Tahaa from Bora Bora

Wonderfully authentic Tahaa is a pearl often missed by many a tourist. There are no concrete fences here; the roads are flanked by the vibrant colours of the local foliage especially the ever blooming hibiscus. Extremely beautiful are the waters around its untouched ‘motus’ (islets). Tahaa’s mountain ranges offer sensational panoramas.

It’s a peaceful environment where people are content. Its beauty grows on you; the longer you are there the more beautiful it becomes.

 

TRIP OVERVIEW

Reasons for going

  • Authentic Tahiti to its very roots;
  • Waters of an extreme beauty to rival Bora Bora surrounding the motus to the island’s north;
  • Magnificent crossing possible by foot over the island’s centre offering unforgetable panaramas & a great stop-over for lunch;
  • Peaceful enviroment, happy people content with their lives;
  • Recognised internationally as producing the world’s best vanilla;
  • Sensational diving in the passes.

Where Is Tahaa & How To get There

  • 38km south-east of Bora Bora in the same lagoon as Raiatea;
  • Take a boat to get there – hired or a cargo vessel, as there is no airport on Tahaa.

 

A quick trip across to Tahaa from Bora Bora beckoned; an enticing, inviting thought & possible to undertake without breaking the bank. There’s no airport on Tahaa (although there’s one on Raiatea from which you can reach Tahaa by boat) so, on this occasion, a boat trip it would be, this time by cargo vessel.

Two options presented themselves – the Maupiti Express from Vaitape Wharf or the Taporo VI from the cargo vessel from Farepiti Wharf (the Hawaiki’Nui stops at Tahaa on the way to, but not from Bora Bora. This gives you an added option for the return to Bora Bora from Tahaa):

maupiti-express

hawaiki-nui-vessel

The Maupiti Express operates the quicker, more comfortable & more expensive voyage on Tuesday, Friday (during school term) & Sunday taking around 1h.40 for the crossing & travelling at set times, something the cargo vessels are not always able to respect!  Check full details at their office behind the Tourist Information Centre on Vaitape Wharf.

We decided to take the Taporo VI for the sheer pleasure of the adventure recalling our journey from Tahiti to Bora Bora covered in the report Bora Bora by Boat. The Taporo VI operates this service 2-3 times per week – check departure details with locals or by heading to Farepiti Wharf where travel details are displayed outside the offices of each cargo vessel. We simply turned up when the boat was in port & booked – 847xpf one way – great value!

It’s a relaxing 2.5hr voyage with great views whilst watching marara (flying fish) fly from the ship’s bow then being welcomed, on entering Paipai Pass at Tahaa, by dolphin surfing the bow. To starboard at the pass a beautiful stretch of turquoise water fronting the mystic Raiatea whilst ahead is Point Tiamahana (Rising Sun Point) marking the entrance to scenic Hurepiti Bay. To one’s left the imposing & colourful structure of the Church of Tiva at water’s edge. It’s magical!

Paipai Pass with an approaching storm & a still clear Raiatea:

paipai-pass

raiatea

Point Tiamahana sheltering Hurepiti Bay & the picturesque Church at Tiva:

tiamahana

tahaa-tiva

The boat disembarks at Tapuamu opposite the fabulous Tahaa Resort, the best place to stay on Tahaa depending on your budget. As we docked we would witness locals moving freshly cut bamboo by water ready for its use in ‘local style’ establishments, with the Tahaa Resort & in turn Bora Bora in the background:

tahaa-bamboo

The Taporo VI unloading cargo in Tahaa:

tahaa-taporo

We had done little research concerning places to stay knowing we would settle for nothing less than ‘Tiare Breeze’, a fabulous hide-out where the movie stars stay (not joking) run by a great guy called Tama. Staying at a ‘pension famille’ (family run guesthouse) is ‘the go’ on Tahaa. Au Phil Du Temps & The Hibiscus are other great choices in a different price range……(register & contact us if you need further information). Tiare Breeze’s fare pote jutting into Haamene Bay – an excellent spot for a massage:

tiare-breeze

Situated some 230km north-west of Tahiti & just over 30kms from Bora Bora, Tahaa shares a 290km2 lagoon with Raiatea offering uninterupted navigation around both islands & providing wonderful sailing & cruising opportunities. The coral barrier around Tahaa’s north is dotted with beautiful white sand fringed ‘motus’. The 2 passes into Tahaa’s lagoon – PaipaiToahotu – offer exceptional, really outstanding diving as, indeed, does the lagoon. The remnants of an ancient volcano flanked by steep peaks – Ohiri (590 m), Puurauti (458 m) & Noua Roa (418 m) – dominates the centre of the island – the north a mountainous region interspersed with wide valleys; the south, a series of smaller mountains separated by large bays – Faaaha, Huepiti, Apu &HaameneHaamene which runs some 5km inland is the deepest bay in French Polynesia.

