Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tahitian Honeymoon

Trip Date: December 2011 - January 2012

Christine and I wanted to go someplace special for our honeymoon.  Someplace that we wouldn't go for a just regular warm vacation.  Someplace a little out of the ordinary and that we likely wouldn't return to for a very long time, if ever!  After a lot of research we settled on Tahiti.  

French Polynesia                                                Society Islands

 Tahiti                                                                  Moorea

Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia, which is located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean.  French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic.  Tahiti is the most populous island in French Polynesia and is also the seat of the capital of the territory, Pape'ete.  Tahiti has a population of just over 178,000 people, while Pape'ete has roughly 26,000.  We would be spending the first part of our honeymoon on the island of Moorea, which is about 17km northwest of Tahiti.  It is part of the same group of islands as Tahiti, but it is a lot smaller in both area and population.  It only has about 16,000 inhabitants on the entire island.  

French Polynesia in the South Pacific
The Society Islands
Moorea and Tahiti
Before I get ahead of myself I better start at the beginning of the trip.  we had a one-day layover in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles is the most populous city in California and the second most in the United States, after New York.  The city has a population of 3.8 million people, but it's metropolitan area has 12.8 million people.  We would only be in L.A. for one night and one day, so we planned on seeing as much as possible before catching our red eye flight to Tahiti.  We rented a car and just started driving.  Here's a few photos from our quick visit to the City of Angels.

We stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey
The pool we didn't use!
Downtown Los Angeles
Staples Center.  Home of the NBA's Lakers and Clippers and the NHL's Kings
Capitol Records Tower
Hollywood Boulevard
The Governator's Star
Marilyn Monroe
Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Denzel Washington
R2D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader from Star Wars
Entering the 90210 zip code and everything just got a lot more expensive!
Santa Monica Pier
Christine standing on the pier at sunset
Driving through Venice on our way to the airport
We made it to LAX.  Now it's time for a long flight over the ocean.
After a fun-filled time in Los Angeles we were officially on our way to Tahiti.  We would be flying through the night, landing in Tahiti in the morning, and then catching another short flight over to Moorea.  The first half of our honeymoon would be spent on this island paradise.  

The island of Moorea as viewed from the plane
In a taxi on our way to the resort
Beautiful scenery along the way
I use the term "resort" lightly when talking about where we stayed in Moorea.  It was a series of small beach huts on a very private beach.  There couldn't have been more than six or seven huts in total.  There was hardly anybody else staying there, so it was almost like we had the place to ourselves.  This was our beach hut.
The private dock
Our resort as viewed from the end of the dock
The beach
This slug was the first wildlife we encountered
We snorkeled everyday we were there and occasionally multiple times per day.  You would see something different almost every time you got in the water!  Above are a couple of Sea Urchins.
Scissor-Tail Sergeant
Pennant Bannerfish
This is a school of Yellowfin Goatfish and Blue-Green Chromis

Chris on the dock
Doing a little kayaking
Moorea as viewed from the kayak
Bullethead Parrotfish
Tropical fish
Raccoon Butteflyfish
Every evening the owner of the hotel would come out with a bucket of food scraps and start pounding his foot on the end of the dock.  After a brief wait these two Nurse Sharks would appear and eat all the scraps of food.  We never saw the sharks while we were snorkelling, but they were there every evening, right on cue!
Sometimes this Black-Tipped Shark would make an appearance at the feeding

Beautiful sunset
This tree in front of our hut was decorated for Christmas
Enjoying my Birthmas dinner out on our deck
Back in the ocean again!
White-Banded Triggerfish
Most of the fish in this video are Three-Spot Dascyllus

