The islands of Raiatea and Taha’a were probably close to being joined together a long time ago. They share the same barrier reef around the perimeter of both islands and are only a couple hours apart by sailboat. From the air, they look a little like an hour-glass, with the reef tapering in on both sides at the middle.

Sailing into Raiatea, there was a “wind event” expected for the island, so we wanted to get into a protected area as soon as possible as we were coming from Huahine. We went to the Apooiti Marina in Raiatea, which had a mooring for us, just outside the marina docks. We were a little worried because the mooring area is bordered by reefs and shallow areas that would be bad to drag toward, but we moored-up anyway.

On our first night on the mooring, the winds were gusting in the 30 kn range. Around 9:00 PM, Brent was poking his head up, out of the companionway to see how things were looking and he saw our neighbor, a 51 ft Outremer catamaran drifting past us sideways. The owners were inside watching TV and had no idea they were adrift. I whistled my loudest farm girl whistle and got their attention, just before they smacked into another catamaran on a mooring adjacent to us! Other neighbors with dinghys in the water, went over to help pull them off the other boat. They escaped with only 1 puncture hole, which was well above the waterline. It was a pretty lucky ending to what could have been a very different story. They could have hit a number of reefs and sunk their boat just outside the mooring area. Disaster averted!

The next day, we toured downtown Uturoa on our bikes in the rain. We rode enough to get the feel for the town and to check out the suburbs. Uturoa used to be the place the Moorings charter boats provisioned. There are a couple other charter companies in the area, but Moorings is no longer located here. The buildings are a bit tired and run-down looking. It’s not the thriving, shiny town it may have once been. I’m sure covid took a big toll here, just like so many other tourist destinations…but they do have operating phone booths just like all of French Polynesia. 

We rented a car to tour the island, since rain was supposed to hang around for awhile. Our driving tour took us across the island, to Taputapuatea, a World Heritage site. It is home to the largest marae ruins and the historic cultural center of French Polynesia. The rain cooperated with us and we had a lovely stroll through and around the large site, which is situated right next to the ocean. It was easy to see why ancient Polynesians were attracted to this place and made it the focal point of their civilization. I loved that the map of ancient Polynesia was in the shape of a mythical octopus named Tuma-Ra’i-Fenua, and Raiatea was her head in the center of the universe. 

We also visited the botanical garden, which was really impressive, even though it was raining again while walking through it. There was a grove of ancient Chestnut trees that had a raised, wooden walkway through it. It was magical in the rain.

The only big hike we did, was the Three Waterfalls Hike, which was not recommended unless you do it with a guide because the trail can be very hard to find. We didn’t have a guide and we could see why it would have been better to have one. After struggling to stay on the trail, we came to the 2nd waterfall. There was a family coming down from the 3rd waterfall. And although they highly recommended that we go up to #3, we decided to trail them back with their guide, so we could see where to go. It’s also dangerous to hike the 3 Falls when it’s raining because of flash floods. It had started raining, so we erred on the side of caution and started back down. The trail was super muddy due to all the rain, so if you do this hike, wear old hiking shoes that you don’t mind wrecking. This was a beautiful, meandering, lush hike that we would do again if it wasn’t raining.

We signed up for a dive with the dive company that’s located right at the marina called Hemisphere Sub Plongée. They took us out beyond the reef on the West side near Miri Miri Pass, to a site called Napoleons of Miri Miri and the Roses. It had everything you’d want to see on a dive, plus good visibility. We saw some unique fish, a turtle, black tip reef sharks, red-toothed triggerfish, soldier fish, squirrel fish and weird, fringed sea cucumbers, as well as healthy coral and 1 large Napoleon wrasse. It was a great dive!

After 5 days, we were ready to transition over to Taha’a for a change of scenery. We were anxious to go snorkeling in the Coral Gardens, which is touted as the best snorkeling spot around. We anchored for a few days near the Coral Gardens in crystal clear water and dingy’d over to check them out. Typically, there is a current that runs through the area, making it a drift snorkel. For some reason, there was no current on our 1st day – lucky us! We could linger anywhere we wanted to, without being sucked through. We saw 2 of the biggest eels we’ve ever seen snorkeling. To have one swim out casually from a rock, right next to my right knee freaked me out! I was back-pedaling, trying to get away while still videoing him. He was about 6 ft long and the other we saw later was about the same size. They were terrorizing all the snorkelers 😂. We snorkeled for a 2nd day and it was truly some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done. On the third day, it rained again. Hard. We’re finding that nothing is done in moderation here. 

We moved again to another anchorage on the mainland called Tapuamu, across from the Coral Gardens. We took our bikes ashore and visited the 2 distilleries, which was fun – Mana’o and Pari Pari. They both had various rums. We bought a bottle of our favorite, but the surprising thing was they also sold good beer. Some of the only IPA’s we had seen in a long time. We bought some of those too. For lunch, we had some pretty decent chow main and poisson cru down the road at Snack Matahina.

We were expecting a really bad storm in a couple days and Taha’a has a hurricane hole on the East side called Haamene Bay that we wanted to check out. We motored over there and found the protection of the deeply recessed inlet to be pretty reassuring.  We picked out a spot to anchor and we were the only boat in the hole. Pretty soon, more boats started funneling in. They had the same idea we did, but we got first pick of locations.

Moving to Haamene Bay proved to be very wise, as the storm that ensued was horrendous. The amount of water that poured from the heavens was almost unbelievable. Our beautiful, turquoise bay turned to chocolate milk and massive amounts of organic debris littered the water. Tree trunks were the most hazardous, but lots of smaller branches and coconuts floated by too. The storm and accompanying winds raged for 3 days and we were very glad when it subsided. It seemed like half the island’s soil must have run-off into the sea. Hurricane holes are good to have!

We had some cruiser buddies – Randy and Shellie on Moondance join us. We took our dinghies over to a French restaurant, reported as being the best restaurant on the island called MaiTai, (not a very French name). It was Randy’s birthday, so we helped him celebrate and had a great time. We got pretty wet on the way back to the boats, but that’s kind of the story of our new life on the water. 

Another fun thing we did with Randy and Shellie, was to take our bikes ashore and ride all around the island. We managed to get a 23 mile ride in. Those two have regular mountain bikes, with normal sized tires, which have a little advantage over our tiny folding bike’s wheels. My bike suffered a broken spoke and rear hub failure at the end of the ride, which side-lined me from any more riding. I was very sad because I love riding my bike and we had no idea where we’d be able to get it fixed.

Taha’a was a surprisingly cool, scenic, little island. Like Huahine, we didn’t know what to expect, but we were impressed and would definitely like to return.

Next stop Bora Bora!

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