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Top Destinations for 2015: Tahiti

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Nestled between the Equator and the topic of Capricorn in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the 118 islands of Tahiti are as close as it’s possible to get to a tropical paradise.

Officially known as French Polynesia, the area covers over four million square kilometres across five archipelagos, offering a huge amount for tourists to explore - from scuba diving and whale watching to rock climbing and golf.

Tahiti’s location also means that its visitors can bask in an envious all-year round tropical climate – once you’ve come up from scuba diving amongst the turtles, of course.

Where to go

Whilst multitudes of gap year travellers and backpackers find their way to the east coast of Australia and thousands chase their American Dream in Los Angeles, not many realise that midway between these two points a smattering of five unspoilt archipelagos (Society, Tuamotus, Marquesas, Austral and Gambier) are quietly awaiting their arrival.  

The Society Archipelago includes some of the most famous islands in the region: Bora Bora, Tahiti, Moorea and Huahine, all of which are lapped by white-sand beaches, pristine waters and unspoilt lagoons. 

The Marquesas Archipelago is a collection of 12 high islands, of which only six are inhabited. Kuka Hiva, Hiva Oa and Ua Pou rise up out of the water like fortresses, covered in magnificent vegetation and famed by steep, luscious mountains.

The Tuamotus Archipelago is different in its geography: a low collection of islands arranged in the shape of a horse shoe, surrounded by a pristine lagoon and encircled by a ring of coral. Rangiroa, Manihi, Fakarava and Tikehau are picture-perfect locations for a spot of scuba diving or snorkelling.

Situated in the far south in the region The Austral Archipelago is made up of five islands covered in sloping hills and beautiful views. If you want to go whale-watching this is the place – Humpbacks can be spotted between July and October each year, and in certain spots you can even swim with them.

What to do

Take to the ocean

Also known as the Tahiti Pearl Regatta, this incredible sailing competition takes place in May of each year and encourages tourists from all across the globe to sail between the islands of Bora Bora, Tahoa and Raitea. It is open to all types of sail boats, and courses include both ocean and lagoon competitions. Days are always teamed with an evening’s entertainment on ‘motu’ (floating picnic), or in major hotels.

Surf the waves

The world’s best competition surfers from all across the world descend to the sparkling blue pristine waters surrounding Teuhupo’o. It is one of the 12 stops on the Billabong World Championship Tour, and promises to provide audiences with an action-packed competition for surfers and audiences.

Explore via horseback or helicopter

Amongst the multitude of ways to see the islands are via helicopter (from which you can expect birds-eye view of the Society Islands basalt peaks, canyons, waterfalls and plateaus) and horse, which will allow you to explore island bays across all of the archipelagos. The more adventurous can scale the peaks through trekking, rock climbing or canyoning.   

Step onto the set of Keeping up with the Kardashians

Made famous by Kim K et al, Bora Bora was displayed to the TV-consuming world during a holiday taken by the family in series six. The episodes showed Bora Bora in the most perfect way: as an incredible paradise with beautiful hotels, striking landscapes and a destination that the rich and famous choose as their ultimate island escape.

Indulge in a French-Tahitian feast

Good food is essential to French Polynesians, and local delicacies include ‘Poisson Cru’ – fresh fish marinated with lime and coconut, and mixed with vegetables – and raw tuna. Fresh fish cooked in vanilla beans and coconut milk is a staple, as are the huge amounts of fruit that are grown across the islands - bananas, papayas, mangos, watermelons, grapefruit, lemons and pineapples. Often the meals are consumed on ‘motu.’  

Observe local art

‘Tattoo’ is one of the few Polynesian words that has become part of the English language, and fittingly the islands of Tahiti now play host to an international graffiti contest. Taking place for the first time in 2014 and returning this May, Festival du Graffiti serves as a platform for lesser-known graffiti artists, and the harness the area’s buzzing artistic energy.

Experience the real Tahiti

Tahiti celebrates Heiva i Tahiti festival in June, which takes place in Papeete on the island of Tahiti and celebrates music, dance and song from across the heritage of the island’s locals. It is popular with locals and tourists alike and has become a symbol of Polynesian heritage, with a great opportunity for tourists to experience the culture and tradition of the islands.

The best way to dive into the culture, though, is through a home-stay (or ‘family pension'.) The phrase “haere mai” is common in French Polynesia, and accurately demonstrates the islanders’ natural hospitality. There are over 2,000 beds offering family pensions in Tahiti, and often it also the most cost-effective option.  

Indulge in an overwater bungalow

We couldn’t recommend that you visit Tahiti without reminding you of its most iconic accommodation – the overwater bungalows, set just off-shore on stilts in the shallows. Wake up to the lapping of the sea outside your window, and be greeted by breakfast delivered on a canoe. Heavenly.

See our full list of top destinations for 2015 here.

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