FRENCH POLYNESIA, most notably Tahiti and Bora Bora, come to the top of the page of many folks’ Bucket List destinations. Technically located in the seven island group called The Society Islands it also includes Moorea, Taha’a, Raiatea, and lesser known islands Huahine and Tetiaroa. Best known for their coral-fringed lagoons and over-the-water bungalow hotels, these islands feature white and black sand beaches, majestic mountains, rugged topography in the backcountry and towering waterfalls. However, each island has its own distinct personality.
My favourite spot in the world, and infamously the most celebrated island in the South Pacific, Bora Bora is the star of French Polynesia’s crown, a lush, postcard-beautiful paradise. The 2009 movie Couples Retreat starring Vince Vaughn was filmed at the St. Regis Resort & Spa located here.
Above: French Polynesia is a place that's high on everyone's Bucket List.
The heartbeat of the South Pacific, Tahiti, is the largest of the 100-plus islands that make up French Polynesia, stretching out over 2,000 km. It is famous for its Tahitian Black Pearls, which are French Polynesia’s largest export, making up over 55 per cent of the country’s annual exports. These days all are cultured, coming from the Tahitian pearl farms located in the blue lagoons off the coast of the islands. Rumoured to have been the inspiration as the mythical Bali Hai from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, Moorea is one of the most scenically striking islands in the island chain. In 2002, it became the centre of a new whale and dolphin protected sanctuary surrounding French Polynesia, an area half the size of continental U.S.
Above: Here the fish is always fresh, the flowers are always in bloom and the sunsets are breathtaking.
Taha’a is a botanists fantasy. The island’s gentle hills are covered with watermelon, coconut groves and banana plantations. However, the island is known worldwide for its ability to produce the highly sought after Tahitian vanilla orchid.
Raiatea is the centre of French Polynesian cultural and historical significance. Think royalty, sacrifices and ceremony. Thought to be the original birthplace of Polynesia, this picturesque island quietly hosts secret offerings of hidden temples and religious sites.
As seen from the air, Huahine is a dense tropical jungle teeming with vanilla orchids, banana groves, coconut plantations, breadfruit trees and watermelon fields.
Tetiaroa is best known as Marlon Brando’s private island, his private retreat fit for royalty. This islet served as a summer get-away for the former chiefs and kings of Tahiti in days past and now is still considered only a playground for the wealthy. There are plans for building an uber-exclusive resort soon, proof that even this marvelous paradise is being changed forever in the name of ‘progress.’