Dear reader, what I will share with you here is HUGE! I just spent 2 days in Moorea so extraordinary that, as usual, I will not be stingy in descriptions, words and pictures.
If you are also going around the world, don’t hesitate to stop over in French Polynesia, even if it’s expensive, it’s so worth it.
Part 1: Travel Diaries
Day 1 :
From Papeete, we take an early morning ferry to Moorea. In 40 minutes of extremely pleasant journey (where I slept), we arrive at the ferry station of Moorea, where a 4×4 is waiting for us for a 4h excursion.
Tom, the guide, welcomes us warmly and offers to drop off our luggage at the company office. Contrary to the photo on their official website, where the travelers are standing, in the sun – the 4×4 that we take has 2 benches and enough to protect us from the sun, which makes the excursion very pleasant. We are only 6.
We stop at a few points of view, all more magnificent one after the other. We also visited the agricultural high school, where fresh pineapple juice is to die for (Moorea pineapples are considered the best in the world). The medium glass at 300CFP is generously served (enough for 2).
All these stops are accessible if you have a car, but we have also made 2 more stops accessible only by 4×4 or quad :
The first being the pineapple plantation. The guide served us on the field a ripe pineapple (the one on the picture), so sweet and so delicious that we won’t forget it anytime soon.
He also showed us how to heal a wound with the banana flower.
The second stop accessible only by 4×4 is a viewpoint called “magic mountain”. The name is well deserved since we have an extraordinary view of the lagoons, and the bungalows of 2 5 star hotels.
The daughter of the guide follows us during all this time, she is 5 years old and she is so cute. She calls us “clients”, “clients, we have to go higher, the magic mountain is here”, “come on, clients” 😀
A whale at sea
And she’s right! As I’m leaving, I notice a huge jet of water in the distance and show it to everyone. It is, yes…a whale!!!! What luck! Even without binoculars we can guess its tail. The jet of water is so huge that it must be jumping, during about fifteen minutes (note: the whale breathes in a very discreet way, we saw it in South Africa, at 5m, we just see a small jet of water). I will learn later that the whale season ended 15 days ago, the whale we see here has to give birth later than the others and it is surely accompanied by a baby.
It is with great emotion that we finish the tour. The 4×4 drops us off directly at our hotel Les Tipaniers (link booking), the luggage being already transported to the hotel by another car.
We go immediately to the water’s edge to discover a superb white sand beach, with lots of corals, small fish and a superb pier. There is nevertheless some traffic in front of the beach, since we aren’t far from 3 islets (motu in Tahitian) and not far from the observation point of rays and sharks. It’s Saturday: a lot of people are squatting on the beach of our hotel. Eh yes, it is so well located and moreover the two restaurants of the hotel are superb.
While waiting to swim, we borrow the bicycles of the hotel to go to the mini “shopping center”, 1km away to do the shopping. Apart from the shopping brought back from Papeete (cheaper), we will feed ourselves with water (tap water isn’t drinkable here) and eggs, to save some money.
One borrows the Polynesian pirogue from the hotel for a ride. It is so badly made that with each passage of a boat, one finds oneself in water. We abandon it quickly to make snorkelling. JB is, once again, attacked by a small “picasso” fish which has like a Zorro mask on its head; while I pursue, with water up to the calf, the small transparent fish with a yellow fluo tail. Life is too hard!
We stop by to see the hotel’s water activities office. I transcribe here the conversation:
(guide): if you want, there is an outing tomorrow at 1pm to swim with rays and sharks
(me) : ouhlala, swimming with the sharks? Isn’t it risky?
(guide): if we propose it, it’s safe
(me): can we stay on the boat and decide at the last minute to swim or not with the sharks?
(guide): there are many like you, they all ended up in the water and loved it
(me) : the problem is that I have my period
(guide): are you a fish or are you not a fish? Sharks eat fish, “teeth of the sea” is cinema.
Appointment made for 1pm the next day.
Day 2 :
We take a strong breakfast to prepare us for this day full of emotions. I can tell you that for Moorea, I did a good job of planning. Not only is the hotel next to the shark observation point, but it is also 1km away from the Intercontinental, where there are bungalows with feet in the water and where we can swim with dolphins.
We take the bicycles of the hotel and we park on the parking lot of the Intercontinental, quiet. We enter there like in a mill. I do not like to squat like that without giving anything, then we settle down all the same at the bar near the swimming pool, to order two sodas at 500CFP each one. It is also the occasion to compare the beach of Intercontinental with that of our hotel and to observe the overflowing swimming pool with jealousy. From 300€/night, Intercontinental guests are entitled to a well-cleaned beach, with very few corals, an infinity pool, a dolphin center, a sea turtle center. For 600€/night, they are entitled to a bungalow on stilts, where there is a small ladder to go up directly after a dive in the ocean. JALOUSIE mode on!
