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Moorea, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Tahiti's heart-shaped sister island Moorea is located only 9 miles (14.5 kilometres) across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti. Although Bora Bora and Tahiti are destinations most prominently advertised, it is Moorea, the ‘Magical Island’, that is the best-kept secret of this trio of famous islands in French Polynesia. In fact, Moorea has often been likened to James Michener’s mythological island of Bali Hai, and it is easy to see why. Picture-perfect lagoons and gleaming white beaches are surrounded by jagged mountains and volcanic spires. Moorea’s six mountains include Mount Rotui, which offers spectacular views of Opunohu Bay and the island from its summit.
Among the first European visitors to Moorea was botanist Joseph Banks and some sailors sent ashore by Captain Cook, who anchored in Opunohu Bay for a week in 1777.
Moorea has a special place in the history of Christianity. In 1812, after 15 years of efforts, missionaries finally managed to convert Pomare II, Tahiti’s second king. Three years later, high priest Patii publicly accepted Protestantism and burned the old heathen idols at Papetoai, where the octagonal church stands today. Shortly thereafter, the entire population converted to Christianity and the sacred marae, an ancient, open-air temple, was abandoned.
Often called the ‘Garden Island’, Moorea’s valleys are unusually fertile due to the tropical climate and rich, volcanic soil. Large fruit and vegetable farms make Moorea a veritable Garden of Eden. Cotton and coconut plantations were created in the 19th century, followed by vanilla and coffee. During the 20th century, the advent of the travel industry elevated Moorea’s status to more than just a beautiful backdrop for Tahiti.
From the main town of Vaiare, a circle-island road follows the coast past historic Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay. Offshoot roads lead into the Opunohu Valley and the Belvedere Lookout point. The major resort areas are situated along the island’s northern and western coasts. The green, mountainous interior is dotted with fares, or old-style houses featuring traditional pandanus roofs.
The ship is scheduled to anchor off Moorea. Guests will be taken ashore via ship's tender to either the pier at Oponuhu or Cook’s Bay. The small villages of Papetoai and Maharepa (if the ship is in Cook’s Bay) are within walking distance. Taxis are generally available for trips around the island. Be sure to agree on the fare before leaving the pier.
(Tahitian wrap-around sarongs), black pearl jewellery, and woodcarvings are popular mementoes of your visit, as are t-shirts and local handicrafts. The local currency is the Pacific Franc (XPF) but euros and U.S. dollars are generally accepted.
A selection of restaurants offers a variety of cuisine ranging from French to Tahitian and Chinese. Several snack bars offer light and less-expensive meals.
Other SitesSt. Joseph’s Catholic Church
Located on the west side of Cook’s Bay, the church contains an altar inlaid with Mother of Pearl, and an interesting painting portraying a Polynesian holy family by Swedish artist Pierre Heyman.
The octagonal church at Papetoai was constructed in 1822 with stones from the ancient Tahitian temples that originally occupied the site. Though rebuilt several times, the church is considered to be the oldest European building still in use in the South Pacific.
A collection of open-air temples, or maraes
, can be found in the northern part of Moorea. Some of them have been restored, while others are just piles of stones.
Silver Shore Privato
is unavailable in Moorea, due to the very limited number of qualified guides and suitable vehicles. Guests wishing to consider any private arrangements should enquire at Concierge@silversea.com for any availability, if even possible, and price.