Let’s update this report. We’ll start with our day in Papette.
We spent a full day here; in fact, longer than a day – actually from morning until 5:00 a.m. the next morning. This allowed for a leisurely stay, with no need to rush back to the ship. Though, I still can’t understand why we stay docked until 5:00 a.m. There surely isn’t much to do here after nightfall.
A group of us started off our day with the Tahiti Lagoon Discovery snorkel excursion. This tour allowed us to combine sightseeing, with dolphin watching, with snorkeling at two separate spots. We started off with a leisurely tour over the blue waters of Tahiti. These waters are unlike any others I’ve seen in the world. The combination of rich blue and aqua green waters is truly an amazing sight. In the more shallow areas, you could see large coral reefs clearly from the surface. As we were heading out to our first snorkel spot, a large pod of dolphins began following our boat, breaking to the surface very close by. Our captain cut the engines and we simply floated there watching the dolphins all around us. Taking photos, though, is a challenge, and I discovered that the best way to do it is to simply shoot photos of the water, hoping the dolphins would break to the surface just as you pressed the shutter release. Fortunately, in this modern age of digital photography, such a technique is quite practical, since bad shots can simply be deleted or not printed.
After the dolphins had moved far out into the distance, we headed to our first snorkel spot. This spot was in deeper water, with much to see in the way of sea life. There is also an airplane submerged about ten feet down and some folks were lucky enough to be able to view this. I, unfortunately had a bit of a problem in that I did not have fins. While the excursion operator provided snorkels and masks, they did not have fins onboard the boat. Only those who had brought their own had use of them, and this left the rest of us at some disadvantage. Due to a pretty strong current at this location, it became very difficult to stay on course and the snorkel operators had to come out and “rescue” several of us who began drifting far from the boat. Were it not for them, I would have been blown clear back to the shoreline. This particular snorkel spot was close to the airport, and hence the submerged airplane. While I am sure the plane was intentionally sunk at this particular location, our guides told us that the plane had apparently missed the airport and went down in the drink. The unfortunate pilot had simply run out of gas. He also stated that when the plane went down, all occupants had fortunately escaped without injury.
Our next snorkel stop, however, was far more productive – at least for me. Here we snorkeled in much shallower water, amongst a proliferation of coral reefs replete with lots of colorful fish living in and around the coral. I tried to make up for lost time here, snapping off dozens of underwater photos – and only returning to the boat after repeated whistles from the crew who were ready to pull anchor and head back to shore. The water was so warm here, and the surroundings so beautiful, I hated to leave. Tahiti is truly a slice of paradise, right here on Earth – a far cry from anything I am used to in my daily life.
On the way back to shore, the boat crew treated to a selection of exotic fruits and juices, as well as tales of their lives in Tahiti. We got to view the elaborate hotel properties along the shoreline, each with a large variety of over the water bungalows attached. In Bora Bora, we heard that some passengers had made advance arrangements to rent these type of accommodations and spend the night we were anchored there off the ship. Different prices for these units were bandied about, but the one I heard most often was roughly $1,000 per night. However, depending upon how secluded one’s bungalow was often determined the specific price it commanded for a night’s rent. Clearly these bungalows along the shores of Tahiti were no less expensive, though I doubt many of the Statendam’s passengers opted to stay in them. We were sailing over to Moorea at 5:00 a.m., though they could have easily caught up with the ship in Moorea since the distance needing to be traveled to get there was quite a short one. We left Papeete at 5:00 a.m. and anchored out in the bay adjacent to Moorea before 8:00.
Once back onshore, and after a quick stop at the Statendam to change clothes, a group of us headed out to the Grand Marche (or market). This is an interesting place where the locals do most of their shopping. In this large two-story structure, vendors selling wares of every conceivable type can be found. You can buy exotic flower arrangements to bring back to your cabin onboard the ship (note you can’t take them off with you when you arrive home, but the arrangements will clearly be wilted by then). You can buy various food, from fish to fruits and vegetables, as well as a host of souvenir and clothing items. The prices, of course, are rather high as are all prices in this area of the world.
Tahiti, even the City of Papeete, is resplendent with tropical vegetation and flowers. The lifestyle in Papeete is very casual and it is even okay to walk around the city center without shoes. Bathing suits with a pareu wrap are also fine. Flowers are also considered an accepted form of non-verbal greeting – a lady with a flower behind her right ear means that she is single and available. A flower behind her left ear means she is either married or engaged. Some locals told us that a flower behind both ears mean married, but looking for an upgrade.
The sheer proliferation of flowers even around the bustling city was so varied that one could spend the better part of a day just snapping off photos of them. In fact, I have to say that of all the photos I took in the South Pacific, probably at least 75% of them were of flowers and plants. There is just so much of beauty to see that you can’t seem to help wanting to get as many photos of them as possible.
After spending several hours at the Grand Marche, our appetites finally got the best of us and we returned to the Statendam for dinner. It was a full, but exhausting day, and the perfect evening to turn in early. Another full day awaits tomorrow when we arrive in our last South Pacific port, Moorea – and to more adventures.