There are many great places to play in or on the water around the world, but few come close to offering up the salt water playground that is French Polynesia, composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 2,000 kilometres and comprised of five island groups, “Tahiti” is so much more than a tropical oasis of over water bungalows and mind bending sunsets .
What the brochures fail to let on, is that it is quite possibly the best warm water destination in the world for those that like to indulge in all and every kind of water sport.
From the national sport of Va’a (rudderless outrigger canoes) to all and every iteration of water sport imaginable, Tahitians literally have saltwater pulsating through their veins with an aptitude to learn and master anything above and below the surface.
With many of the islands within the five main island groups being atolls with lagoons protected by coral reefs it’s this contrasting mix of protected waters and open ocean that lends these islands to the sheer diversity of water born activities.
Shaped by Mother Nature and moulded by culture, the indigenous Polynesian people of these islands have a gift of being in tune with their environment that is seldom seen elsewhere. At one with the patterns of weather that once dictated their celestial navigation by sailing canoe throughout the South Pacific, their ability to switch from one sport to another with a display of skill, poise and grace is both awe-inspiring and inspirational. Once you’ve experienced it first-hand it will leave you wanting to expand your repertoire of skills ‘just in case’ they may be needed for your next visit, because once this place gets a grip on you, it’s keeps drawing you back time and time again.
Previously somewhat ‘unobtainable’ due to language and other ‘perception’ challenges, unless you’ve had an inside connection, it’s been somewhat difficult to make the most of what lies so close to our doorstep.
With daily flights between New Zealand and the main island of Tahiti Nui coupled with an expanding tourism industry that is diversifying to cater to a new breed of more adventurous visitors, offerings of water born activities run by local guides and operators that can give you a first-hand experience of this saly water mecca are now meeting this new demand in the most authentic of ways.
With Tahitian bed and breakfasts known as ‘Pensions’ pronounced ‘pon-see-on’ abounding on many islands, these traditional family run guest houses often grant lagoon-side access and activities unique to their local waters that aid in giving an unprecedented experience in the Polynesian way of life. Local operators are adapting and with a bit of research it’s not too hard to find a local to give you a first-hand experience at whatever you love (or want to learn to love) to do. Along with an ever-growing accommodation offering via AirBnB, you’re no longer confined to a resort unless you want to be.
From the ocean and wind driven sports of outrigger paddling (va’a) stand up paddling, prone paddling, surf ski, holopuni (sailing canoe), sailing, windsurfing, kiting, and now everything with a foil strapped to the bottom of a board; to open water swimming, scuba, free-diving, spear fishing as well as surfing thanks to the proliferation of reef ‘passes’ and beach breaks that abound, French Polynesia is the South Pacific bounty for all and every water sport enthusiast.