Tahiti – exploring the east coast

We’ve made a new temporary home near the local Tahiti yacht club as the boys are going to join the dinghy sailing week of fun. We soon went exploring, keen to see our new surroundings. The east coast did not disappoint.

From Venus point, where Cook arrived, to Fa’aruma’i (three cascades) waterfalls and Belvedere lookout there were stunning views and sights to see.

The rugged northern coast gets a battering of waves and surfers were clearly enjoying the breaks. How they avoid the coral and rocks I have no idea! On the black sand beach past Venus point the Saturday crowd of kite boarders were in full force enjoying the windy conditions.

We had a hilarious stop at Arahoho ‘roaring road’ where whilst searching for the infamous blow hole we got blasted with sea water sending hats and children scurrying!

Wait for it…poor Felix!

A great day and welcome to Tahiti.

Moorea highlights

Known as Tahiti’s little sister, the island of Moorea is breathtakingly beautiful and a must-visit on any trip to French Polynesia.

With gorgeous white beaches, stunning verdant mountains, crystal clear aquamarine water teaming with fish and historical marea and tikis – there is oodles to do and our two months here have disappeared in light speed.

Words and pictures can barely capture everything we’ve done here and I couldn’t recommend the place highly enough (our adventures on Moorea have been captured on our Instagram account #sailingkathryndelfuego)

We’ve been invited into the kindness of people’s homes and lives, made great friends, eaten the wonderful varied fruit from the fertile island and relaxed and swum in the glorious sunshine and seas.

The boys have enjoyed civilisation (zip lining through the trees and ready access to ice-cream 😂) and have loved their time in the local school making friends quickly and learning French.

The half day system has allowed us to still hike and explore everything the island has to offer.

Even the daily views from our rented house kept us in awe.

Fond memories for a lifetime, whilst we prepare for our lives back in the UK…It’s no wonder why our friends are asking if we really want to go back! 😳

Last photos of Moorea!

The final lift

Our lift home

The day finally dawned when our shipping transporter arrived in Tahiti and our time for loading and saying goodbye to our yacht was very close. Continued COVID related delays meant we had been expecting and patiently waiting for the ship since mid-April, it was now mid-June…

We were ready (back stay removed and everything tied down to avoid the crane lifting strops) and waiting for our 9am call on the radio to proceed. But with an 85ft catamaran being lifted ahead of us the time slippage continued. A rather patient 26 hours later we got the radio call to proceed and we quickly motored out to the massive container ship. That’s when you feel small!

We tied up alongside the enormous ship and soon it was all go. Simultaneously the most exciting and terrifying time possible.

No one is allowed to remain onboard whilst lifting and with the agent’s promised water taxi nowhere in sight, we all had to climb up a rope ladder running down the side of the massive container ship.

It was slightly terrifying to watch your seven year old son inch his way up it. We all made it and soon we were clamouring on deck trying to find a safe place to stand whilst the lifting took place above us.

The yachts are all lifted and placed on the deck within inches of each other and strapped down for their journey home.

Lifting onto a moving boat with kids around to watch!
Terrifying to watch unless you are aged 7!

A cradle is welded onto the deck to hold them. The whole process took several hours and then we had to find our way off the container ship and through the container terminal to get back to Papeete, not quite as simple as it sounds on foot. It was quite a day.

Time to treat the boys for an ice cream and then jump on the ferry back to peace and tranquillity of Moorea.

Arriving back in Moorea
Back in our new land home

Rotui juice factory and Afareaitu waterfalls

Chopping pineapples

If you are going to see how they grow fruit in Moorea you might as well see where they make the juice too, especially as they have a distillery. Did you know you can get pineapple wine and Moorea’s own version of Malibu with their coconuts and pineapple? Surprisingly delicious. We had great fun tasting everything on offer.

Connoisseur Hugo

The boys were fascinated watching the pineapples entering the assortment of machines and the robotics of packing the cartons. It’s more technology than we’ve seen in rather a long time…

We’ve seen the ‘Rotui’ brand of juice everywhere in French Polynesia so it’s interesting to see where it’s all made — and in such a picturesque location directly below the stunning Rotui mountain.

Rotui Mountain
Some of our yummy purchases

A day out is never complete without a hike to explore another part of the island – this time we hiked to Afareaitu falls enjoying eating tropical fruits on the way as it’s definitely passion fruit season, the aromas are amazing when you find them growing on a random vine covering a tree and mangos are abounding again – hurrah.

Found the waterfall!

Pineapple fields in Moorea

Moorea’s pineapple fields

Have you ever seen pineapples growing? It’s not exactly a common sight in the UK, but here, Moorea is known as the pineapple growing centre of French Polynesia.

The Moorea pineapples are famous for their sweet taste and their gorgeous fragrance. Walking through the pineapple fields is a great olfactory sensation.

Pineapple flower colours

We went to visit and walk through the pineapple fields, which despite the gorgeous smell is a rather painful experience if your legs get too close to the plants and their razor sharp leaves – how anyone manages to pick pineapples we have no idea.

With over six-hundred acres of farmland using the rich volcanic soil, Moorea produces the majority of Queen Tahiti pineapples. It takes between 14 to 20 months for one plant to produce one pineapple so it must be a labour of love. They can only pick them when ripe as unlike other fruit it will not become sweeter if picked when still green.

