If you are looking for adventure, culture and natural beauty – without the crowds – on your next holiday, then the 118 islands of Tahiti delivers in spades. These are the top five things to do when visiting this untouched little-visited corner of the world.
A virtually untouched sanctuary of black, pink and white sand beaches, waterfall-laden mountains, crystal-clear waters, coral reefs teeming with marine life and relatively few visitors compared to most other holiday destinations, The Islands of Tahiti is the perfect place for a socially distanced getaway once borders reopen. Here are our top five picks of what to do while visiting Tahiti.
1. Explore the most turquoise water you’ll ever see and help protect the creatures that live in it
The waters of Tahiti are some of the clearest and bluest you will ever see, and while you’re visiting, you’ll most likely spend more time with your head under the surface than above it. The warm waters that surround the islands are teeming with life, from countless fish species to dolphins, turtles, whales and sharks, and diving or snorkelling with these aquatic creatures is often the main attraction for visitors.
If you are visiting in July, Fakarava, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is home to the famed “wall of sharks”. This annual event encompasses a spawning of grouper fish, which in turn brings hundreds of sharks to feed, and delighting divers who come from all over the world to watch this natural spectacle take place.
In fact, The Islands of Tahiti are home to the largest shark sanctuary in the world. In 2012, more than 1.5 million square miles of sea were set aside across the five archipelagoes as a shark preserve – in turn protecting more than 20 shark species including lemon, tiger, gray reef, blacktip, whitetip, black fin and mako. Reef Check and Te mana o te moana are just a couple of the conservation organisations tasked with monitoring the populations and sanctuaries.
Above the water, traditional outrigger canoes, surfing and sailing are part of everyday life in Tahiti, and travellers can sign up for some sunset cruising, kayaking, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, tubing and more. No matter your level of experience, fitness or expertise, there is a water sport for you.
If you are interested in lending a hand to the coral reef ecosystem that surrounds the islands, while also learning more about its importance and major threats, stop by the Moorea-based Coral Gardeners, whose aim is to create a world where “the reef no longer needs us”. Visitors can assist with planting corals on nursery tables in the lagoon, which will be cultivated and then planted on a reef, ultimately aiding in building up the fragile habitat.
2. Immerse yourself in the culture of the islands and feel Mana for yourself
Tahitians inherited a rich and vibrant culture from their Mā’ohi ancestors, and to this day still have strong ties with Polynesian mythology and sacred traditions.
When visiting Tahiti, one soon becomes acquainted with the word Mana, which loosely translates to “life force”. Tahitians believe in the enigmatic and fundamental truth of Mana – a spiritual energy and healing power which can exist in places, objects and persons. Perhaps, during your visit, you will feel Mana within yourself.
While the Polynesians have always revered the sea, and the majority of tourists visiting Tahiti plan their stay around its incredibly blue lagoons, it is the land that holds the key to much of its cultural lore. To truly connect to the history and belief systems of the destination, you should take a hike to find one of the ancient sites spread across the islands, otherwise known as the marae, which used to be places of sacred worship and open-air temples of ancient pagan rituals. Today, most marae are piles of stones and scattered ruins, but before the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century, they were centres for social, political and religious activity. For a truly in-depth experience, book a tour with a local guide.
3. Stay in a guesthouse and live like a local
While staying in one of the lavish resorts in Tahiti may be a dream vacation for some, if you want to truly experience the everyday life of a local, checking into one of the island’s guesthouses (also referred to as pensions) is a must. These family-operated lodgings provide a more personalised experience, alongside a deeper look into Polynesian culture and life. Guesthouses, although smaller and less manicured than their flashy resort counterparts, have the same warm atmosphere as a bed and breakfast, and can usually be found off-the-beaten-path in less-visited areas. Many offer communal areas for dining and relaxing, where locals and guests alike can mingle, and most will serve up family-style meals.
4. Get active
If an active getaway is what you need to clear your mind, reset and refresh, The Islands of Tahiti offers many – sometimes unexpected – ways to discover the outdoors, all set against breathtaking natural beauty. If you consider yourself an explorer, walking tracks leading to amazing lookout points, winding through wild valleys and undergrowth in the shade of mape trees along the way, wind through the inland landscapes on the high islands. Alternatively, hire a bike from your hotel or jump on a quad bike.
Still got energy to burn? Try horseback riding in upstream rivers or along beaches while the sun sets, join an off-road 4WD adventure, skydive above turquoise lagoons, zipline above canopies of trees, take a flying lesson with a pilot instructor or take a scenic flight for a bird’s-eye view.
With much fewer visitors than most destinations around the world, The Islands of Tahiti rarely feel crowded, making it the perfect place to disconnect to reconnect. From lazing on beautiful beaches from dawn until dusk to lagoons that call for an afternoon of floating around, doing nothing in Tahiti is as stunning as it is easy.
This article was produced with content supplied by Tahiti Tourism and is a Vacations & Travel digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the e-newsletter.