Christine standing on the dock
We decided to rent a car and take a day-trip around the island.  The InterContinental Resort had a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.  This was an adult Sea Turtle they had in captivity there.
There was also a few babies swimming around in the same pool
A stone Tiki we saw along the way
This is Marae Tetiiroa.  A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and/or social purposes in Polynesian cultures.  Most are in a rectangular shape on cleared land and bordered by stones or wooden posts.  
This Rooster was hunting for food just outside the marae
This would have been cleared of the trees, but it is now overgrown.  Archeological evidence shows that this marae was occupied since the end of the 16th century.
The stones are covered in moss
Particularly in Tahiti, marae were dedicated to specific deities.  In other parts of Tahiti, human bones have been discovered while restoring marae.  It is possible that they were the remains of sacrifices to the Polynesian god 'Oro, who is revered in Tahiti.  During the restoration process of this particular marae, two incomplete human skeletons were discovered in one of the corners.  It is unknown how or why they died.
Marae Ahu o Mahine is located a short walk from Marae Tetiiroa
This one had a great view of the mountains.  It is believed this was one of the last marae constructed in the Opunohu Valley and it dates back to the 18th century.
Marae Afare'aito.  It is thought that this marae was constructed after a famous battle.  The name actually means "Warrior's House".  This marae was also found to be located between two archery platforms.
A mother Hen and her chick
Belvedere Lookout with Mt. Rotui in the centre and Cook's Bay (right) and Opunohu Bay (left)
Christine taking in the scenery
Christine and I
Our last stop of the day was at Temae Beach
The beach and some ominous looking clouds overhead
Back at the resort, the owner came around with fresh coconuts
Another great sunset
After we chose Tahiti for our honeymoon we made it priority number one to get our open-water SCUBA certification.  Tahiti, and the surrounding islands, are world-famous dive sites and some of the last remaining places where diving with sharks isn't a rare occurrence.  We did all of our classroom and pool work in Calgary.  All we had left to do was our four open-water dives, which we planned to do while on our honeymoon.  Once we had checked into our resort we decided to set-up our dives with Moorea Fun Dive, which wasn't too far away.  Dive Master Greg was phenomenal!  Since Christine and I had never dove before he took extra special care of us, while teaching us everything we needed to know to be safe and have an amazing time.  It's pretty safe to say that diving in Tahiti has ruined SCUBA diving for us!  I'm not sure we'll ever be able to duplicate that experience again.  We encountered two species of sharks during out dives.  The Black-Tipped Sharks were between three and five feet long, while the Lemon Sharks were between nine and eleven feet in length.  Here are a collection of my favourite videos from our dives.  There's nine in total, but they're all pretty short clips.  Once again, I am sorry for the clarity and blue-green colour, but this was the first time using my GoPro Hero 2 camera and I wasn't aware I needed the flat-lens dive housing and tropical water filter for better colour and clarity!  This is one of the coolest things I've ever experienced!

Watch closely and you'll see two Black-Tipped Sharks at the beginning of the clip and a Lemon Shark later on

Another Lemon Shark followed by a Black-Tip

Another Black-Tip.  The smaller fish swimming around are Paddletail Snapper

As you can tell the Black-Tipped Sharks were quite plentiful

Here's a short clip of Christine diving

Probably the best clip I have of a big Lemon Shark

A few more Black-Tips.  They could've cared less that we were down there.

Seeing this Sea Turtle was Christine's favourite part.  This was the second one we spotted.

The Raccoon Butterflyfish at the end of this clip are looking for food, that's why they go swimming off to find Dive Master Greg who had some for them

After a great few days in Moorea it was time to board a ferry and head over to the island of Tahiti.  Our resort was outside of the capital city of Pape'ete and was much larger than our accommodations on Moorea.  We splurged a little at this hotel and opted for one of the over-water bungalows that are famous in this part of the world.  Although larger, we expected more of a nightlife at this resort, which sadly wasn't the case.  It seemed as if everything shut down shortly after dark and there's wasn't a soul to be seen.  Regardless, we still had an excellent time on the second half of our honeymoon.

Le Meridien Resort
The sand bottom pool
Our over-water bungalow
They had champagne waiting for us in the room
This Zebra Dove landed on our deck.  I think he was looking for handouts.
The snorkelling in Tahiti was even better than in Moorea because there was a much larger reef system.  These are Threadfin Butterflyfish.

Humbug Dascyllus

Orangespine Unicornfish
Moorish Idol
This Orange-Lined Triggerfish did not like the fact that I was following it!

We noticed this Spotted Eagle Ray swimming around our bungalow one evening
We took a day-trip into Pape'ete.  This is the Presidential Palace.
It was fully decorated for the Christmas season, complete with Santa Claus wearing sunglasses!
This stone Tiki was in the palace garden
We stopped in at the Municipal Market, where they were selling everything from fish, to flowers, to food, to souvenirs
Looking down at the market from the second floor
Cathedral of Notre Dame of Pape'ete
Enjoying an ice cold Hinano Beer in downtown Pape'ete
This Tiki was close to the harbour
Orange-Lined Triggerfish
In this clip there's Threadfin Butterflyfish, Orangespine Unicornfish, and an Orange-Line Triggerfish that doesn't like having me around!

Spotted Boxfish
I found this little Starfish on the sandy bottom

The over-water bungalows with Moorea in the background
The silhouette of our bungalow
We spotted this Stingray swimming along the bottom near our bungalow
Enjoying our last snorkelling expedition of the trip
A really neat shell we found
Diving down for another shell
This one was quite large, but we couldn't keep it as there was a critter living inside
We ran into this Titan Triggerfish by accident.  I'm glad he wasn't aggressive because he was huge!

A large school of Convict Surgeonfish

The bungalows
An Agave plant on the shore
This Black Noddy landed on our railing
A beautiful Tahitian sunset
We had a wonderful honeymoon.  We're both hoping that there'll be a "next time" when it comes to visiting again!

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