A unique case in the Polynesian archipelagos, one reef ties together in one single large lagoon, both the islands of Raiatea and Taha'a. The latter is therefore accessible through the lagoon, as it does not have an airport, and uses the one in Raiatea, from which it is separated only by a 5km lagoon channel. In ancient times, it is said that Taha'a, then named Uporu, was hidden from sight from Havai'i (Raiatea) the founding island, by... the island of Tahiti! When Tahiti left to try and spread on its own over the Polynesian world, Taha'a ﬁnally appeared for everyone to see. Its name translates, literally, into "nakedness" in its ordinary meaning, as in "unveiled", while today some interpret it as the island, which "Tā Haa", i.e. which renders "humble". It is probably around the 6th century AD that Taha'a was settled
by the ﬁrst Polynesians arrived during their large settlements in the Society Islands. In the 20th century, no fewer than 169 archaeological structures were recorded, sometimes even underwater, which reﬂect the rich spiritual past of this island. It is also in Taha'a in the early nineteenth century, that some kind of seminary was built where most Protestant missionaries were trained before spreading later all over the Paciﬁc Islands. Taha'a always liked to preserve its diﬀerence, caught over several centuries in the crossﬁre between its rivals Bora Bora and Raiatea, then raising against the unpopular King of Tahiti and Raiatea, Tamatoa V, who ended up being overthrown in 1871, it remained one of the last Windward islands to surender to France in 1897.
Taha'a, the untamable, has now become the leading agricultural producer of Vanilla and Coconut in French Polynesia, and it is also the home of the only “Relais & Chateaux” in the country. It is also the only land that can be completely sailed around in the lagoon, revealing its deep bays and fertile valleys, as well as its string of motu that border the reef on its north side. Getting to Taha'a should not be left to improvisation. To get there from Raiatea, you have to take an early morning shuttle from the Port of Uturoa, or make sure that your hotel or “pension” will ensure the transfer. There is a cost involved in addition to air travel. This crossing is the best way to arrive on the island, on the surface of the lagoon, skipping the big central
sand bar, through a channel that hesitates between the deep navy blue, turquoise and green colors, which mark the sea path. This is an important passage, to the rhythm of a slight splash, which lets you on one side admire the spray mist rising above the reef, and on the other side, reveals slowly, and gradually, the promise of an attractive, but not entirely similar world. This path often causes a very physical sensation of the elements, of the surrounding immensity. Then comes the ﬁrst step on Taha'a, usually on a small and simple wooden pontoon. Your stay begins. Later, when it is time to leave, it will often be with a slightly tight throat that you will redo this trip in reverse.
Taha'a at a glance
Coordinates: Latitude: 16°39 South. Longitude: 151°29 West. Maximum altitude: Mount Ohiri (590 m) Surface: 88 km2 Distance from Tahiti: 220 km
Population: 5,100 inhabitants
AIR TAHITI FLIGHTS Access via Raiatea airport with an average of 5 daily ﬂights
PRACTICAL INFORMATION • Main urban center: Patio • To get there from Tahiti: Several daily ﬂights to Raiatea (45 mn ﬂights) then a 30 to 40 mn transfer by lagoon shuttle. • Tourism lodging: 3 hotels and 9 “pensions” or family- owned small hotels.
• The "Coral Garden": undoubtedly, its discovery is most popular with all visitors, because both surprise and delight outweigh any other considerations.
• The ﬁsh parks: some motu or some ﬁsh farms have ﬁsh parks, which let you observe in a basin a few specimens of black-tipped sharks, diodons, stoneﬁshes, jackﬁshes, rays and turtles.
• Visit to pearl farms: all around Taha'a, several pearl farms let you discover pearl farming, mother of pearl grafting, and the diﬀerent qualities of pearls. They are family-owned farms, everyone is welcome as a friend.
• An emerald color lagoon and a string of dreamlike motu (islets).
• A luscious vegetation, with an amazing tropical ﬂora and a multitude of fruits.
SOME GOOD REASONS TO GET THERE !
© philippe BACCheTLE FOND DE LA BAIE DE HAAMENE, UNE DES PLUS PROFONDES DE LA POLYNÉSIE FRANÇAISE, AVEC, EN ARRIÈRE PLAN, L'ÎLE DE RAIATEA QUI PARTAGE UN MÊME LAGON AVEC TAHA'A BoTTom oF hAAmeNe BAy, oNe oF FreNCh polyNesiA’s deepesT BAy wiTh, iN The BACkgrouNd, The islANd oF rAiATeA shAriNg The sAme lAgooN As TAhA'A