Tahiti’s Natural Beauty
French Polynesia is also known as the Islands of Tahiti or simply Tahiti. Tahiti is located in the middle of the South Pacific and is spread across approximately 5 million square km of ocean. The Islands of Tahiti include 5 archipelagoes: the Society Islands, the Tuamotus, the Gambiers, the Australs and The Marquesas, Tahiti is the main island with 1042 km2. The capital city of Tahiti is Papeete, located on the main island of Tahiti.
Faa’a International Airport is approximately 5 kilometres west of Papeete. You cross the international dateline when flying to Tahiti from Australia resulting in the first night of accommodation usually being the day before departure.
The islands and atolls of Tahiti were all formed from volcanic activity. Their formation began about 75 million years ago. Although the different groups of islands do not date from the same period, their geological formation is similar. The main island of Tahiti is divided into two sections, with the northwestern portion being Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti") and the smaller, southeastern portion being Tahiti Iti ("small Tahiti"). Coral reefs surround the island, while the island itself is mountainous, covered by lush rainforests. It's highest point is Mont Orohena at 2,241 m.The Papenoo River flows through the north side of the island.
The volcanic activity that formed the islands and atolls develops when one of the earth’s plates deep under the ocean meets a hot area and magma is allowed to escape to the surface. Over time, the submerged volcano rises from the ocean forming an island and eventually becomes extinct. Coral develops around the extinct volcanic island and the island settles back into the sea over time. The coral continues to grow with the sunlight close to the water’s surface. This is how a lagoon is created between the coral reef and the main island, or extinct volcano. Thus a lagoon appears between the coral reef and the main island. Over a few million years, the main island eventually completely sinks into the ocean, leaving only the circular atoll surrounding it behind. What remains is the beautiful sand surrounds, with coral reefs within the lagoon and amazing variety of fish life who live surrounding the sunken volcano. The Tuamotu Islands are perfect examples of this phenomenon, where as in the case of Bora Bora and Moorea, the volcanic island still remains, however the beautiful lagoon has developed as well as the atoll. The resorts are located on the atoll providing spectacular views of that magazine perfect lagoon colour and the looming volcano central to the lagoon.
While the atoll, or coral reef surround the lagoon, there are breaks in the circular formation here and there. These are called ‘passes’. These are created when freshwater that flows from the rivers off the volcano into the lagoon. Coral does not grow in the flow of fresh water as it requires a higher water temperature and a certain amount of salt.
The Islands of Tahiti enjoy an even climate year-round with daytime temperatures around 28-30°C, dropping slightly in the evening. The weather is warmer and more humid from November through to May and drier and cooler from June until October. Year round, the sun rises between 5 and 6am and sets between 5.30 and 7pm. There is very little difference between high and low tide in Tahiti.
<<Insert Table showing monthly average temperatures and rainfall>>
There are a number of resorts in Tahiti which are renowned for their environmental sustainability.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso
This resort uses a system known as SWAC (Sea Water Air Conditioning) in which they draw seawater from the depths of the ocean to reuse for electricity. Guests can actually visit the resort’s small museum where they showcase the pipes used in the process. They also have a marine biologist who works with them on conserving and protecting the environment.
The hotel has received Global Traveler’s Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Environmental Initiatives.
The Maitai Lapita Village Hotel on the Island of Huahine is situated on an ancient archaeological site and is extremely invested in protecting the surrounding environment. The hotel has a solar farm which produces more than half of its power. The staff also uses non-polluting waste treatments and cleaning products to protect the lake around which it was built.
The Island of Tetiaroa was bought by Marlon Brando in 1967 after he was enchanted by the island’s rare beauty while filming Mutiny on the Bounty. Brando was passionate about preserving Tetiaroa’s natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural richness and along with Richard Bailey, shared a vision to be the most luxurious eco-friendly resort on the planet.
The resort endeavours to be 100% energy independent. Electricity requirements are met by a combination of solar panels (35%) and generators powered by coconut oil (20%), while also using deep seawater air conditioning.
The Brando Resort was also built with the support of the Tetiaroa Society, a local organization dedicated to the research, education and conservation of the atoll. The society manages a research centre on the resort grounds, providing scientists with the ability to conduct their research. The resort also funds educational programs for students, visitors and residents.
The islands of Moorea and Fakarava are leaders in the field of environmental protection. They have a regulatory system and marine management plan that promotes harmony between tourism development and environment.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
The four seasons Bora Bora has an inner lagoon sanctuary is where a resident marine biologist grafts coral and educates guests about the environment. It’s a great place to snorkel, especially for young children, allowing them to get up close and personal with a variety of marine life.
InterContinental Resort and Spa – Moorea
Started in 2004 This is the Coral Garden where the ReefQuest Underwater Trail was created. Basalt blocks were submerged in the lagoon, then corals were transplanted and fixed on these rocks. Scientific monitoring checked the good health of the corals, and soon revealed that various fish species settled naturally in this brand new coral reef area. Some 80 species of fish and many algae and invertebrates now live in the corals, rocks and sandy areas of the underwater trail.
InterContinental Resort and Thalasso Spa Bora Bora
In 2009 the hotel created a coral garden and a ray feeding area in the hotel channel. More than 700 coral colonies were transplanted here and regular scientific monitoring has been conducted in order to study and observe transplanted corals.
The objectives of the coral garden are to create a living habitat for various marine species and to raise awareness on marine environment. Educational supports and guides are available for visitors for a better understanding of the underwater world.
Hotel InterContinental Tahiti’s Lagoonarium
The lagoonarium at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tahiti is an artificial area which includes an underwater landscape with coral garden and marine animals.
This project reintroduced 800 coral reef colonies and around 100 clams.
Marine Animal Protection
InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa
The InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa is home to the Moorea Dolphin Center, a natural refuge that provides the ability to interact with dolphins through a variety of educational and environmental programs. All proceeds are donated to marine wildlife research and help support the education of local children on the importance of protecting the environment.
The resort is also home to the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which serves as a hospital to sick and injured turtles. The InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa accepted to fit out part of its private lagoon to shelter the turtles because the hotel feels very concerned about their protection. The resort has entrusted the te mana o te moana association to manage the Sea turtles clinic.
Even though all sea turtles are protected globally, they remain at risk of extinction. The turtles brought to the centre are sick, injured, maimed or were seized by customs. Here the clinic do their best to rehabilitate the animals and release them into the sea.
Of the 5 sea turtle species found in the French Polynesian waters, the Clinic has welcomed 4 different species in 11 years: the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the Loggerhead sea turtle and the Olive turtle. Most of the time, you will encounter the green turtle and the hawksbill turtle.
Le Méridien Bora Bora
The Meridien Bora Bora is also home to an impressive Turtle Sanctuary that provides protection and care for endangered sea turtles. Here you can experience a traditional ceremony with local Polynesians to return rehabilitated turtles to the ocean. Typically, the turtle will be named after one of the guests staying at Le Meridien Bora Bora, and that guest participates in the ceremony with the turtle.
Le Meridien also recently opened a new Ecological Centre with an interactive touch pool filled with hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, starfish and clams, as well as an educational museum devoted to the flora and fauna of the island. Here you will find educational aquarium tanks with fish larvae, invertebrates, colourful corals and an inner lagoon which is a protected area where you can see tropical fish swimming freely. A panoramic window offers the ability to see the underwater life from the land as if you were snorkelling.
- Part 1: About Tahiti
- Part 2: Tahitian Culture
- Part 3: Tahiti’s History
- Part 5: Things to Do
- Part 6: The Islands