French Polynesia

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Download French Polynesia Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Papeete, Tahiti

A charming bit of France, Papeete is the French capital of Polynesia from where you will begin your sailing adventure. The ship departs from the dock at 11:00 am (passengers must board the ship by 10 am).


Day 2: Tuamotu Archipelago - Fakarava

We arrive in Fakarava in the morning. Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the second largest atoll in French Polynesia, you will have time to discover the small village of Rotoava, the church, built of coral and the local arts and crafts. Afterwards, enjoy a refreshing swim and snorkel in the translucent lagoon among the colorful ballet of tropical fish. Optional excursions, such as snorkeling or diving in the various passes or an outing to an islet for bird watching, are available at an additional cost. We will return to vessel by 12:00pm.


Day 3: At Sea

A day to relax on board on one of the sun decks, swim in the pool, curl up in the library with a book or simply enjoy the view of the South Pacific Ocean. Balmy evenings can be spent socializing on the upstairs deck/bar with your fellow travelers from around the world.

The spirited Polynesian crew treat you as welcomed guests and proudly introduce you to their rich culture. Almost every night, they sing and strum hypnotic Polynesian rhythms on their ukuleles.


Day 4: Arrival to the Marquesas Archipelago, Island of Nuku Hiva; Traditional Marquesas Lunch in the Village of Hatiheu

We sail into Taiohae's spectacular bay, a giant volcanic amphitheater dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. As the Aranui unloads, you can explore Taiohae, the tiny administrative capital of the Marquesas. Taiohae Bay is where a 23-year-old sailor, Herman Melville and a buddy jumped a whaling ship in 1842. We follow their escape route by jeep along steep, winding dirt mountain roads to the village of Hatiheu to visit an archeological site. We'll have lunch at Yvonne's Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in the Marquesas, where the specialty is pig baked in an underground oven. You'll meet the owner-chef, Yvonne, who also happens to be the town's energetic mayor. After lunch, we travel to the valley of Taipivai. The area is dotted with stone tiki gods and sacred ritual sites (me'ae) and immense stone platforms (paepae) where the Taipi built their houses. Enigmatic petroglyphs of birds, sacred turtles and fish are carved on huge boulders. The Aranui's whale boats will sail down the river to return you to the Aranui, which is anchored in the bay.


Day 5: Ua Pou - Marquesas Lunch

From the deck, you'll see the soaring mountain spires of Ua Pou. Whenever the Aranui stops, villages greet it. As the crew unloads supplies - from cements to sugar - and loads sacks of copra (dried coconut meat), you'll explore the tiny town of Hakahau with its church with a hand-carved wooden dais. You can meet some talented woodcarvers and hike up a hill for a breathtaking view of the distant cloud-covered mountains. At Rosalie's Restaurant, you'll taste your first Marquesan lunch: breadfruit, a Marquesan staple, along with curried goat, barbecued rock lobster, poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and soaked in coconut milk ), taro and sweet red bananas.


Day 6: Hiva Oa (Atuona) and Tahuata (Vaitahu)

In the morning we will explore Hiva Oa (Atuona), the second largest village in Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and did some of his best work. You can visit the colonial store where Gauguin shopped and see a replica of the Impressionist's infamous "House of Pleasure". As you walk up the hill of the cemetery, you'll have sweeping views of the harbor. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words : Paul Gauguin 1903. Nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa, Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978. You'll also enjoy another lavish Marquesan lunch at Hoa Nui Restaurant. There will be free time in the village in the afternoon or hike up to the viewpoint.

Later we visit the island of Tahuata. On this historical leaf-shaped island, the air is thick with fragrant scent of tiare and frangipani. In the tiny village Vaitahu, Spanish explorers landed in 1595 and opened fire on a crowd of the curious islanders, killing about 200. When the first missionaries came in 1797, the generous local chief left his wife with missionary John Harris, on instruction that he treat her as his own wife. Harris fled the next day. Tahuata also is the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas, which occured in 1842. The huge church built by the Vatican, is decorated with beautiful Marquesan carvings.

Tahuata is famous for its exquisite bone and helmet shell carvings. There will be many to choose from in the village.


