Touring Around Hiva Oa

I learned recently through a podcast that Antarctica gets four times the number of visitors as The Marquesas Islands. The Marquesas are among the least visited places in the world, and we are so happy to be among the lucky few. It’s remote and difficult to get to: it took us a month, but intrepid visitors to this archipelago are in for a treat. We recently spent a week in Hiva Oa, the second biggest island in the Marquesas. With our friends on Pelican, we rented a car and spent some time touring around Hiva Oa.

About Hiva Oa

Near one of our favorite places, Tahuata, Hiva Oa offers less fun on the water, but has its charms. It’s 124 square miles, second only to Nuku Hiva, with over 2200 people.

The main anchorage is in a snug harbor with a dock full of fishing boats and dark muddy water. Called Atuona after the nearby town, this anchorage is great for provisioning and as a base for touring Hiva Oa.

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Diving in Fakarava

Before coming to French Polynesia, we hoped to see big mantas and Pacific fish, all the marine life we couldn’t find in the Caribbean. In addition to seeing all that, we are learning what else makes diving in Fakarava so excellent.

One of the World’s Best Dive Destinations

We are very lucky scuba divers, diving in amazing places like Bonaire, Utila and The Galapagos. Our boat is equipped with all dive gear minus a compressor to fill our four tanks. We haven’t found room for one! This experience gives us the perspective to realize how incredible Fakarava diving is. We’ve been on some of our best dives ever in Fakarava.

Fakarava: A Protected Place for Diving

The Fakarava Biosphere Reserve includes seven atolls, including Fakarava. Registered with UNESCO, the reserve is a special place where biodiversity and conservation are promoted. In addition, French Polynesia has been a shark sanctuary since 2012, meaning no fishing for sharks or their fins anywhere in FP. These designations combine to make Fakarava one of the best places in the world to dive with sharks. The sheer number and diversity of sharks draws divers to Fakarava.

shark in Fakarava
We see lots of sharks diving in Fakarava
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Four Years Living on a Sailboat

This may be hard to believe, even to us, but we are commemorating four years living on a sailboat. On December 5th, 2018, Brian, Domino and I moved onboard Sava in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and now we are in French Polynesia, on the same boat!

Four years ago Sava sailboat Florida
Sava when we first saw her in Florida. She’s come a long way

High Highs and Low Lows

We’ve had some high highs and low lows living on a sailboat. I’ve learned that in nature everything is more extreme. I have felt more awe and joy on the ocean and at anchor than I ever imagined, mostly when interacting with wildlife.

This year alone we experienced noteworthy nature shows. One of the most memorable was being surrounded by hundreds of eagle rays leaping out of the water in Las Perlas, Panama.

One of the highlights of our life on Sava: watching eagle rays leap out of the water all around us in Las Perlas
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Rainy Season in French Polynesia

The rain started early this year in the South Pacific. Rainy season normally hits The Society Islands in December. This November, rainy season in French Polynesia has already begun.

About The Tuamotus

The Tuamotu Islands are a French Polynesian archipelago located south and west of The Marquesas and east of the Society Islands. A natural progression for sailors is to visit The Tuamotus after landing in The Marquesas. Since we have a year in French Polynesia, we’ve already visited this area once, before Tahiti, and now again for part of cyclone season.

Map of French Polynesia
Where in French Polynesia

The motus (islands) are basically big sandbars interspersed with strips of coral. The atolls make nearly circular shapes, surrounding water, known as the lagoon, and creating nice protected anchorages. We visit the atolls with entrances, called passes, where the water between sandbars is wide and deep enough for boats to pass. While there are almost eighty islands, we can probably enter twenty on our sailboat.

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Best Things to Do in Moorea

Moorea is a slice of paradise in French Polynesia. We were lucky to visit twice and enjoy much of the island’s adventures. I’ve covered the marine life and now I’ll focus on the best things to do on land in Moorea.

Hiking

Moorea is a small heart-shaped island northwest of Tahiti. The interior is mountainous, which means peaks to climb and lots of great hikes.

Moorea, French Polynesia
The island of Moorea

Hiking in Moorea is more accessible than in Tahiti. The trails are well marked and open to anyone without a guide, and there are many trails.

Hiking trails in Moorea
Hiking trail map in Moorea
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