Day 93 – Tahiti Tour – August 22nd, 2015

This post will cover the voyage down the Tahiti Coast, some photographs of the area surrounding the berth and our tour. Today’s tour comprised a scenic drive around the island’s ring road, which is about 50 miles around and included a number of stops at points of interest, viewpoints and some lunch. To summarise our experience today, Tahiti is one of the many volcanic, tropical islands, which we found  is highly developed, as almost the entire road around the island has homes and/or businesses. We also noted that the majority of residences can best be described as functional living, as we didn’t drive by any mega homes and/or highly manicured lawns.

Even Judi’s morning started early, with her wide awake shortly after 06:00, so I managed to open the balcony to sneak a peak of the Tahiti coastline, as we cruised down the coast towards Papeete.

Tahiti from our balcony while approaching Papeete

Shortly after sunrise, tootling our way down the Tahiti coast towards Papeete.

Approaching Papeete with house climbing up the hill

Approaching Papeete, with houses climbing up the mountain.

From this point we headed down for breakfast, returning to the cabin when secured alongside.

Papeete business district from the balcony

View of the retail section of downtown from our balcony, with mega sailing yacht M5 berthed on the same pier as Sea Princess.

Locals used by the photographers at bottom of gangway

The photographers have hired some locals attired in traditional costumes for the gangway photographs this morning. Doesn’t work for us, as since we downsized the house, we don’t want paper copies of photographs, only .jpg or RAW files, which I can display on the telly or electronic picture display.

On departing the ship we walked along the dock into the adjacent parking lot, so find our bus. What a pleasant surprise, as it is a real bus, not the advertised “Le Truck”, which is basically a truck with a passenger compartment built on the chassis. Departing the dock, we commenced with a quick drive around Papeete looking at the impressive government buildings and painted murals prominent through the city. I initially planned to walk the downtown area, on return, so didn’t take any photos through the bus windows. However, remembering the local dance troupe was scheduled aboard at 16:00, I cancelled the downtown walk, hence no photographs.

We set off around the island in a clockwise direction, crossing across the top of the island before heading down the east coast, around the bottom and finally up the west coast. Our first stop was at “One Tree Hill”, a famous landmark named by Captain James Cook, who used the long since gone single tree on the steep headland as a navigational mark.

Tahara's One Tree Hill with views of Matavai Bay, Papeete, Lagoon and Moorea  

One Tree Hill viewing platform looking at Matavai Bay in the foreground and Papeete and the adjacent island of Moorea in the background.

Tahara's One Tree Hill lookout with Judi and Papeete in background

Judi at One Tree Hill with Matavai Bay in the background. The viewpoint is very well done, with a viewing platform along the entire edge of the cliff with the rear area elevated a few steps and well maintained with trees, flowers and plants.

Tahara's One Tree Hill flowers at end of lookout

Some of the shrubs and flowers at One Tree Hill viewpoint.

Tahara's One Tree Hill Judi watching a bird in the palm tree

Judi checking out a bird up in a palm tree with the covered structure and viewing platform in the background.

Tahara's One Tree Hill coconut palm tree

Palm tree with a few coconuts remaining from the current crop. This is one of the biggest differences we noted between Tahiti and Hawaii, as most of the palm trees we saw today are coconut bearing.

Tahara's One Tree Hill lookout with Andy and Papeete in background

Andy with Matavai Bay in the background from One Tree Hill.

Heading back to the bus we continued around the island, with the next stop at Point Venus. The Royal Society of London, with the backing and support of King George III, commissioned three groups to view the 1769 transit of Venus and the Sun, in North Cape Norway, Hudson Bay Canada and a South Pacific Island. Samuel Wallis, a British Navigator discovered Tahiti in 1767 and convinced the Royal Society it was the perfect location to view the transit. Consequently, Captain James Cook with Naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, and Astronomer Charles Green set sail from UK to Tahiti. On arrival, they selected a sandy spit to the NE of Matavai Bay, which they named Point Venus. Requiring a stable platform, they constructed an observatory known as Fort Venus, which was fortified by cannons from the ship. They observed the transit, which occurs twice every 243 years, as a small black disk passing across the sun, recording times, but found accurate results very challenging due to haze. Although the results were deemed inconsistent, the distance to the sun was calculated as 93,726,900 miles, which was out by only 0.008% compared to values attained by modern technology. A truly remarkable feat.

Point Venus monument commemorating Capt Cook observing Venus transit in 1769 

Monument to commemorate Fort Venus constructed by Capt James Cook at Point Venus to observe the 1769 Venus transit. The point is now a park, with beach and houses a lighthouse.

Point Venus lighthouse

Lighthouse dating from 1867, located on Point Venus. We saw the flashes from this lighthouse this morning, as we meandered down the Tahiti coast.

Point Venus outrigger canoes lined up on the beach

Sheltered bay on Point Venus where a number of canoes with outriggers were stored. As is common on the islands, the boats are stored out of the water when not in use.

Point Venus black sand beach with mount Marau and Orohena in background

From close to the end of the spit, looking along the black sand beach with the inland mountains in the background.

