The Pacific and French Polynesia – a remote and less-frequented destination for luxury superyacht charters.
Tahiti. Bora Bora. Moorea. What could be more alluring than a tropical paradise combined with the sophistication of French culture?
That’s French Polynesia, especially the adjacent archipelagoes of the Society Islands and the Tuamotu atolls. Three other parts of French Polynesia, the Marquesas, Austral and Gambier Islands, are more remote.
The Society Islands include nine inhabited islands including the aforementioned Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, the classic paradises of paintings, songs and books. They feature magnificent towering mountains covered with lush vegetation and crystal blue lagoons. These remnants of former volcanoes are surrounded by encompassing bays with good moorings.
Visitors enter at the only international airport, near Papeete on the largest island of Tahiti. Papeete is a sophisticated French but very Polynesian city of more than 100,000. As the islands are French the infrastructure is excellent.
By contrast, the Tuamotu archipelago contains 78 widely scattered atolls, and only half are populated. Even then, they rarely have more than 2,000 natives usually in a village by the main pass into the lagoon.
Each island consists of a flat ring of coral reef and a large coral-filled lagoon with vibrant colonies of fish. These islands are much older than the Society islands, and over time, their central volcanic peaks have sunk, while coral reefs built up around its circumference. The Tuamotus are the ideal place for getting away – and for nature lovers, divers and explorers.
The area is naturally most suitable for large yachts, and the many choices mean you can always find solitude. In two weeks, yachts generally visit the romantic volcanic Society islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and some of the smaller island, which are fairly close together, then make a one-day crossing (240 nm) to reach the Tuamotus, usually Fakarava.
It is warm and sunny year round with a higher humidity rate between November and March and trade winds blowing more frequently in July and August.
There’s plenty to do in all the islands from fine food to remote beaches. Naturally, diving and snorkeling are special attractions in French Polynesia. The beauty of the coral reefs and the variety and quantity of fish and sharks is exceptional. Visibility is excellent and most dives are shallow. The Tuamotu offers excellent drift diving in the various passes of the atolls.
The government protects the marine environment and Fakarava and five surrounding atolls became a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2007. In 2006, French Polynesia passed a law protecting its 15 shark species and the territory is a sanctuary for marine mammals. Between July and November, humpback whales from the Antarctic mate or give birth in the islands. Divers can snorkel with whales at times. Dolphins are also common and divers in Tiputa pass in Rangiroa find they will approach people.
Tahiti and her islands are also a great place for surfers and kite surfers. The famous Teahupoo wave at Tahiti is a very tricky wave that breaks on the reef, attracting hundred of surfers each year, especially during the Billabong Pro tournament in April and May.
Sailing regattas occur in May and June between Tahiti and Moorea and around Raiatea. Although especially for smaller sailboats, larger yachts can enjoy participating too or just following the race.