Tahiti - November 2003

When we heard about an Air Tahiti Nui special to spend a week in Tahiti / Bora Bora for $999 (including all flights, transfers and hotels), we couldn't pass it up. Typically the airfare from the US to Tahiti itself runs over $900 and flights to the other island cost hundreds more. Moreover, all of the hotels in Bora Bora are quite expensive. Tahiti / French Polynesia consists of 118 islands; its capital is Papeete which is home to about 25,000 people (several times more if the surrounding communities are included). It is situated in the South Pacific, at a little over 17 degrees south of the equator. It takes about 9 hours from LAX, but even in coach class the flight on Air Tahiti was quite pleasant.
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We arrived in the evening, after the last flight to Bora Bora, so we spent the first night at the Papeete Beachcomber Inter-Continental resort, a first-class property close to the airport. In the morning, these are sights we saw from our balcony - obviously, we'd arrived in paradise.
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We didn't spend much time in the capital, soon it was time to fly to our real destination - Bora Bora. Here is what most of the islands look like from the air - notice that the island is surrounded by a natural barrier that keeps the big ocean waves out.

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After landing briefly in Moorea and Huahine, the puddle jumper finally flew to Bora Bora. The fact that every time a plane lands or takes off there the local fire truck follows it onto the runway was cause for concern among some fellow travellers.

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The Bora Bora airport is not exactly a big one - the structure in the following picture is all there is.

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What's cool is that the airport is on a small island (these are called "motu") so the shuttle service to/from the airport runs over the water.

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After getting off the shuttle boat we were taken by van to our resort, Le Maitai Polynesia, our home for the next 5 days. The service was great (and, according to some participants, often nice to look at).

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The peaks in the center of the island rise to an elevation of almost 3,000 feet.

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We didn't waste any time and rented bycicles to ride around the perimeter of the island.
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Here is one of the little beaches that belong to the resort we were staying at. On the right side you can see a few of the over-water bungallows that are popular in Tahiti - these cost a lot more money but they are supposed to be really nice; of course, for $999 total trip cost we didn't get to experience what these are like, maybe next time!

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One (possibly the only) bad thing about French Polynesia is that everything is very expensive. No, make that insanely expensive. The contrast between the apparent poverty of all the locals and the prices of everything is truly astonishing. To give an example, an "American breakfast" in our hotel was $20 per person and this seemed entirely normal compared to all the other dining establishments. One time we made the mistake of asking for water at lunch and we were charged $4 for a bottle. They do have wonderful bread at the local convenience store, though, so if you don't mind improvising a bit you can save a lot of dough!

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We spent the 5 days in Bora Bora mostly lounging on the beach reading books, swimming and snorkeling, kayaking, and other mindless activities. All too soon it was time to head for the airport on the water shuttle again.

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After arriving in Papeete from Bora Bora we had several hours to walk around downtown and, for the last time, have an insanely expensive dinner. You probably can't see the outrageous prices on the menu that Peter is pointing at in the following picture; suffice to say that two small tapas and two beers at the little sidewalk cafe cost about $50.

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Everyone seems to agree - if you go to Tahiti and have an opportunity to book an "all inclusive" package it'll save you a lot of money, highly recommended! It's definitely the way we'll go next time we come to Tahiti.


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