Around 5 000 people live on Tahaa with Patio serving as the island’s administrative & commercial centre. Tapuamu is the principal port for cargo. Agriculture, fishing & tourism form the backbone of the economy. Tahaa’s land area of some 90 km2 is three times that of Bora Bora & is used extensively for agriculture. Experts agree that the best vanilla in the world is produced on Tahaa & the island produces some 80% of the total vanilla production of French Polynesia. Though production is on a relatively small scale Tahaa also produces pearls of great quality. Try your luck at farms situated near the marina at Vaitoere & another just west of Patio.

Freshly caught fish for sale in Patio’s main street:

patio-fish

Tahaa is one of the rare places where you may be lucky to witness a spectacular festival “la peche au caillou” (fishing by stone) where large stones attached to cords are thrashed on the water’s surface to drive the fish into a trap. The festival can be accompanied by a umu ti (walking on fire) ceremony where participants follow a tahua (priest) & walk barefooted across the fire stepping along its hot stones where the surface temperature can exceed 2000c! Pirogue races are also held & there is much traditional dancing.

The Hawaiki’nui Va’a, the world’s most intense, spectacular & prestigious open-sea outrigger canoe race held around November each year is another great event for Tahaa attracting hundreds of the world’s best paddlers, thousands of spectators & the world’s press to witness a 3 day ordeal from Huahine to Raiatea, then to Tahaa & finally Bora Bora.

Road Trip

The road trip around Tahaa is a treat. Starting from Tapuamu – there’s petrol here & at Patio but nowhere else on the island – we headed south passing by Tiva & its photogenic Church; there are excellent views back to Bora Bora along the way. The road follows the picturesque Hurepiti Bay, at the head of which there’s an intersection where the road climbs towards Haamene or heads right out to Point Tiamahana. The road to Point Tiamahana is sealed for only half the distance but it is a very scenic run past a number of comfortable homes although offers no public access to the water along its length.

The following photo shows the views from land of my mother-in-law on Point Tiamahana looking over the Church at Tiva & back across the water to Bora Bora:

tahaa-taimahana

We backtracked to take the road to Haamene stopping to enjoy the views from atop the rise then headed down to the township market by a T-intersection. We headed right then right again almost immediately onto a beautiful stretch of road – keep bearing right – taking you through gently rolling hills filled with colourful farmland. There’s a wonderful traditional home here operating a useful vanilla information service:

tahaa-vanilla

You will reach a further intersection. To your right is Poutoru where the Maupiti Express docks. Entering Poutoru there’s a good view of Raiatea to be had from Point Apoo Puhi (Eel Hole Point):

apoo-puhi

The road, however, is a dead-end so we recovered our tracks & on re-reaching the intersection headed righ continuing to Vaitoare through another nice stretch of road cutting across the mountain. Onwards we continued from Vaitoare to Haamene where the island’s only dentist & pharmacy are to be found. You’ll pass Tiare Breeze, our recommended place to stay, along the way.

The road continues around the other side of Haamene Bay towards Faaaha over a mountain pass offering great views from the top & some vanilla plantations on the Faaaha side. Too enjoyable a run to stop, we continued around Faaaha Bay to reach Point Vaiaata from where you can see the beautiful Motu Mahaea & Motu Toahutu marking the entrance to Toahotu Pass, Huahine in the distance. The pass is a wonderful spot where locals celebrate many a party. A good surf breaks here on occasions, diving in the pass is sensational & the sunrises over Huahine are nothing short of miraculous as the following photo attests – note the pleasure yachts which moor overnight here in this most beautiful of spots:

tahaa-toahotu

The road leads around towards Raai Bay passing the ‘House of Vanilla’, a tourist trap of sorts but selling a wide range of vanilla related products. We lived for a while at Raai Bay on our son’s faapu (farm) – a shot of the entrance to the farm & of our bedroom which had sensational views over the lagoon & up the mountains:

tahaa-farm

tahaa-bedroom

tahaa-view

We grew mainly fruit & vegetables but also vanilla. In the following photo of vanilla being removed from a serre; a worker picks a medicinal plant used for the treatment of coughs & congestion:

