Today we’re back with the series on far-flung France, and boy do I have a treat for you! After a break of a couple of months I think you’ll agree this one is worth the wait; it’s a visual feast, visiting paradise on earth in the form of French Polynesia, which falls into yet another category of overseas French territories, the COM (collectivité d’outre-mer). My guest writer today is Mary Solio, an island girl at heart who loves cruising, National Parks & traveling the world with her two kids in tow. Here she tells us about an idyllic family holiday to Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora.
Guest post by Mary Solio at The World is a Book
Want to taste a little bit of France but with a tropical setting? French Polynesia also commonly known as the Islands of Tahiti is located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and South America. It has five archipelagoes with 121 islands. France considers French Polynesia as an “overseas country inside the Republic”. We visited French Polynesia last June and explored the islands of Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea. It was one of our best family holidays. Here are five major reasons why you should put it on your bucket list and visit French Polynesia.
1. The Water and Scenery
One of the best ways to see the island’s beauty was from above where we saw its varied shades of blue. This view below of Bora Bora was what greeted us as we arrived at their airport on an islet. Yes, it really was that color. It got even better as we cruised to our hotel and when we finally got into the water. The water was very appealing and inviting from everywhere we looked. It was also clear, warm and ideal for many water activities. The different hues of blues amazed us throughout our stay and were one of the best things about these islands.
Mother Nature outdid herself with the stunning sceneries of mountains and verdant valleys. They were gorgeous backdrops to the lagoons and ocean. It was natural beauty at its finest. Some of our best memories were eating on a private island with an incredible mountain backdrop. It was very hard to stop taking pictures at every turn.
2. Island Activities and Adventures
The water conditions and tropical settings make it the perfect place to try a variety of water sports and activities. We enjoyed snorkeling and swimming at our hotel but everyone should really venture out beyond the resorts. Our favorite activity throughout our entire trip was swimming and snorkeling with sharks and stingrays. The black tip sharks pretty much ignored us and the stingrays were actually docile creatures. We highly recommend this activity. We liked it so much we did it on two islands. Water sports, like kite surfing, parasailing, jet skiing, scuba diving, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), are also popular and available at resorts or through tour companies.
3. Staying in Overwater Bungalows
The thatched roof, overwater bungalows on stilts or “floating villas” are almost synonymous with French Polynesia. If you’ve seen postcard settings of the Tahitian islands, it’s most likely these overwater bungalows standing on the turquoise waters surrounded by swaying palm trees. These bungalows are very popular especially with the honeymooners. Our family loved our overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and Moorea. We enjoyed the privacy they offered and the idea of sleeping in the middle of the lagoons. The best part was snorkeling and swimming right off our balcony.
4. The people and culture
These islands have a colorful and rich history including a battle for this territory between the English and French over the years. The islands have some self-governing powers including having their own President and maintaining authority over their environment, health and town planning matters. France controls the islands’ education, foreign policy, security, currency matters and social programs among other things. Though, they don’t use the Euro but use the CFP Franc. The residents vote in the French national elections and have representatives to the national government in Paris.
About 80% of its residents are Polynesian or mixed Polynesian ethnicity and 12% have European ancestry. Most of the residents speak French and Tahitian. They have maintained a strong ethnic identity but with a hint of French including their delicious food and drinks which was quite interesting. We also saw the French flag flying in many places.
Attending the Polynesian shows in some of the resorts may sound touristy but really made for a fantastic introduction to the food and culture. The Tiki Village in Moorea puts on quite a feast and beachside dance show plus a reconstruction of a traditional Polynesian village with some cultural workshops. We loved the fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood of the islands. The roulettes or food trucks, especially in Tahiti, offered some of the best ways to enjoy the local atmosphere and eat some great, inexpensive food.
Go on the island tours with a local guide. We learned so much about the culture and history of the islands by touring them. Our Bora Bora tour was on a 4×4 truck that added an extra layer of adventure.
5. An island getaway
We all lead busy lives and dream of that exotic island getaway. These are those islands! They’re great for romance, relaxation, rejuvenation and to connect with loved ones. There’s a reason they’re consistently ranked as a top honeymoon destination. But, we also found out that they were also a great family-friendly destination. The French Polynesian islands have often been called enchanting, mystical and “paradise on Earth” and it’s all true. We can’t wait to return!
Mary, “an island girl at heart”, born in the Philippines, childhood in Guam, now living in the USA, attributes her love of travel to years spent confined to islands! Based in San Diego, she shares her kid-tested adventures, guides & tips on travelling with children on a budget on her blog. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. All photos are provided by Mary and if you’d like to see more of them take a look at all the posts she’s written about her trip to French Polynesia.
If you enjoyed this you might like to read other tales from the series on far-flung France which includes Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, Guadeloupe, St Martin, French Guyana, Réunion again and Guadeloupe again.
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