Visit the South Seas and you will experience a rich culture, mouthwatering cuisine and a thriving marine ecosystem. The landscapes of Tahiti and French Polynesia make it perfect for outdoor recreation exploring the islands’ volcanic mountains and surrounding tropical sea, while local culture boasts opportunities to learn more about song and dance, history and legends, handicrafts, tattoos, pearls and so much more. The best way to learn about what makes Tahiti so extraordinary is to experience it yourself, and there’s no better way to do that than on board The Gauguin. Keep reading to discover three ways cruising with Paul Gauguin Cruises can introduce you to Tahiti and authentic Polynesia.
Witness local culture
It comes as no surprise that water plays a major role in Polynesian culture. During the great migration, the warrior-explorers who traversed the vast waters of ancient Polynesia used one key piece of equipment, the va’a. Light, flexible, and strong, these outrigger canoes easily sailed over the waves and carried settlers to their next remote island destination. Considered a national sport today, a major outrigger canoe race called Hawaiki Nui Va’a takes place every August. The three-day competition leaves Huahine for Raiatea, then on to Taha’a, and finishes in Bora Bora. You’ll likely see islanders in training as they maneuver their va’a in the wake of the ship’s tender transiting between The Gauguin in many ports.
If you want to experience another significant element of Polynesian culture, there is nothing more authentic to the Islands than the festival of the Heiva. It’s a big deal, and excitement will build with every incendiary flick of the hips that send grass skirts flying. Every July, thousands of singers, dancers, and athletes descend on the island of Tahiti to compete in a fierce inter-island competition for best-in-class status in their field. There’s no better place to see the beauty of Polynesia as it is expressed through the art, dance, music, and sports of the sixty-five inhabited islands of Oceania.
Get in the water
Visit the South Seas and you will experience one of the richest, most colorful marine ecosystems in the world. Whether you glide above in a kayak or on a paddleboard, float the surface with snorkel and fins, or don a SCUBA tank to explore the depths below—your life will be forever touched by what you see. If the world of surfing is something you’re fascinated with, then Teahupo’o, a village on the island of Tahiti Iti, legendary for its surf break and host to a share of famous surfing competitions is a must-do experience.
Divers shouldn’t miss the second largest atoll in French Polynesia at Fakarava Lagoon, ranked as one of the world’s top diving locations. Drift through the Garuae Pass where the Pacific Ocean meets the brackish waters of the interior lagoon. Here you’ll enjoy the company of manta rays, hammerheads, and schools of tropical fish. An estimated two million species of marine life live among the world’s coral reefs, and in 2006, UNESCO deemed Fakarava a Biosphere Reserve. Put on a snorkel mask for the opportunity to see rare, protected and endemic species of flora and fauna.
Become immersed in the destination
As you set sail in the South Seas on The Gauguin, Paul Gauguin Cruises’ own troupe of Tahitian hosts and entertainers known as Les Gauguins and Les Gauguines are there to share the ancestral arts of their people through dance, song and cultural activities. Paul Gauguin Cruises offers a voyage steeped in Polynesian culture, and one night on board is specially designated as “Polynesian Night.” Local Mamas and Papas come aboard to play music and weave heis, leis and umuhei (corsages) made from piles of fresh tropical flowers. The restaurants are adorned with celebratory decorations and the menus feature Polynesia’s most revered dishes. Guests are encouraged to dress as the locals do — in pareos! It is often cited as a favorite event aboard The Gauguin.
– By Dayna Engberg