tahaa-serre

We would seek relief from the heat of working on the faapu in swimming with the dogs in the waters surrounding Raai Bay. The first image shows Motu Moute in the background, the second looks back over Toahotu Pass & on to Raiatea;

tahaa-swi

tahaa-swim

The road crossing Raai Bay is actually constructed over the actual bay of bygone years. Back towards the mountainside there are the remains of a former marae where fishermen would gather seeking guidance & safety before they headed out to sea. Their families would wait at the marae for their return to assist with the catch:

tahaa-marae

It is still considered by many as a good place to fish (& offers great views over Huahine at the same time):

tahaa-fishing

Moonrise over Raai Bay:

From Raii Bay the road continues to mostly grip the lagoon offering views over the many motus that dot Tahaa’s northern coastline whilst passing more vanilla plantations on the way through Hipu & on to Patio. At Hipu we passed the Mairie (Town Hall) being readied for a marriage with a dexterous Tahitian making hearts from coconut tree branches:

tahaa-hearts

Closer to Patio on passing Tahaa’s other petrol station just north of the town we found the station had organised a fishing competition for the locals:

tahaa-fishing

There is a fabulous crossing to be undertaken over the top of Tahaa running between Patio & Haamene. Accessible only by off-road motorbike or a properly tyred 4×4 it is fortunately maintained in a reasonable state particularly around April each year when the track is used for a popular fun-run. The crossing can be found by taking the road on the northern outskirts of Patio which leads out past the football stadium. Crossing by 4×4 can be done in around an hour if pushed. Walking the track is not too difficult & makes for a wonderful outing. Set off from Patio in the morning past great stands of coconuts & plantations of exotic tropical flowers. The dirt road climbs to permit views back down the valleys where the mountains spear down upon the motus on Tahaa’s coral reef:

tahaa-crossing

crossing-tahaa

Continue to the lookout at Vaitoetoe Pass (Cold Water Pass) above Haamene where there’s a place to sit & just try to take it all in! Have lunch there ………. if you can take your finger off the camera button! Its an absolutely gob-smacking 360 degree panorama over the intricate bay formations of Tahaa flanked by wonderful mountain scenery. You’ll have to drag yourself away to descend to Haamene.

vaitoetoe-pass

vaitoetoe-pass

vaitoetoe-pass

At the base of the descent to Haamene you’ll find a cattle fence at the entrance to a wonderful property watered by a clear stream honoured by mape (walnut trees) & tarot along its banks:

tahaa-cattle

A similar fence at the other end of the property before you quickly find youself back on the island’s main road just north of the pharmacy at Haamene.

As an outing by foot, given the exceptional lunch spot & the outstanding all-round panoramas, it’s amongst the very best! But let me take you back for a moment to Patio from where we broke our island tour to cover the crossing over the top of Tahaa – there are 2 supermarkets in Patio, medical assistance at the dispensary, the Gendarmarie (police), a post office, fire brigade & an internet café! It’s a small, quiet township but it has a certain charm all to its own. It’s here that the mighty Hawaiki’Nui Vaa race ends its second stage.

To complete the circuit, the road from Patio leads back to Tapuamu following the edge of the lagoon & offering very special views over distant motus their coconut tress swaying gently to a backdrop of a most majestic Bora Bora:

bora-from-tahaa

Where millionaires dream to live:

tahaa-fishing-shack

Sunset too is a moment to dream about:

tahaa-sunset

The motus of Tahaa are as stunning as their Bora Bora counterparts & should be seen by boat on any visit to Tahaa. Stop for a swim in these astoundingly beautiful waters around one of the many uninhabited motus. Take in the full swing of motus from the luxurious Tahaa Resort, past Vahine Island & right down to Toahutu Pass itself a great spot to dive & in the right conditions surf.

Back on dry land, there are wild pigs in these mountains – if you are looking for something different (& are extremely fit) see if you can join in a pig chase with the locals armed with an interesting array of weapons & an impressive team of dogs…….you’ll certainly see a lot of the island that way & in all likelihood be able to join in Maa Tahiti with them enjoying your catch & certainly, if you are game, some fafaru!!!!

 

TIPS

  • Buy some vanilla whilst you are there;
  • Good bargains for the informed buyer to be found also for black pearls;
  • Only pharmacy is at Haamene;
  • Internet at Patio (next to the Post Office);
  • Cross the island’s centre from Patio to Haamene taking lunch with you & enjoy the brilliant lookout above Haamene.
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