We now understand the true meaning of “tropical”! Wow, was it warm and humid when we arrived — definitely a welcome feeling after the winter cold of Wisconsin, however. There were friendly people and music greeting us, and after a quick bus ride, we got to port and boarded the Marina. Most of our group came in a day early, so we wore our Badger clothes as we explored the boat to try to catch the attention of fellow travelers. We set sail right away and headed overnight to Moorea.
We awoke to rain and low clouds, but as the morning went on and the skies cleared, this was our view. Moorea is stunning. We took advantage of the break in the weather to head ashore to do a little bit of sightseeing and shopping. Our Go Next evening reception was our first opportunity to meet everyone from our group as well as others (nearly 400!) from various other schools traveling with Go Next. It was fun to meet fellow BigTen comrades from Iowa, and we discovered a lot of connections between our two groups.
Day at Sea
The captain did a good job of outrunning the clouds and storms, and we were treated to a beautiful day at sea. Our flags were flown for a couple of hours, and most people got a look at our Badger pride as they enjoyed the deck. We had our UW reception during the evening and got better acquainted with each other. There were a lot of travel veterans in our group, so we exchanged stories of various trips we’ve been on. Everyone was asking whether the Packer game would be broadcast the next day, but sadly, the ship was unable to get a satellite signal as we were heading to the remote Tuamotu Islands.
More rain and wind, but it was warm, and everyone was eager for an adventure after our day at sea. Our stop today was Fakarava, a long, flat, remote island in the Tuamotu group that’s north of Tahiti and the other “Society Islands.” There weren’t any planned excursions but most people tendered in to enjoy a walk or a bike ride along the main road.
We rented bikes and rode about three miles out to the Fakarava airport a landing strip characteristic of those seen on each of the islands. On our way back, we stopped at an abandoned lighthouse. The road leading to this was gravel – made entirely from broken pieces of coral!
Our next island – also in the Tuamotus – was Rangiroa. We had a fascinating trip to a pearl farm where we learned how “black” Tahitian pearls are cultivated. We were impressed by the careful stewardship of this natural resource. Many in our group made beautiful purchases!
As we approached Bora Bora midday, I fully appreciated the paradise feeling of the island. The weather finally cleared, and the water was an indescribable color of blue. We disembarked and enjoyed a tour around the entire island by open-air truck while our guide gave us an excellent account of the history and culture of the island and its three main cities.
One highlight was a visit to a local artisan’s home and shop. Mama Tutu hand-dyed pareos – lengths of cloth worn by men and women alike. We learned that there are more than 100 ways to tie a pareo. We also learned that the U.S. armed forces were stationed on Bora Bora during WWII, though they never saw any fighting. Some equipment still remains on the island.
On our final day on Bora Bora, we took a lagoon tour out to a private island and did some snorkeling in the warm, turquoise-colored water. Our guide, Jean (what a character!), demonstrated how to open a coconut, and we all tasted the water and the fruit. A perfect ending to three glorious days in paradise!
Raitea is the main island of the leeward group, and that was our next stop. This was our port to pick up souvenirs, and there was a large market in the town square, just steps from the ship. We took a motorized canoe tour of the Faa-roa River, the only navigable river in French Polynesia. Some of our group kayaked and enjoyed the lush flora and scenery.
Our final island was Huahine, rich with history and sacred archaeological sites called marea. We visited the Polynesian History Museum where our knowledgeable guide described the migration, settlement, and early history of the Polynesian people. We were able to visit a vanilla farm to learn about this important crop. It was a great way to top off the trip.
Sailing for Tahiti
On our final evening, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset and dinner together after our group photo. It was great getting to know this group over the course of 10 days on the beautiful Marina!