We’ve been happily buying pineapples from the roadside fruit stall holders which pop up around the island and we normally get stuck behind a flatbed truck full of pineapples on the school run, so we know how great they taste, and plentiful they are here but it’s wonderful to finally see how they grow. Everyday is a school day! 👍📚✏️

The boys start in the local Tahitian-French school in Moorea

First day outside the Headmistress’s office

After two years of doing homeschooling onboard our yacht we decided it was an opportunity for the boys to get an immersive language experience by attending the local school. All schools in French Polynesia are taught in French to the French system, a colonialist legacy. So it seems a good opportunity for them to learn French together with some Tahitian over the summer.

We visited the local school PaoPao in Moorea to look around and met the wonderful and friendly staff. It’s a very basic school but full of happy smiling local children. Our boys stood out a mile with their white blond hair and skin but were readily accepted by the other children and were soon happily playing chess in a classroom and running around playing tag – which translates into any language.

Much form filling later, a few phone calls and a visit to the local Marie and the boys were enrolled for the rest of term. All very painless and easy to do and apparently cruisers often put their kids into the school for short periods so they were welcoming to our little global sailors.

Spot our kids anyone?

School lessons start early at 7:30am which is a bit of a shock to the system – and it’s a 20 minute drive away. It’s so hot here that early mornings are part of life, by 10 a.m it’s scorching. The school has a half day on Wednesday and Friday — so it all seems fairly relaxed and we can still fit in trips and hikes to explore Moorea.

After a nervous first day and the usual comments about school food, the boys now happily run in and have quickly made friends. A couple of the teachers and a few children speak English so the transition has been made easier.

It seems to be working with Felix bringing home his work for (French?) Mother’s Day!

Felix’s work in French!

It’s bizarre (and slightly wonderful) not to be teaching them daily and to not even be together within each other’s sight 24/7! It’s very quiet! Time to sort my CV and look for a job then for our return to England. Oh and time for some of the more technical mountain hikes without little legs…

The view from Rotui peak, a six hour jungle ridge hike, not suitable for kids!

Coco beach Moorea

Coco beach

Unable to keep away from the sea we took an outrigger canoe taxi to Coco beach for the day which is on a small motu (island) inside the reef in Moorea. Even the journey there across the aquamarine waters, white sand and coral was stunning. We saw small black tip reef sharks and sting rays scuttling out the way of the outrigger.

We swam, sunned ourselves and ate a lovely meal at the restaurant and felt like real tourists rather than ‘crusty cruisers’ for a change!

It’s clearly the thing to do at the weekend, to boat over to the island and then sit in the water up to your midriff and eat and drink till it’s time to go home.

Gorgeous water and sand, the place to sit is in the water!

A great trip out and a treat not to be sat in a dinghy with a wet derrière 😂 when you arrive somewhere! (Not that it really matters in this heat or in the island culture of French Polynesia).

Dolphin Encounter

Having learnt about the dolphin research at the Moorea centre we choose to do a dolphin encounter with them as its not one of those ‘kiss or hug’ the dolphin experiences. You are literally in the water with them and learn and observe them first hand without trying to ride, pet or scare them. The water is the natural lagoon bay, so we are swimming against the current and treading water in these photos! The boys did so well.

Both Kuokoa and Hina were very curious and they got very close to us and their trainer. The boys learnt to spot their ears, name all the body parts and tell the boy and girl apart. Felix learnt some of the commands too, much to the trainers amusement. The whistle is not used to call the dolphin, merely to say ‘well-done’, that and a handful of small fish and squid!

It was a magical and memorial experience. A wonderful treat for the boys after finishing their first week at the local French/Polynesian school.

A huge thanks to the two bottle nose dolphins and their trainers who made it all possible, result – one very happy Hall family!

Hugo and Hina

Hiking the Three Coconuts trail

Opunohu valley

With such spectacular landscape in Moorea it just makes you want to hike and explore the inside of the island and discover the valleys, mountains and incredible view points.

We drove up Opunohu bay valley to the Belvedere lookout and hiked up E’a Tefeo – the three coconuts trail.

It was a great walk with a splendid path the whole way and wonderful viewpoints. We managed to eat coconuts and passion fruit which were growing along the trail too. The trees and flowers varied so much and we even went through a giant bamboo forest.

The valley is full of marae and we stopped to look at a couple of the ancient sites.

Great to stretch the legs for a good four hour hike and then to find out there are nine more hikes to do from the same starting point!

Moorea and the dolphin centre

Moorea is a stunning island with breathtaking landscape and a relaxing calmness after the hustle and bustle of Tahiti.

We soon settled into land mode and started exploring the island.

In the middle of a closed resort lies a dolphin centre which prides itself in its research and education programme. We made a school trip to visit them and learn about cetaceans.

What cetaceans are in French Polynesia?

I’ve not sat through a PowerPoint presentation in awhile but Jan gave us a fascinating history of dolpinariums and their highs and lows before letting us meet their two dolphins Kuokoa and Hina.

We all loved meeting them and watching them swim, play and feed.

Jan patiently answered all our questions and kindly looked through our various photos and videos of whales and dolphins and superpods we’ve seen on our sailing adventure and identified all the species for us.

The boys asked loads of great questions and we stayed to watch the dolphins swim for quite awhile. It was a really lovely trip and quite special being on our own there. The island is very quiet without tourists.

Watching and learning about dolphins with Jan