Mo’orea was definitely one of my favorite islands so far on this trip. I am not sure if Dan and the kids felt the same way, but I really enjoyed it. It was incredibly beautiful, quite protected, and the waters were clear and perfect for swimming. The great thing about these Society Islands is that they are mountainous with fringing reef. So you have an island, but then you have almost a full circle of reef around the island offshore. This means you must go through a pass (where there is no reef) to enter the interior of the reef and get to the island. It is great for cruising because the reef protects the boats anchored or moored inside. Here, you get the best of both worlds. You have great mountains for hiking (and great land topography) but you also have amazing sea conditions to swim, snorkel, dive, etc. I think this is what most sets French Polynesia apart from the islands of the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, you usually get one or the other—an island with great beaches, white sand and crystal clear water (like Culebra), or a mountainous island with less spectacular beaches (like Dominica).
The only negative about Moorea is that there was no real central town. There were a few extremely small villages and some streets scattered with shops and restaurants throughout the island, but near the anchorages there was not too much.
A Movie Was Being Filmed Right Near Our Boat!
We swam with wild stingrays (and black tip reef sharks) twice—once with just our family, and another time with Paw Paw, Nina and Cattiva. There is a local man (Albert) who has been feeding the stingrays on a sandbank offshore of the island (but inside the reef) for 40 years and so they come on their own to this area every day. The first time we went, we anchored our dinghy in the very shallow part of the bank. We had a handful of rays swim right up looking for food. We also had at least 15-20 black tip reef sharks swimming around the outskirts as well. It became clear the stingrays were the bosses; the sharks never came in TOO close looking for food! We were the only boat there at first and we weren’t sure exactly how to feed them the sardines but we figured it out. They really loved Dan and seemed to be all over him. He fed them under their mouths and occasionally he would get a nip from them. No teeth, but their “gums” were pretty strong. At one point, I released a sardine into the water and a stingray came at me. For some reason, it freaked me out a bit and I (stupidly) decided it was better to run backwards towards the sharks than to be accosted by a stingray! Ariana laughed as Dan got it on video. The next time we went, we tied up to a mooring ball and we were in deeper water. There were MANY more rays this time, and they were more aggressive, but the sharks were further away near the shallows. Dan again had stingrays all over him and got nipped a few more times. Nina, Paw Paw and Cattiva all very much enjoyed it as well. This time Ryan was actually brave enough to get in the water too! The photos don’t capture it as much as the video, which is included in a separate post.
Snorkeling with the Rays
In Moorea, we also visited the Tropical Garden Café/store a few times. It required walking up a steep hill, but once you arrived, you had amazing views of the bay. The woman who owns it also permits visitors to walk through her garden where she grows vanilla, fruit trees, plants, a pond with lily pads, etc. She sells homemade jams, ice cream (vanilla and taro which is a purple vegetable much like a sweet potato), vanilla, and pareos, and on Fridays, she has a set lunch at 11:30 with many traditional foods. The first time there, our family went alone and had some of the best ice cream we had had in quite some time. Homemade ice cream with homegrown vanilla—you can’t beat that! Ariana ordered the taro, which was also really good. We also went back with Nina, Paw Paw and Cattiva for the Friday lunch. It was great to try their traditional foods, although one of the fruits reminded me of the moving slime in the John Cusack 80’s film where he falls for the French exchange student (and gets chased by the paperboy saying: “I want my $2!). I can’t remember the name and I know it’s off-topic but I swear I thought this gel-like fruit was going to slither off of my plate. What the heck was the name of that movie?
Tropical Garden Cafe
Eating homemade vanilla (with vanilla grown on premises) and taro ice cream at Tropical Garden Cafe
The Vanilla that is Grown at the Cafe
Time two at the Tropical Garden Cafe with Paw Paw, Nina, and Cattiva
A Pineapple Growing on the Side of the Road near the Cafe
In Moorea, we also attended a traditional Polynesian show (with fire dancers) at the Hilton Resort, and went to a fruit distillery. Here, you could sample fruit juices and spirits made with fruit and they were VERY good! We ended up getting some coconut liquor and pineapple juice (and watermelon/passion fruit juice for the kids).
Polynesian Dance Show at the Hilton
Moorea Juice Place
Tasting Fruit Liquors…
We rented a car one day and travelled around the entire island, which was also nice. It really was a beautiful island.
View from the “Belvedere”
Mo’orea was Beautiful!
A House on Mo’orea–not typical but certainly unique!
A Cute Fish Hanging Out in the Shallows
Maria on Cattiva had Ari and Ryan over to her boat for a French lesson. The kids enjoyed their time with her; she is a very good teacher and I think I learned more about French pronunciation listening to them tell me what they learned from Maria versus everything else I have tried!
Dan took a ferry back to Tahiti to pick up our Iridium Go Satellite phone, and upon arrival back in Moorea, we went over to Heidi 2.0 for drinks and snacks (with Daniel, Cecile and Raphael).
Barbeque on the Beach with Paw Paw and Nina
Finally, Dan and the kids went canyoning. That sounds benign enough, but it entailed hiking and rappelling down five waterfalls (one over 35 meters—115 feet!). (There is footage of them rappelling in the Mo’orea video.)
I thought about going canyoning with them but figured I would probably have a heart attack or a stroke on the first rappel. Instead, I had a relaxing day at the Hilton using their Internet, and having lunch with a glass of Chardonnay. No heart attacks or strokes for me!
Dan and the kids had a great time and weren’t scared at all. It was a good thing they were all wearing helmets though. While they were hiking (not the rappelling part), Ryan slipped on a wet rock and fell back and hit his head hard on a rock. He had a sore bottom for a day, but thanks to that helmet, his brain is still in one piece and he doesn’t seem to have any new head dents.
So we had Ryan’s fall, and we also had another incident: Ariana’s electrocution. Yup, it’s true. We were leaving the Hilton dock one night in our dinghy and Ari was untying the boat. She immediately pulled her hand back and said it felt like she had pain going through her hand. She has never been shocked before (even with 110 volt—let alone 220 volt) so she didn’t know what it was. She thought it was her hand having pain (possibly from using her computer at the hotel). Anyway, she tried removing the line two more times and again, the same thing happened. She started to cry a little bit. Of course, we never would have let her touch it a second time if we had any idea what was really happening, but we had no clue based on the way she described it. Finally, I went to remove the line and same thing—I got zapped too. I immediately told Dan that Ariana wasn’t having hand pain; she was getting shocked! After that, we saw two wires hanging down under the dock, and these wires must have electrified the metal cleat our painter was tied to. We were so relieved that Ariana was okay. Two hundred twenty volts definitely feels a lot stronger than 110, that’s for sure.
Early the next morning, Dan called the Hilton to tell them. I can’t imagine if those wires had gotten loose enough to reach the water. That wouldn’t have ended well for people swimming there…
Aside from the kids’ brushes with possible trauma, Moorea was absolutely wonderful. Another island in Paradise, but it was time to move on. Next stop, Huahine!