Happy New Year!
This year we decided to spend Christmas and New Year elsewhere and our chosen destination was Moorea in French Polynesia. New Zealand may be a long way from anywhere else but jump on a plane for 4 or 5 hours and you can find yourself in some pretty spectacular places and French Polynesia definitely falls into that category.
Our flight to Tahiti landed in the afternoon so we spent the first night there. After checking in we headed out to find some local geocaches. One the way to the second one it began to rain heavily so we ducked under the nearest shelter. It soon became apparent that the rain was not going to stop anytime soon so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to get wet and headed back in the rain stopping off for dinner at the food market.
We woke up to sunshine the next morning so decided to have another go (successfully) at finding the caches we had given up on before catching the ferry across to Moorea. It was a bumpy ride across the stretch of water between the two islands but we were then in under an hour. After an expensive taxi ride (xpf3500) we arrived at the Hilton and were driven in a golf buggy to our overwater bungalow once we were checked in. Waiting in our room was a bottle of champagne on ice and a box of delicious macaroons.
That night was the Christmas Eve dinner – an amazing buffet with foods such as steak in black truffle sauce and lobster. After the biggest selection of desserts I have ever seen, we were treated to a cultural show of singing and dancing and then headed down to the beach for a fire show.
When we arrived back at the room we were greeted with a Christmas card and box of chocolates on the bed.
Christmas day began with a delicious breakfast buffet. The rest of the day was spent sunbathing on the deck or by the pool with a bit of snorkelling thrown in too.
We enjoyed cocktails in the afternoon and dinner at the Crepe Bar watching the sharks, that visit each evening, swimming below.
We also had William Shatner (AKA Captain James T Kirk) sitting on a table right by us with his family. We got back to our bungalow just as it began to pour with rain – perfect timing!
Quite a few days were spent in a similar fashion of sleeping, eating, drinking, sunbathing, reading, snorkelling and watching sunsets.
We did have a few days of being more active. One morning we woke up and decided to hire a car to explore the island. Unfortunately we chose a day that a cruise ship was in and hiring a car was easier said than done! The lady on the activity desk finally tracked down what must have been the last available car on the whole island and we were soon off on our adventure. The island only has one main road that goes around the whole island – approximately 60km. Most of the middle of the island is completely uninhabited and much of it completely untouched by man as it is just too rugged. Our first port of call was to the Belvedere Lookout that gave gorgeous views over both Cooks Bay and Opunoho Bay.
We also attempted a cache hidden nearby but failed to find it – after reading the log from the only people to have found it, it became clear that the co-ordinates were not quite right so we emailed them to get a hint to help us find it. So it was onto cache number two, this one was by a waterfall. As we drove up the, far from sealed, road it began to rain heavily so we ate lunch in the car and waited for it to ease off. It took a good half an hour to get to the waterfall and entailed crossing the river several times, walking through thick mud and clambering over rocks so in hindsight flip flops were not the best footwear for us to tackle it in! The cache was hidden up a steep bank right by the waterfall and just as I found it a rock slipped under my foot and as a result I got a nasty cut but not serious enough to stop me signing the log and continuing our day’s adventure.
We enjoyed the scenery as we drove around and having the car meant that we could head out a bit further for dinner that night. We headed to a little restaurant called Te Honu Iti which was very cute. As we ate both sharks and rays swam in the shallow water right next to us.
The food was on the pricey side but utterly delicious and neither of us left a scrap on our plates.
The next morning we had received a helpful hint from the finders of the cache so headed back up to the lookout point to have a second attempt. This time after a bit of bushwhacking and doing my best to avoid any spiders I soon had the cache in hand and we set off to return the hire car. Gerald had a go at stand up paddle boarding in the afternoon as the water was nice and calm. Finding a good place to stand up was tricky as there are patches of reef everywhere that he didn’t want to fall onto if he lost his balance being a novice still.
We knew there was one more cache on the island that was still unfound despite being hidden for over a year. We also knew that the cache was fairly hard to get to being way up a mountain and the cache owner strongly suggested not to attempt it without a guide. We tried to hire a guide but with it being Christmas and New Year most were not working or already fully booked. One guide thought he knew where we needed to go and gave us clear instructions of how to get there saying that we would be fine on our own. It turned out to be a couple of km away from where we needed to be but after a 7.7km hike along the Three Coconut Pass we had another hot, sweaty but fun adventure.
The hike gave us more great views of the island but no cache. We had taken a taxi to the start of the trail, when we got back there we decided to hitchhike back to the hotel as we had heard it was a safe way to travel round the island. Within 5 minutes we had been picked up by a couple of locals and were soon back at our bungalow desperate to jump off the deck and into the ocean!
That night was New Year’s Eve and another buffet night at The Hilton.
Again there was a huge selection of seafood, oysters, lobster, prawns and this time even caviar (which we tried but didn’t particularly like). There was duck, beef, veal, turkey, cold meats, cheeses, breads, salads, potatoes, rice and much, much more. Once again a huge selection of desserts, even ones with real gold on top!
During dinner there was a live band playing and then afterwards more cultural dancing and singing, this time on the beach and with audience participation. Gerald got chosen to go up and learn a few moves!
The night finished with a fire show and then a few fireworks.
Our final full day on Moorea was spent doing a couple of scuba dives just on the other side of the reef. We were on the boat and heading out for our first dive by 8am. I was a little apprehensive, like I always am before diving, but despite the fact that we knew both our dives were going to be shark encounters as soon as I got in the water I was absolutely fine. I was the first one in and as soon as I looked down I could see sharks below me – very big lemon sharks. We watched them swim around for some time before setting off to explore the surrounding reef. We saw a big turtle, some black tip reef sharks and plenty of fish. The visibility was excellent and the water was a toasty 28, I think it was the first time I have ever been diving and not started to feel chilly by the end.
We moved locations for the second dive and ended up very near our bungalow. Once again we saw both lemon and black tip sharks, many many different types of fish and corals. We were both happy to get back to dry land afterwards as the open water was a bit choppy and neither Gerald nor I travel well on boats. Gerald got to visit his breakfast again whilst I kept my eyes firmly on the horizon!
Our last day arrived all too soon, I managed a quick dip off the deck before packing and drinking complimentary cocktails by the beach whilst we waited for our transfer back to the ferry.
We stood on the deck of the ferry and watched Moorea fade into the distance…