shape as we approached was glorious. The steep green peaks rising over the calmed deep blue waters of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay were a sight I won’t forget. We anchored at Opunohu and jumped on our dinghy to get to the motus (small islets formed on the reef) off Hauru Point.

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Welcome to Tahiti!

We landed in Tahiti at dawn. 11 friends from business school about to sail the South Pacific, explore the legendary Society Islands of French Polynesia: Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Tahaa, Raiatea and Bora Bora. Since we were not embarking until later that evening, some of us decided to rent a car and check out the main island. This is the most common activity in Tahiti, with numerous companies offering the “circle island tour” and a few offering the “inland safari”. The difference being that to explore the interior, you need a 4WD… and that’s what we went with.

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South Pacific flight connections

How to plan a trip to the South Pacific

The South Pacific islands are one of the most desired and challenging travel destinations. Most people believe they can’t afford to enjoy places like Bora Bora or Fiji, and it’s true… unless you plan smartly.

Picking a destination in the South Pacific

First, let’s take a look at all countries and territories (a total of over 20,000 islands) that compose the three key regions of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.

Polynesia:

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