11th July, 2009  - Flight
We embarked on a very long journey, leaving London at 07.35. With a change of flight in Paris and a fuel stop in Los Angeles, we arrived in Papeete, Tahiti at 21.30 the same day – having travelled for 26 hours.
We rested overnight at the Tahiti Motel which is only a few minutes walk from the airport – across the carpark, across the main road and then up a steep short slope. It was very convenient and very comfortable, albeit basic. The staff were very friendly and helpful.
12th July – Bora Bora
We flew out of Papeete at 09.45, stopped off at Huahine and arrived in Bora Bora at 11am. The airport is on a motu (islet) so we boarded a boat taxi which took us to the capital, Vaitape. From there we were met by the hotel transport and taken to the Hotel Maitai. Our home for the next four days was a water bungalow, number 107, with uninterrupted views across the sea to the motus and a glass window on the floor to see the underwater world too!
Bora Bora is a quintessential tropical paradise, surrounded by a necklace of coral islets. The sparkling aquamarine lagoon, world-famous for its beauty, is constantly replenished with ocean water from the swells that crash between sandy motus (small islets) and over the fringing reef. Bora Bora’s enchanting valleys are covered with lush hibiscus and palm, and Mt. Otemanu rises up from its centre, creating an ethereal scene
13th July  - Bora Bora
Relaxation was the key today. We snorkelled off the platform of our water bungalow to view the vast array of tropical fish under, and close to the water bungalows. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch before walking up to Matira Point where we walked on the golden sand around the point. In the evening we went to Vaitape to watch the festivities of the annual Heiva festival. The festival is a competition of song and dance. The costumes were sparce but very colourful. The ladies’ hips wiggled, whilst the men’s legs shook – all at great speed!
14th July  - Bora Bora
Today was exhilarating! We walked to Matira Point where we set off on our two-person Jet ski waverunner for a ride around Bora Bora island. We averaged 55 mph over the beautiful aquamarine lagoon to arrive at Motu Roa where we left the jet ski and took to the quad bike/ATV (all terrain vehicle) for the second part of our adventure. We drove the ATV through forests of Aito trees and "fara" (pandanus) plantations, the largest ones being found on the motu. After crossing the motu, we arrived at a beautiful white crushed-coral beach to gaze at the endless vista on the ocean. We snacked on banana, mango and pineapple before returning to our ATV and back to our jet ski for the return trip.
15th July  -  Bora Bora
We enjoyed a final swim from our water bungalow to view the vast array of fish. After a leisurely lunch we had time to relax on the small strip of sand before making our way, via Vaitape, to the airport for the flight back to Papeete. Our flight was due to leave Bora Bora at 17.20 but it left 2 hours late. We arrived in Papeete and got a taxi to the port to board our cruise ship, the Paul Gauguin. We had dinner and the ship set sail at midnight on a northwest course.


16th July  -  Huahine, Society Islands

Known as “The Garden Island” for its lush rainforests and dramatic terrain, Huahine is actually two islands (“Little” Huahine Iti and “Big” Huahine Nui), and our ship anchored between them in Maroe Bay. After lunch we took a three hour tour to see the cultural highlights of Huahine including the ‘sacred’ blue eyed eels.


17th July  -  At Sea: En route to Aitutaki

Experiencing the islands as the ancient Polynesians did, we journeyed across the immense blue of the South Pacific. The guest experts shared their insights in lectures on the natural history of the South Pacific, and the mysteries of a culture at once ancient and modern. The ancient Polynesians were epic mariners whose seafaring canoes were the forerunners of the modern catamaran. Polynesian sailors were incredible wayfinders, mastering the open waters of the vast Pacific long before the development of navigational instruments. Guided by their close observation of the stars, sun, ocean swells, and flight patterns of birds, their voyages carried them thousands of miles to settle the far flung islands of the world’s largest ocean.


18th July  -  Aitutaki, Cook Islands

Our next port of call was the idyllic Aitutaki, a remote ‘almost atoll’ of three volcanic and twelve coral islets in the Cook Islands. It was thought to have first been settled more than a thousand years ago by the legendary Polynesian discoverer, Ru. We set off on a five hour lagoon cruise & beach lunch break on One Foot Island.


