Tahiti

Bora Bora landscape

Tahiti belongs to the French Polynesian Windward group of islands and is the largest among all. Located in the Southern Pacific Ocean, Tahiti is segregated into two distinct parts: Tahiti Nui, the larger northwestern part and Tahiti Iti, the southwestern part.

The island emerged as a result of volcanic activity. Beautiful coral reefs surround this tall and mountainous island. Tahiti is famous as French Polynesia’s cultural, political and economic center. Pape’ete, is the collectivity’s capital and can be found on the northwestern coast. It is home to the region’s single international airport.

The landscape of Tahiti boasts of beautiful green rainforests and several streams, such as the Papenoo River located on the north.

Culture

Tahitian cultures incorporate a unique oral tradition. This involves religious mythology including ‘Oro’ and ancient traditions like navigation and tattooing. The Heivā Festival is an annual celebration of the culture, music, sports and dance. A competitive race takes place between the various French Polynesian islands using outrigger canoes. Oral history also recounts various adventures of warriors and gods in colorful folklore. Javelin shooting was a sport played by the gods and the kings favored surf riding.

The Tahitians, also called the Maohis, are natives of Tahiti. They are among the most important indigenous Polynesian population of Oceania. The Polynesian language, Tahitian is spoken primaril. It has its origins in Eastern Polynesia.

A distinct cultural feature of the Tahiti islands is the Tahitian dance, which is famous all over the world. This traditional dance is called the ‘ote’a and has the dancers lined in rows. It can be easily identified by the signature grass skirts and swift hip-shaking movement. This traditional dance is among a few which were performed in the pre-European times by males.

The national sport of Tahiti is Va’a, a paddle sports, also called outrigger canoe. Surfing, rugby, football and basketball are other famous sports played on the island.

Explore

One of the most beautiful museums of the South pacific is the Museum of Tahiti. It automatically features on the must-visit list of tourists. The museum showcases the recorded history of Polynesia. The highlights of the museum include historical artifacts and an exclusive collection of exquisite art carvings. It also contextualizes and presents the European arrival on the island.

Another famous museum to visit is the Gauguin Museum. Dedicated to the life of Paul Gauguin, the museum is located inside the famous Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens. It features the Gauguin’s exclusive exhibits as well as memorabilia such as document copies, sketches, block prints etc. There are also representations of some of his iconic paintings in the museum.

If you are mesmerized by pearls, visit Tahiti’s popular Pearl Museum. Solely dedicated to pearls, it demostrate different presentations and describe the ancient practice and history associated with the cultivation of pearls. They also throw light on the role of pearls in history, art, religion and mythology.

The Botanical Garden can be found right next to the Gauguin Museum. This beautiful, well-maintained garden hosts several hundred varieties of plants, tropical trees as well as flowers including bananas, hibiscus, palms and bamboo.

Cuisine

Tahiti is quite famous for serving up some delicious food. All over the island, you will find some excellent restaurants that offer French, Polynesian, Italian, American, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine.

Fish and various other seafood dishes will be part of almost every meal in Tahiti. The Tahitian food fare primarily includes poisson cru, which is fish marinated using lime juice and coconut water. This is also Tahiti’s national dish and you will find several versions of this dish, some of them with Chinese or French influences.

Other types of seafood served on the island include crayfish, clams, shrimps and local fish from the ocean. You can gorge on the huge variety of tropical fruits available on the island such as mangoes, pineapple, coconuts, papaya, lime, grapefruit and oranges. Local pork is also a part of many Tahitian dishes.

A popular local dish is a sandwich called ‘casse-croute’, a must-try for tourists. Most of the poultry and red meat in Tahiti is sourced from New Zealand. So the restaurant menus will have less of chicken and beef dishes.

Dessert lovers should try the coconut bread called ‘Faraoa coco’. Firifiri, are donuts, shaped in the form of an ‘8’ and are enjoyed best when dipped in hot coffee.

Activities

When visiting Tahiti, you must drop by at the Le Marché, a public market located in Papeete. At 155 years old, you will find unlimited number of stands selling traditional Tahitian crafts, fruits, oils, vanilla and flowers. It is the ideal place to buy authentic island merchandise and take back a souvenir for a loved one. With the exception of holidays, the market is open daily. Sunday mornings are particularly lively as locals gather for a fun family day at the market.

You can also enjoy a memorable dinner or dessert evening out at Vai’ete Square. It is famous for its informal dining options in the form of colorful food wagons that serve a plethora of favorite island dishes as well as desserts.

The circle-island tour has been a favorite of tourists for more than a hundred years. The tour route incorporates over seventy one miles of beautiful coastline landscape with peaceful beaches, colored churches and stunning cliffs. The famous stops in the tour include several waterfalls, overlooks and heritage sites. The extended tour will also take visitors to the famous Tahiti-Iti peninsula.

You must indulge in some thrilling water sports such as snorkeling, diving, sailing, deep-sea fishing, canoeing when visiting Tahiti.

Transportation

Covering over two million sq. miles of the beautiful South Pacific Ocean, the Tahiti islands comprise 118 islands spread over 5 archipelagos. While several islands are adorned with sharp peaks, others appear to float freely above the waves. Tahiti is located somewhere between Australia and California and falls in the Hawaii time-zone.

Tahiti has its own international airport called the Faa’a International Airport, at a distance 5 km from Papeete. The airport was built in 1960 to aid various social and economical changes occurring at that particular time. Presently, almost seven different airlines are welcomed at the Faa’a International Airport. There are direct flights connecting Tahiti to several destinations all over the world including Los Angeles, Paris, Honolulu, Auckland, Tokyo, Rarotonga, Easter Island and Nouméa.

Air Tahiti Nui was launched in 1998 and connects Tahiti to the above mentioned international destinations. In 2009, two direct routes for New York and Sydney were closed due to economic reasons.

Air Tahiti takes flights to forty different destinations. Several popular destinations including Bora Bora, Raiatea/Rangiroa and Huahine have daily flights operational which connect them to Tahiti. However, the Marquesas and certain other islands have just one flight running every week.

Essentials

Tourists are advised to contact the office of the French Consulates in their country to obtain all necessary information regarding visa and passport when planning a trip to Tahiti.

Apart from European Union nationals and foreigners with a ten-year metropolitan France residence card, it is imperative for travelers to buy their return ticket. Alternatively, repatriation bonds could also be paid for upon arrival.

The tropical destination of French Polynesia receives plenty of sunshine and just the right amount of rain for its thriving vegetation and colorful flowers. The temperatures in Tahiti typically range from 24 degree C to 30 degree C throughout the year. Lagoon water temperature is usually between 23 degree C and 26 degree C.

May to October is broadly considered as the ‘high’ time to visit Tahiti, during which you will experience milder temperatures and lesser rain showers. Humidity is also low and divers enjoy better visibility.

The Austral winter or dry season starts April and ends in October. There is unexpected coolness in the weather during these months. August and July are the best months as the southeast trade-winds blow in Tahiti. So you could move out early morning or evening wearing just a thin cotton sweater.