From Honolulu we took a 6 hour flight directly South to Tahiti. (over lots and lots of water…I try not to think about it too much because it freaks me out)
We landed in Pa’peete (pronounced pa-pee-ah-teh, not pa-peete…unfortunately I referred to it this way for the months leading up to our trip. Good thing no one else knew my mistake!) around 10pm, made it through customs, collected our luggage and inched our way out through security into a sea of people.
We were greeted by our transfer group and given our Tahitian leis…flower leis…beautiful and fragrant.
We wove our way through the streets of Pa’peete straining to see the city in the darkness, but we wouldn’t really see Tahiti’s beauty until the next morning.
We left our hotel Sunday morning and headed for the ferry that would take us 30 minutes Northwest to the island of Moorea.
Moorea is 134 square kilometer island surrounded by an atoll (ring shaped reef of coral). The lush greenery, white sandy beaches and crystal clear turquoise water make this island absolutely breathtaking.
As the ferry pulled up, we got our first look of the place that would capture our hearts on this trip.
Our resort, The Manava Pearl Resort, was so beautiful. With rooms that ranged from your standard garden view room (which we stayed in for 4 nights), to a garden bungalow complete with a little splash pool in the backyard, to the incredible overwater bungalows (which we stayed in for two nights), you can’t miss no matter which you choose.
We got to the resort early in the morning, and we couldn’t actually get into our room till after lunch. But because we Skinners are prepared, we had packed our beach stuff in a small bag that was easily accessible. So we doned our suits and hit the beach!
We settled ourselves on some beach chairs and I do what I always do at the beach…pulled out my book and got to reading.
As Andrew was settling in a family of three sat down in the chairs beside us.
“Did you guys just arrive?” the lady said to Andrew.
“Yep” Andrew responded
“Oh, where are you from?” she probed further.
“Canada” Andrew said. See when we travel, we find not a lot of people don’t know where Edmonton is…and Alberta doesn’t really help them out either. So Canada is the quick answer…it is usually followed by “Oh, Vancouver?” to which you respond…”No, we are about a 12 hour drive from Vancouver.”
“Oh us too!” She said cheerily, “We are from Edmonton”
This is the point where I put down my book and joined in the conversation because I had just said to Andrew on the ferry ride over that it was incredible we could so quickly be so far away from Edmonton…that we were literally half a world away.
“And now that I said that” I told him, “We are going to see someone we know here!”
Well we didn’t know Tanya, Mike and Freya (their sweet 6 year old) but we did come to realize that we are all teachers with the same school board. (Tanya asked me 3 minutes into our conversation if I was a teacher…)
We became fast friends and spent the rest of their time in Moorea together enjoying the water, finding great places to eat and visiting a lot. It was great to feel so comfortable with people to quickly and for Andrew to have someone to explore the ocean with when I was feeling too nervous. (thanks Matt!)
Besides the incredible views, amazing snorkeling (right off our bungalow deck and beach), friendly people, laid back pace of life and delicious food (I ate more fish, green beans and rice in one week than I have in the past year…and loved every minute of it!) we had the opportunity to take one of the best tours we have EVER been on.
But let me back up a bit…there is a story about how we found this gem.
Before our ferry ride over, we were given a little presentation about different tours that we could go on in Moorea. We booked a snorkeling/ray and shark swimming/lunch tour for halfway through our trip that we were very excited about.
The night before our tour, we got a call from the operator saying that it wasn’t going to go the next day because the weather was not supposed to be good, but that we could go on the next available tour at the end of the week.
We really wanted to enjoy our resort and our overwater bungalow those last few days so we decided to cancel our trip.
Dissapointed, we turned to our hotel to help us find another tour to take…but it was going to be more expensive, which, if you know me well, was bothersome. But we booked it and got ready to go.
I have to say, it was money well spent. Our gracious hosts Romain and Olivia gave us a very special day to remember.
It started by boarding their beautiful outrigger boat with the other 6 guests (yep, that’s right…just the 10 of us…it was so nice)
We made our way around the island and saw turtles, spotted rays and whales! As we watched two whales breach the water close by the entire boat was silent…its was an amazing sight to see.
We got a history lesson of the island as we sat in Opunohu bay and then continued on to the area where we got a chance to swim with rays and reef sharks.
Now, I’m not going to lie…being from land-locked Alberta makes me a little fearful of the ocean. I did spend the first part of our time with my hand out of the water in fists (as you can see by the pictures) but I did relax a little.
These wild rays have been fed in this little spot for the last 20 years, so even though they still have that scary barb at the base of their tails, they are happy curious little guys who just want to sniff you and have you feed them. They feel a bit like velvet or suede…and are soft and squishy. The reef sharks never really got too close to us…they were less curious and far more wary of us.
We moved on to a coral garden where we had a chance to snorkel and see all kinds of amazing fish and coral.
Finally we were given a delicious lunch with our feet in the water.
If you ever go to Moorea, book a tour with Romain and Olivia and Moorea Miti Tours. You will not be disappointed, I promise.
Besides incredible tours, an amazing hotel, lots of beach fun and great fish, we also had some of the best pizza we have ever eaten. (funny right?) Allo Pizza makes an incredible wood fired, thin crust pizza. We had it delivered twice we liked it so much!
Moorea is a place that I fell in love with. I would go back there in a heartbeat and loved every minute of our time there.
If you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful place here are the few pointers for you:
- Make sure you take local money. You can change American or Canadian money there and lots of places take credit card, but they want their local currency, and sometimes there is a minimum payment for credit.
- Packing snacks could be a benefit. Our hotel offered an included breakfast buffet with our stay and we made good use of it.
But lunch and dinner were done on our own. We ended up brings a few things with us from Kauai and bought snack stuff (fruit, cookies, drinks etc) at the local grocery store. You can buy baguettes for about $1 so we did that with jam and cheese for lunch most days.
- Find local places for lunch and dinner. We ate off our resort during our stay and it proved to be tasty and economical. Andrew and I would usually share an entree and it was more than enough because of their large portions (2 large pieces of fish, a whack-load of green beans and rice in one serving). We found that by sourcing out our own places to eat meant great food at half the price of the hotels.
Our last stop in our 3 week adventure was Maui…a place that has been a favorite of mine ever since we visited there 5 years ago. I was excited to go back but so sad to leave Moorea…a new favorite for sure.