French Polynesia exceeded my expectations of being only a sun and sand destination, here is how!
I sit on the back deck of the MS Paul Gauguin in the La Palette Lounge with my morning tea soaking in the volcanic rock formations that surround our ship. We are anchored in Cooks Bay on the Island of Moorea.
We've been onboard less than 24hrs and Flo and Harry, our servers from dinner, already recognize me even with my hat and sunglasses on at breakfast. Our first night got off to a great start with good food and entertainment by the pool. I feel like we are very much going to enjoy this cruise of French Polynesia.
The MS Paul Gauguin is the main event for celebrating my Mum's 60th Birthday. My whole family is onboard with some family friends, to make a group total of 9. We started our 10 days away with a few days on land in Papeete and then jumped onboard this 5 star ship. The staff and other passengers are friendly and my trepidations about it being pretentious are out the window.
Immersive Cultural Experiences In French Polynesia
Our days in French Polynesia were spent in the sun, yes, but also experiencing the culture of this pacific nation. It was a little unexpected just how much of the culture the Tahitians are willing to share with the 250,000 tourists that visit each year. From the Polynesian Ambassadors aboard the MS Paul Gauguin, AKA Les Gauguin et Les Gauguines, onboard the ship to the locals on the islands, everyone is willing to share and ensure we learn to appreciate their culture
French Polynesia is a collection of 5 archipelagos. Each has their distinct culture, as explained by our guide, Teuai. He drove us up into the lush tropics of Tahiti Iti and educated us on the difference in cultures between the Austral Islands and the Society Islands. We also learned about how some plants are used for medical purposes and tried fruits fresh from the garden of our guide that day - mmm hmmm delish!
The Best Island? That Is A hard decision!
Our tour of French Polynesia was restricted to the Society Islands - for timing purposes - however it was amazing! We visited the islands of Moorea, Taha'a, Huahine and Bora Bora. I think Taha'a is my favourite, just a mellow lifestyle with friendly people. When I asked the staff of the MS Paul Gaugin their favourite Island in French Polynesia , they mostly said Moorea. They did also like working on the Paul Gauguin Island in Taha'a - it is casual day there, they get to wear their casual cruise wear - shorts and flip flops. This of course is followed by an afternoon snorkel – yes, I'm still talking about the staff.
Snorkelling - Hands Down Bora Bora!
The snorkeling hands down was the best in Bora Bora. We did test out many of the waters though – Tahiti, Moorea, Taha’a and Bora Bora. In Bora Bora we went to a Coral Garden on the outskirts of the lagoon and it was everything you imagine. The clams were bright, purple, turquoise and blue, the fish were vivid yellow, coral that was various colours of pink and looked like it t was covered in delicious caramel! Taha'a was where I saw my first and second Octopus - the way they change colours is amazing! I also saw an eel - but really if I don't see one again, I'm ok, they just look angry and not very friendly.
When vacationing you have to push your boundaries. Leading into this trip I didn't think there would be much of that, except pushing me to practice my speaking french. I was however not prepared for my reaction to the sting rays and my need push boundaries. I apparently am quite afraid of the sting rays, even though everyone else was hugging them. It didn't help that my brother and boyfriend would come up behind me pretending to be one to scare me, ah family time! On my second turn around I did manage to touch one, but I am quite ok with observing them from a distance - apparently.
Not Your Average Sun Destination
All in all, I have to say, this trip exceeded my expectations. There was much more culture than I expected and I felt quite at home on the MS Paul Gauguin. We were in port everyday, so there was no cabin fever. Either on the ship or on the islands, activities were in abundance to keep you entertained and busy throughout the day. There was definitely more to do on the islands of French Polynesia than your typical sun and sand vacation.
If you haven't considered a trip to French Polynesia because you thought it was all just overwater bungalows on Bora Bora and sandy beaches, think again. There is much more to this South Pacific nation than that and you may just find you don't want to come home.
If you want more details, give me a call and I am happy to chat about my experience!
French Polynesia awaits. Contact South Pacific Travel Expert, Bronwen Hill, to chat about your Paul Gauguin cruise, today.