“The Heiva is Tahiti’s most emphatic statement of their deep history & rich culture. It’s a non-stop, month long celebration of joy through dance, song & other cultural events giving an understanding of Polynesian culture, history & life. It’s also one of the greatest shows on earth”.
The Heiva I Bora Bora is world famous, yet other than a brief ‘Programme of Events’ there is very little if anything to assist those visiting these beautiful shores to understand how they can participate in & be rewarded with the culturally enriching experience that flows from witnessing a Heiva. This Guide is for you!
Let’s start though with the ‘Programme of Events’ as you may just stumble upon it & wonder if something important is occurring:
Looking more closely at the brochure as I write, I have just realised that half of it is in Tahitian & half is in French – it must be confusing to English speakers who constitute by far the greatest number of tourists coming to Bora Bora, as well as to French only speaking visitors……!
So here’s a quick interpretation of certain of the Tahitian terms in an endeavour to assist our visitors:
- Patia Fa – a javelin competition (part of the Tuaro Maohi – see below).
- Va’a – outrigger canoe racing (1 man/V1, 3 man/V3, 6 man/V6 & 12 man/V12).
- Tuaro Maohi refers to the Traditional Polynesian Sports.
- The names under ‘Presentation’ (Presentation) & under ‘Concours’ (Competition) – for example, ‘Nunue‘ & ‘Anau‘ – are the names of the districts competing on that evening in either ‘chant’ (singing) or ‘danse’ (dancing). Each group actually performs twice during the Heiva – a first time (presentation) – & a second time (concours) in actual competition with the other groups.
- Tamarii Hitiaa – 5 groups from 5 different districts are singing & dancing in this year’s Heiva. Tamarii Hitiaa is a new group dancing for the first time with a view to being admitted to compete from next year.
SETTING FOR THE HEIVA I BORA BORA
Almost all the festivities take place in or around Place Mo’toi in Vaitape – this is the open area to your left as you arrive by boat at Vaitape Quay – in any case you will not miss it given the area is surrounded in eye-catching structures fashioned from local vegetal materials (see ‘Wining & Dining’ below).
HOW DO YOU GET TICKETS (for the singing (Himene) & dancing (Ori Tahiti))
The first thing you need to know is that you can watch ALL the Heiva events for free.
- In the case of the singing, dancing & orchestral competitions as well as on prize-giving nights simply install yourselves on either side of the spectacle or watch from behind – it’s free.
Alternatively you can purchase tickets – 1500xpf ($US15) – at 2 points of sale:
- The official office of the Heiva which is situated alongside Radio Bora Bora overlooking the ceremonial area, or,
- You can purchase tickets ‘on the night’ – same price – to be comfortably seated directly in front of the night’s spectacle. The point of sale can be found at the entrance to the seated area just to the side of the covered area set aside for the orchestras.
NOTE: There is no fee payable to witness any of the other events including – Va’a, Coprah, Tressage & Pandanus, Patia Fa, Tuaro Maohi, Porteurs de Fruits…..
Porteurs de Fruits:
WINING & DINING
What you will notice instantly on visiting the site of the Heiva are the rows of marvellous “local-style” structures which frame the setting for the Heiva all with white sand floors, all meticulously decorated in a local style:
The buildings are, in fact, judged for their authenticity & design & it makes for a wonderful visual stroll into a time where Polynesians inhabiting these islands would have once lived.
Open for lunch & for dinner (late!!!) – for full & complete details see the report here: Heiva Wining & Dining – they offer a rare opportunity recorded as follows in an earlier report on this site:
“Authentic, brilliantly decorated, vibrant & serving good food at reasonable prices in a great ambience, the restaurants add greatly to the heiva experience.”
Clearly with the Bora Bora I Heiva running for a month there is wisdom in considering staying on the main island so as to have easy access to the festivities, be able to join others for an early start or a late ‘glass’, & indeed to save considerably on transport costs to & from the motus (islets).
Check out your options here at: ACCOMMODATION
- BACKGROUND TO & HISTORY OF THE HEIVA
- TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTS OF THE HEIVA – THEIR MANUFACTURE & USEAGE
- TRADITIONAL SPORTS
I trust this helps all those visiting Bora Bora to better understand, to be able to participate in & above all to enjoy the Heiva I Bora Bora.