Yellow Lizard

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea……

Actually I have no idea, I looked around under the sea and I didn’t see a single pineapple.  I will say this though; Tahiti has some of the best pineapple I’ve ever had.

This year my wife and I hit a seemingly monumental achievement. Our five year wedding anniversary was back in July of 2010, as a result of all our hard work we wanted to treat ourselves to a special vacation.  Now if you’ve read some of my travel posts you’ll note that I’m not the luxury sit on the beach for hour’s kind of traveler.  That said, my wife, who grew up on the shores of the Florida gulf has always had her eye on one of those huts over water do-hickies.

We have pretty wide differences in opinions on vacation destinations and activities. So a few years ago we came up with a system that seems to be working well for us.  We group our holidays in groups of threes.  For example, the first vacation in the rotation is “hers”, the second would be “ours” and the last would be “mine”.  With a few simple rules of common curiosity we can pretty much pick what we want to do with in reason.  Our last trip to Alaska was “ours” (which reminds me, I’m up for two now, but I digress).  Bora Bora or Fiji was always the apple of my wife’s eye in terms of get away locations so we started looking into them seriously for our five year.

We settled on a location sort of in the middle, it was going to be Tahiti but it would be the island of Mo’orea (yellow lizard) in the society archipelago.  Believe it or not the area alone of the Tahitian archipelago covers more area physically than the European continent….only most of it is water.  The island had a bunch to offer, it had the luxury style over water bungalows, actual activities to do (Bora Bora actually has very little to do), it reduced our overall travel time by about six hours as well as had interior roads so we could go off and explore on our own.

Now, you know you travel A LOT when you think total flight time to Tahiti “isn’t that bad”.  The trip there was actually fairly pleasant. I was going back in time zones so I slept my normal sleep schedule, woke up and I’m Tahiti, not too shabby. Coming back was kind of a haul, or at least it felt that way. I think knowing I was looking at a solid time home from work and traveling I was just ready to get home.

Ok enough of all that, you’re reading this because you want to know what Tahiti is like.  When you think “over water bungalow” you will have certain images in your head. If you ever find yourself trying to pick which hotel to stay at on Mo’orea and you want that hut feel you’re looking at one of two hotels in my opinion. The Sofitel hotel and the Hilton are the only two on the island that have true over water bungalows. The intercontinental has beach side bungalows that actually have decks down to the deep water but they’re not over a lagoon like you might have in your head.  Looking at both the Sofitel and the Hilton there wasn’t much difference, however overlooking their lagoon areas I think I would have rather stayed in the Sofitel. We stayed in the Hilton.

We did a few of the excursions offered by the locals, the first was probably the best one we did. It was a snorkeling/picnic on one of the nearby atolls.  We got to swim around with some black tip sharks as well as some rays and other fish.  Nice bbq/picnic on the beach, got my first taste of Possion Cru (raw fish, lime juice, coconut mild, onions and cucumbers).  We also did an island tour which was ok, but we rented a car after so it wasn’t as helpful as I would have liked it to be. Although we did get turned on to the best place to get black pearls and other island local made swag.  Lastly we did a tiki village show/feast sort of thing.  I thought this was going to be the lamest part of the trip but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite enjoyable. The food was amazing as they cooked all the food in an underground oven and the show, which I thought was going to be super cheesy, was actually very well put together and enjoyable. It was very obvious that the locals have an extreme pride for their culture.

Of all the good things readily available on the island, nothing… and I nothing beat waking up pulling the curtains back of your hut windows and walking out to the views we had from our bungalow. Sitting there on the deck trying to overcome this pasty geek disposition doing nothing for hours in between LITERALLY rolling off the deck into the lagoon to do some snorkeling or kayaking was a God send.  At night watching the thunder heads out at sea float by giving off their own fireworks. We even saw shooting stars from our porch.

Overall it was a great trip high on the cost side of things but still manageable.  Great chance to get away and do nothing but play in the water and fish watch.  I’d recommend it but if you do, you should plan for some time in some of the other archipelagos such as Tuamotu or the Marquises life is even slower there, most rustic and less fru fru…right up my alley.  Next time.

As always, some lessons learned.

EVERYTHING and I mean absolutely everything other than pineapple, breadfruit and taro is imported to the islands, so EVERYTHING is expensive.  There are 3 grocery stores on the island that I saw and probably a few I didn’t.  A 5 litre jug of water in the grocery store was 5 bucks, a .5 (don’t decimals make a huge difference) at the hotel was 6 bucks. The first thing you should do is hit the grocery store for essentials otherwise… leave your wallet in a constant open position at the hotels.

Did you know pineapples grew on the ground, not in trees? I did, amazing how many people visiting there didn’t know that.. just saying..

Tahitian children are taught three languages in school. In order Tahitian, ENGLISH then French. This is French Polynesia we’re talking about.  Found that interesting.

Pineapple rum from the local pineapple plantation harvesting and distillery was amazing!

There are 2 types of desirable black pearls A and B. They’re gauged totally on the sheen of their coating, not on their size.  However if you can find an A quality that’s big it’s a double bonus.

There are TONS of shops on the island to buy pearls. All I’ll say is if you can buy them loose and have your own jewelry made, you cut down a lot on the normal 1000% markup of jewelry.  Buy from the local none traditional shop owners (ie. Shack on the side of the road).

No one can own Tahitian land except for a Tahitian OR someone who marries a Tahitian.  Most land is handed down from family to family over thousands of years.

“CFM” and “XFM” are the same currency, French Polynesia Franc’s. Just to avoid the confusion.

When you rent a car and you’re driving around at night, keep in mind the coconut crabs are out and on the roads. Think “Seafood Slalom” .

To know if a coconut is good to open and eat, shake it and listen for water.

Fresh coconut tastes NOTHING like you think it would.

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