Islands of plenty: a photographic journey of French Polynesia

It’s quite easy to get caught up in the hype of glossy holiday brochures and Hollywood movies when it comes to fantasising about idyllic tropical escapes such as French Polynesia. The worry though is that when we do get the chance to visit these fabled dream destinations, they won’t live up to the lofty expectations we’ve set.

Every now and again though, even our imagination can’t fathom what we’re about to experience and we’re left absolutely awe-struck with what lies in front of us.

Welcome to the Society Islands.

The crystal clear waters around these islands are famous for their dazzling turquoise blues and are one of the biggest drawcards for visitors from around the globe. Combine that with the vibrant marine life below the surface and the luscious rugged mountains that run right to the water’s edge and it’s easy to see why this region is so popular. 

There’s no need to be an expert diver or world-class swimmer to make the most of the underwater world here which is a huge bonus. In fact, in Moorea and Bora Bora, you’ll be in very shallow water and encouraged to stand up to make the most of the marine life encounters. Both these locations offer the chance to get up close with friendly stingrays and reef sharks that glide over the sandy ocean floor. The stingrays, in particular, come quite close and in some cases will even slide right up your arm.

For those who want to spend more time under the water, there’s plenty of scuba diving options that cater to all skill levels. In Tahiti, learn-to-dive classes are available if you’d like to try out diving for the first time. Zero experience is needed and a qualified instructor will brief and guide you along the way, making sure you’re completely comfortable and capable. With several boats and planes submerged in the shallow waters of the lagoon, these wrecks provide a fascinating backdrop and memorable introduction to the world of scuba diving.

Photo Essay: French Polynesia

Avid snorkelers are also well accommodated for in the Society Islands and there are few places in the world that rival the experience of snorkelling in the shadows of tropical palm trees while being surrounded by schools of brightly coloured butterfly fish. This dream scenario plays out every day in the waters of Huahine.

If all these unique underwater experiences aren’t enough, there’s still one more pearl to come at Raiatea. Truth be told, it’s actually several hundred pearls, courtesy of the Anapa Pearl Farm. Here you’ll learn all about the world-famous Tahitian black pearl, see them being harvested, snorkel around the oysters and even be able to hand choose your own to take home. 

Images by Mark Fitz.


Getting there: Australians can fly from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Tahiti via Aukland three times a week with Air Tahiti Nui.

Staying there: Hotel Tahiti Nui

Cruising there: Windstar Cruises

Further information: Tahiti Tourisme

This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, Summer 2019/2020, issue 113.

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