Point Venus river with reflections of the trees

Small stream flowing down the middle of the spit, at Point Venus. A very pleasant and shady area for picnics on the numerous tables along the stream. Point Venus is at the northern tip of the island, so shortly after re-boarding the bus we were on the east side and it rained almost continuously, quite heavily at times, for at least an hour. By the time we reached our next stop at Tapahi Viewpoint the skies had mostly cleared, but we still experienced a light shower from the clouds piling up on the mountain.

Tapahi viewpoint looking back along the coast to the borth

Tapahi Viewpoint looking north up the east coast.

Tapahi viewpoint black sand beach where kids learn to surfboard

Looking at one of the black sand beaches used for teaching kids to surfboard from the Tapahi viewpoint.

Tapahi viewpoint beach to south also used for surfing

Tapahi viewpoint looking up the east coast. Returning to the bus we continued our journey around the island, passing though the town of Taravao, which is at the opposite end of the island from Papeete and is also at the location where Tahiti Iti joins Tahiti Nui. From this point we travelled around the west shore, experiencing clearer skies and only a couple of light showers, especially at our next stop.

Our next stop was Vaipahi Public Gardens and Waterfall, which is a free garden, with numerous paths around the water gardens and up to the Falls. Hiking trails do continue up the mountain behind, but in the 20 minutes we had available, we only had time to explore the lower reaches of the park.

Vaipahi gardens water garden 2

The first water garden we passed, shortly after entering the gardens.

Vaipahi gardens waterfall

Vaipahi Falls taken with as slow of a shutter as I dared, since I was hand holding, having left the tripod on the ship. With the multiple quick stops I really didn’t have the time to be setting up and stowing the tripod and it would be a challenge to fit on the bus when extended.

Vaipahi gardens in full bud

This one was taken before the rain showers, so no water droplets.

Vaipahi gardens water garden shady with lilies

The 2nd water garden that we passed.

Vaipahi gardens row of coconut palm trees fully loaded

A row of coconut palms, with each tree fully loaded. Not a good idea to walk underneath them without a hard hat.

Vaipahi gardens water lilies and flower

A single flowering water lily in the main pond.

Vaipahi gardens pond with water lilies and surrounded by palm trees

The main pond taken from the bridge.

Vaipahi gardens row of palm trees

Another row of palm trees, not coconut palms, along the side of the main pond.

Vaipahi gardens at side of pool

Vaipahi gardens Habiscus flower from side with water droplets from the rain

Hibiscus flowers with small droplets of water from the recent light rain shower. Hopefully the compression hasn’t eliminated the droplets, as it looks good on the original photos.

Vaipahi gardens tiered water gardens

Tiered water garden.

Vaipahi gardens plant in partial bloom with water droplets from the rain

Another flower with small water droplets on the leaves and petals.

On completion, we back tracked to Restaurant Musee Gagnon, which is on the waterfront and the owner has large pens out front with tropical fish.

Restaurant Musee Gagun and large fish pens

Restaurant with fish pens out front and a raised dock that you can walk out to view the fish.

Restaurant large colourful fish in pens 2

A selection of the larger, most colourful fish.

Restaurant fish pen's coral 2

A selection of the coral growing in one of the fish pens adjacent to the dock. The lunch was buffet style consisting of a salad table, hot entrees and traditional Polynesian. We have tried the local options during our Hawaii visits and don’t really care for breadfruit, taro and the associated dishes. The salads and fresh pineapple were my favourites.

Our next stop was Maraa Caves, but preferring shorelines and oceans to caves, I skipped the caves, scooting across the road with a couple of others to check out the shoreline and breakers out on the barrier reef.

Caves looking south along the coast

The Paea coastline at Maraa Caves

Caves palm trees on the shoreline

The road side layby was lined with various palm trees, so I took this looking through the palms at the breakers pounding onto the offshore barrier reef that surrounds a large portion of the island.

Our next stop was a short distance inland of the main road at the ruins of an old temple. Other than requesting we don’t enter the square, out guide didn’t provide any information on dates of construction or how it transformed to the current condition.

Temple remains with mountains in background

Ruins of an old temple with inland mountains in background.

The final stop today was the Tahiti Museum, which has some excellent exhibits dating back to the creation of the South Pacific Islands. I found it extremely interesting that all these islands are similar to the Hawaiian Islands, in that each island was created by sitting atop a hot spot. As the tectonic plates moved, over millions of years the new island passed over the hotspot and a new island started forming. Our guide mentioned the plates move horizontally about 4” each year and once the formation is completed and the island moves away from the hot spot, it commences sinking at a rate of 4” every century.

Museum of Tahiti

Tahiti museum entrance.

Inside, our guide took us for a whirlwind 1/2hr walk through all the exhibits, providing almost continuous information. Unfortunately, it just didn’t do any justice to the exhibits, as it was too much information in too short a period of time. You could easily spend a 1/2 day browsing through the exhibits. While everything is in French, most exhibits have an English translation. If we return to Tahiti this will be well worth a return visit, but for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours, so as to really digest the information.

Museum anchor outside entrance

Old ship’s anchor at the entrance.

Returning to the bus we completed the final about 5 miles back to the ship in Papeete. In summary, we found Tahiti to be a typical mountainous and volcanic island, with a narrow band of flat land around the coast. It is definitely more developed than some, with almost continuous housing or businesses around the coast. With only 1 road around the island we experienced a few traffic jams, more normally experienced with bigger cities. When we return, a further visit to the museum is of interest, along with possibly heading inland and up into the mountains.

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