Day 7: Hiva Oa (Puamau) & Tahuata (Kokuu)

In Puamau, travel by 4WD to the most incredible archaeological site for tikis (ancient, human-like religious stone sculptures) outside of Easter Island. Once you reach Mea’e Iipona, our knowledgeable guides will tell you the stories of these haunting statues of ancient times. Surrounded by beautifully lush grounds, the site is overwhelming and has a lot of what Polynesians call “mana” (spiritual power). Only a small part of the site has been restored and most of it is still buried under massive trees and rocks.

After lunch on board, Aranui will set sail for Tahuata, where you can enjoy a lazy afternoon relaxing at the beach or taking a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean.


Day 8: Fatu Hiva (Omoa-Hanavave)

This is the most lush and remote island of the Marquesas. The only access is by sea, since there is no airport on Fatu Hiva. It is also the island of “tapa” and you will discover all about this traditional cloth.

In the tranquil village of Omoa, you will see women pounding mulberry, banyan or breadfruit tree bark on logs. The bark is then dried and used as a canvas where the locals will paint ancient Marquesan designs. Fatu Hiva is also well-known for its hand-painted pareos (sarongs) and monoi, coconut oil infused with “Tiare Tahiti” blossoms, vanilla or sandalwood. You will meet skilled woodcarvers in the large handicraft center. This will be another great opportunity to purchase Marquesan art and souvenirs.

Before lunch, the Aranui will sail to the other side of the island, to jaw-dropping Hanavave Bay, also known as the Bay of Virgins. Athletic passengers may choose to make the trip on foot. On this unforgettable 10 mile hike you will take in breathtaking views of towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls. For hikers, a delicious lunch will be served at the top of a moutain. (Scale of difficulty 8/10.)

Sunset in Hanavave Bay is a moment of pure bliss.


Day 9: Ua Huka (Vaipaee-Hane-Hokatu)

Today we will visit a museum with exquisite replicas of Marquesan art. Passengers may wish to explore the island by 4WD; others can ride the famed Marquesan horses. We will explore the mountain landscape with heart-stopping views of the Pacific. The wild horses (brought from Chile in 1856) thrive here, outnumbering the islands 476 residents. We'll have a Marquesan lunch at local restaurant and have plenty of time to visit studios of woodcarvers. We will also visit the arboretum as well as the garden, which is abundant with flowers and fruits. Back on the Aranui, it's Polynesian night with dancing and buffet dinner on the decks.


Day 10: At Sea

After an exciting few days exploring the islands, we have a full day at sea to reflect on our adventures and relax on board the Aranui 5.


Day 11: Tuamotu Archipelago - Rangiroa

From the decks, watch our approach and arrival into French Polynesia’s largest atoll and the second largest in the world. You may spot playful dolphins greeting the ship as we enter Tiputa Pass, one of Rangiroa’s two channels.

Snorkeling and scuba diving excursions are available (sign-up is required and an additional cost applies). Scuba diving in Rangiroa is rated as one of the best in the world (all levels welcome).
The Tuamotu atolls, with their pristine environment and pure waters, offer the ideal conditions for pearl farming. This will be your opportunity to visit a working pearl farm and learn how Tahiti’s famed jewel of the sea is produced. And if your dream is to bring one home, the small on-site store features a nice selection of loose and set pearls.

Should you decide not to go on any tours, enjoy Rangiroa’s white sand beach and translucent lagoon. The local “mamas” will have an excellent display of shell necklaces, key chains, and other small souvenirs for sale on the beach.

The Aranui will depart in the afternoon and sail to the mythical island of Bora Bora.


Day 12: Society Islands - Bora Bora

The Aranui will anchor in the magnificent blue lagoon of Bora Bora, which for many is the most beautiful island in the world. Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island with its incredible palette of blues and greens, lush tropical slopes, and white sandy beaches. Passengers will have the opportunity to spend the day at the beach, snorkeling in the turquoise waters and enjoying a picnic lunch. For those wishing to further explore the island, additional excursions (including an island tour, swimming with the sharks/rays and helicopter tour) will be available at an additional cost.


Day 13: Morning arrival in Papeete, Tahiti

We bid a fond farewell to our new friends and the Aranui 5 upon arrival in Papeete, Tahiti.

Please note: For each voyage, our exact route and program may vary according to weather conditions. The time given for visits ashore is the schedule set by the cargo's commander. Flexibility is the key to the most enjoyable voyage.

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