We left French Polinesia some days ago, and it’s now time for a summary: the leeward islands, then!
We arrived from Moorea very late because we could not force us to leave and we went first to Huahine, which is supposed to be the less developed of the leewards: indeed it is simple, but the town is welcoming and there are all basic facilities. The lagoon can be navigated all the way down to the southernmost point, where we anchored for some peaceful days (and one not-so-peaceful stormy night!).
The scenery along the coastline is beautiful, especially along the east coast, and the site of the seaside Marae is well kept and has also a small but interesting museum.
Having moved over to Raiatea, supposedly the best-equipped in terms of yacht services, we found:
– no place in the town port
– a makeshift mooring in the charter yachts’ marina, which is far away from town
– high prices!
As a compensation, the tour of the island had two gems in store for us:
– the so-called Botanical Garden, which is a large stretch of land where somebody planted every conceivable tropical plant, flower or fruit,
– the site of the Taputapuatea “international” Marae (it was a sort of UN of the Polinesian people).
Raiatea and Tahaa are so close that they share the same coral reef: after having anchored at the end of a very long harbour which is practically cutting the island in two, we made the customary tour of the island that was not particularly interesting.
After a couple of days, we went to day-anchor near “Private Island”, where there is a passe among two islands which is called “coral garden”, and for a reason! Water is just a couple of feet deep, and you have to brace against a strong current but then you discover that all you need to do is crouch in the water and wait a few seconds for the fish to start swimming around you: an experience similar to a dive on the reef, but in very shallow water!
And finally, Bora Bora: after having seen all the other islands, and warned about it being “very expensive and tourist-oriented” we did not expect much, but we had to change our mind.
Unlike the other Society Islands, Bora Bora combines a central, hilly and highly spectacular island with inhabited, large islets along the reef, like in the atolls of the Tuamotu islands.
The water in the lagoon is cristal-clear and swarming with fish of all kinds and colours.
Outside the pass, a swim among the sharks gives some emotions, and the coral is arguably the more beautyful we have seen so far.
The Americans made the fortune of this island when they occupied it during the war, building an airport that remained the only one in the whole of Polinesia for quite some time, but the place deserves its fame.
We would have stopped a few more days, but time was running very short and we had to weigh anchor and head towards Tonga, with a planned intermediate stopover in Aitutaki, Cook Islands.