19th July  - At Sea: En route to the Eclipse

As we voyaged north towards the eclipse path, the guest experts give presentations on the upcoming eclipse phenomenon, pulsars, exploding stars, and other stellar topics in preparation for Eclipse Day. Evenings allowed us front-row seats for legendary sunsets and stargazing under brilliant skies.


29th July  -  Suwarrow and Pukapuka, Cook Islands

We arrived at little-known Suwarrow (meaning “South Wind”), a true atoll with a mysterious past. A chest filled with gold and silver coins was just one of the buried treasure troves unearthed in the 19th century on this low-lying island with its landlocked lagoon. Accessible only by private yacht or chartered expedition, Suwarrow is now protected as a National Heritage Park and its four residents (parents and 2 children) share the sands and waters with thousands of seabirds, coconut crabs, sharks, and rare turtles.


Unfortunately, the slight swell prevented us from access through the pass into the Suwarrow atoll. The crew took some supplies to the caretaker family and we then circled half the atoll before moving on to see the unscheduled Pukapuka, an island not visited or passed by any cruise ships. More lectures were inserted into the day to ensure that we had activity to fill the gap left by not being able to land in Suwarrow.


21st July  - Eclipse Day!

Positioning our ship at the ideal position in the path of totality, we witnessed almost three and a half minutes of this amazing celestial event (which occurred on July 22nd throughout its path but on the 21st at our location east of the International Date Line). Half an hour after totality we hoped to be treated to the dramatic sight of the still partially eclipsed sun sinking into the Polynesian sunset, in a kaleidoscope of brilliant colours, but very sadly, a cloud blocked our vision.


22nd and 23rd July  -  At Sea: En route to Bora Bora

On our return southeast toward the Society Islands, we learned about reef ecology, we stargazed, and we heard tales of the early Polynesians whose skill in celestial navigation helped spread their culture across the South Pacific.


24th July  -  Bora Bora, Society Islands

We spent two full days in Bora Bora, which allowed us to continue our exploration of this wonderful island. We disembarked on the first tender to take the Lagunarium tour (booking privately, the cost was far less than booking on the ship). We snorkelled in the Coral Garden to see the colourful fish and delicate coral formations that coexist at water depths of 10-15 feet, then out beyond the reef to see the black time and lemon sharks before going to the lagoonarium to swim with the sting rays and sharks, amongst many other colourful fish.


25th July  -  Bora Bora

Today we had a rain shower making the roads were wet and sandy so we decided to abandon our planned cycle ride around the island (apparently, a very pleasant 18 miles of flat road). Instead, we wandered around Vaitape and purchased some of the famous black pearls.


26th July  -  Raiatea, Society Islands

With its green jungle-clad valleys, numerous waterfalls, a deep lagoon sheltering spectacular fish and fertile plantations of vanilla and pineapple, Raiatea is an ecological wonderland dotted with ancient temple sites.  We took a morning Island tour by boat along the coast and river and then by jeep to see the highlights of the river and interior, known as the Sacred Hava’i, with its abundance of tropical vegetation.


27th July  -  Taha’a, Society Islands

Our next stop was Taha’a, a tiny unspoiled paradise. Enclosed in a common lagoon with Raiatea and accessible only by boat, Taha’a (often called “Vanilla Island”) produces about 80% of all vanilla in French Polynesia. In the morning we went drift snorkelling along the rich coral gardens before heading to the private motu (islet), Motu Mahana, owed by the ship’s company.


28th July  -  Moorea, Society Islands

Moorea is exquisite with its triangular, impossibly green mountains ringed by turquoise seas. In the morning we experienced an undersea walk wearing large space-like helmets to encounter the stingrays close up. After a wonderful lunch viewing the green mountains we then went kayaking. In the evening, the ship made its way back to Papeete.


29th July  -  Papeete / Depart
We disembarked and waited for Dave’s Tours who failed to arrive. The Information Tourist office were extremely helpful and booked us on another tour in the afternoon. So went shopping and sightseeing in Papeete in the morning. Our afternoon circular tour of Tahiti visited the lagoonarium, Fern Grottos, Paul Gauguin museum, Faarumai Waterfalls and the Blowhole. We rested and dined at the Hilton Tahiti hotel before going to the airport for our 23.30 return flight.
30th and 31st July
After a very long flight, advancing a day in a few hours, we arrived back in London on the 31st July at 13.45pm

South Pacific