We go to the dolphin center, following the arrows. We see 3 “bottle nose dolphins”, huge, in an enclosure. For 150€ we can go down in the water with them, we will just watch them from the deck. Not very far, there is another enclosure for sick turtles waiting to be treated before being released to the sea. There is one, so huge that we thought it was a rock.
That’s the end of the squatting of the Intercontinental.
Back to the Tipaniers, we go swimming directly with rays and dolphins. We are only 3 on the boat, luxury! The boss, Francis, drops us on a sandbank and shows us 5 rocks. It is when these rocks start to move that we realize that they are rays. In the middle of the explanations on the maritime life, a shadow passes: a shark! We thought that we had to change place to go to see the sharks, but no, they come to see us too. In my head, it’s chaos: how am I going to manage both rays and sharks?
Francis goes down first. Okay, as long as he’s in the water, I can consider myself safe. The water isn’t very deep (about 1m50), for the big ones, it reaches their chest, but I don’t have any feet and I start to panic.
The stingrays come up on Francis’ shoulders in a very friendly way, he caresses them on the head and feeds a few. Some stingrays come to caress me too, they are too adorable !!!
Meanwhile, more and more sharks surround us.
I will lie to you and tell you that I am serene. By the way, the video taken with the Go Pro shows my panic movements, where I lose my snorkel, look around and grab JB. By the way, all the pictures come from screenshots of the videos.
All this stress is useless because sharks are very shy. They come to see us because they are curious. And contrary to the movies, there is only one time when I see them swimming with their fins out of the water. Most of the time, they are near the sand or floating in the water. At one point, hypnotized by the beauty of the spectacle, I forget my fear and start swimming alone towards the sharks. Francis is right, when we go towards them, they run away.
When suddenly, I notice a shark running towards me (he must be short-sighted). We are both afraid of each other, the shark changes direction, I chase another shark.
When Francis gets back in the boat, the stingrays understand that there isn’thing left to eat. They leave. The sharks don’t have any more rays to “protect” them, they leave too. JB will spend 15 minutes “running” behind them. It is at the moment when we all get back in the boat that they dare to come back. As what, they are curious but fearful beings. Seen from the boat, the sharks seem to be enormous, but when we observe them underwater, they are very small, 1m50 of length maximum.
This little boat trip has completely changed my opinion about sharks. I am the living proof that they do not eat humans. I swam with the sharks while I had my period…Do I need more concrete proof than that to convince you to swim with them? It’s true that they detect blood miles away, but I learned that it’s a faculty given to all fish. It’s like when you detect the bakery a few meters away.
It reminds me too much of this NatGeo picture taken by a drone. We were really like that (without the fins)
We will spend the whole afternoon under the coconut trees, at the bar or feet in the sand and have dinner at the hotel restaurant. The “raw fish à la tahitienne” is a delight! So fresh and so good! To try absolutely.
We leave tomorrow, with stars in our eyes.
Part 2: Practical Tips
- I advise you to do exactly as we do. The program has been calculated to make the most of our time in Moorea. Indeed, as everything is expensive on this paradise island, it is important to make the most of the ferry tickets, the pension, the transfer to the hotel etc… You can see that we enjoyed every minute on this island at the lowest cost.
- The 4×4 raid excursion doesn’t last very long (3h30) but it corresponds exactly to the check-in time at the hotel, and especially the excursion bus drops us there for free (small saving of 22€ anyway – normally the ferry-hotel transfer is paying, eh yes).
- The not negligible advantage when you are in a hotel like Les Tipaniers is the proximity of the feeding ray spot. We can take a 4000CFP tour just to swim with the sharks (instead of the 7000CFP tours including the visit of the bay of je-ne-sais-quoi). Then, if you are good at boating, you can even rent a boat without a license (5500CFP/h), go behind a boat that has just fed the rays (around 15h45), and swim with them as long as you want.
- Round trip boat : 3000XPF/person or 25€/person
- Excursion Island Tour Raid 4×4 : 4500XPF/person or 35€/person
- Swimming with rays and sharks from the hotel les Tipaniers : 4000XFP/person or 35€/person
- Transfer from the train station to the hotel : 1400XPF/person or 11€ – otherwise it’s 4500XPF/taxi for 4 people maxi
- Hotel : Les Tipaniers : 17100XPF/day the bungalow side garden with kitchen for two is 143€/day
- Restaurant: 6500XPF/meal for two, delicious, generous quantity, always at Les Tipaniers