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Sunday morning, after our fantastic Huahine Hieva, we finally upped anchor and headed to Raiatea. The short (20 nm) sail was beautiful; winds on the beam and small sea state.
Raiatea is located in the Society Islands group of French Polynesia. It’s the second largest island in the group, the first being Tahiti. Raiatea is located about 130 miles west-northwest of Tahiti, and it shares a lagoon with its neighbor, Taha’a.
Air Tahiti operates multiple flights a day from Tahiti (PPT) to Raiatea (RFP). Tahiti (PPT) is the international airport for French Polynesia, and there are direct flights from the west coast of the United States.
When you talk about chartering in French Polynesia or Tahiti, they are probably really talking about chartering in Raiatea. The Moorings, Sunsail, and Dream Yacht Charter all have bases in Raiatea. Due to its proximity to several other islands – Bora Bora, Huahine, and Taha’a – there’s a lot you can access in a one-week charter.
Our first stop in Raiatea was Opua Bay, where we anchored to visit Marae Taputapuātea, one of the best preserved archeological sites in French Polynesia.
Next stop was Fa’aroa Bay, which is fed by a navigable river. James, a local in a small orange kayak, met us and escorted us to a mooring ball. James’ family owns a plantation along the river, so he provides tours of the river. We set up to meet him at 3 pm, and set out in LD. James paddled alongside us as we navigated up the river as he told us about the local region and the fruit that grew around the river.
We kept LD in idle, either forward or neutral, the whole trip, which took about an hour each way. On the way back, James stopped and cut down a stall of bananas for us. His family’s plantation was closed already (5pm) but he grabbed a long pole with a hook on it and brought down two coconuts for us.
James didn’t charge anything for the tour but we tipped him 1500F ($15). We didn’t get to tour the plantation, but we probably enjoyed the river more. James and other cruisers have told us that there are fruit and vanilla beans for sale for very cheap. I really wanted the bananas, as I haven’t seen good bananas in a while.
We stayed several more nights in this bay due to the protection it offered. Cruising boats and charter boats came and went. We had a downpour. I got the kayak out and went up the river again. James was having a slow day so he kayaked about halfway with me. It was idyllic.
The next morning we dropped the mooring and moved to the town of Uturoa. After much circling and debating, we ended up tying up to the city quay, which is free. The guides cautioned us about theft, so we made sure to move anything inside and off the decks. The dock itself was nice, with a Shell station right dockside and a good grocery store across the street.
Thursday we woke up to downpours. A good day to read and catch up on the world. Early, around 8:30, we were surrounded at the dock by small fishing boats and guys in full wetsuits and spear guns. It looked official – a guy had a megaphone! Throughout the day we watched a tent get set up, and sure enough, around 4:30 the fishing boats started to filter in. Starry Horizons had a front-row view to watch the party of a spearfishing tournament, topped off with a full rainbow.
Friday morning I went for a hike by myself up to Mount Taipioi. The hike was about 45 minutes of very strenuous walking. I can’t even say hiking, it was a walk, but man was it challenging. And so worth it. Thankfully it was a clear day, and I could see down the entire east coast of Raiatea, to Huahine Island on the southeast, and then I could see the north shore of Raiatea, including the island of Taha’a, and beyond to the northwest to Bora Bora. Unfortunately, the sun was right on the other side of the dock, making a big glare over the water. You’ll just have to trust me that the view was better than the pictures turned out!
Today (hopefully – the winds are pretty strong pushing us into the dock right now) we will leave for Taha’a.