Im sitting in an overwater bungalow at the Le Meridien Bora Bora resort where the boardwalks to the exclusive stays reach out toward Mount Otehanu like outstretched fingersthe sun is setting a reedy cloud sits so low over the mountain it appears to carve off the peak like a blade – and I am inside watching TV.
French Polynesias the islands are the most beautiful spots on Earth
In my defence it is Tahitian TV the slang name given to the 50-square-metre-sized glass window in the floor of my bungalow where I watch tropical fish and stingrays cavort below me.
I have spent the afternoon cavorting with them snorkelling behind a pair of stingrays way out into the lagoon watching the tropical fish dart away from me on the islets internal natural lagoon. I have checked in on the turtles that reside in the turtle sanctuary connected with the resort.
Le Meridien Bora Bora Tahiti.
Le Meridien Bora Bora is situated on a tiny islet with one of the best views of Mount Otehanu there is with the main reception bar and dining room looking onto the white sand beach.
Once I draw myself away from the Tahitian TV I will sit with my feet in the sand while sipping on St Emilion and watching traditional dancers and a fire dancer with a wicked sense of humour.
Bora Bora is doing its best to show my why it is the poster child for Tahiti the go-to spot for honeymooners and celebrity butt bearing (yes you Justin Bieber).
But there are more than 100 islands in this South Pacific nation and if you go beyond Bora Bora you will find sacred eels ancient temples and possibly the most remotely beautiful spot on earth.
Huahine: the garden island
Flying into Huahine the coral fringes make it seems like a giant hand has traced a line around the island using crashing wavesas if the sea is unwilling to tarnish the white sand on this tropical isle. Huahine is in fact two islands: Huanhine Big and Huahine Small and is part of the Leeward Group of Society islands. From the air you can also see the mountain ridge that gave the island its name a curvaceous outcrop said to resemble a pregnant woman.
People have lived on this island since 700AD and it has the largest collection of marae – ancient Tahitian temples – in the whole of Tahiti. Touring the island we see these stones jutting from all manner of greenery some with carved patterns others arranged in formations whose significance has been lost in time.
Huahine is known as the garden island not only for this lush marae-covered vegetation but for the pride the locals take in their homes this is the Tidy Town of French Polynesia with neat shrubbery holding the wilder jungle at bay.
Huahine is the natural beauty to Bora Boras primped Hollywood star all the more charming for its quirks and traditions.
For example eel worship is a thing. Our guide for the day pulls over by a running stream and motions for us to follow as he opens up a can of tuna. He is summoning the blue-eyed eel a rare beast that only lives on Huahine. Within minutes the water at his feet is alive with metre-long slithering eels with a blue glint in their eyesthey even clamber onto the stone-studded bank to reach the food.
Our stay for the night is Hotel Le Mahana in Avea Bay a boutique resort with bungalows that take cues from traditional architecture all huddled around a private stretch of beach. As the sun sets on off the hotels jetty we are presented with a French feast surrounding what is considered the best lagoon in the whole of French Polynesia and I am unwilling to argue.
This collection of motus – small sand-and-coral islands surrounding larger atolls – form an almost perfect circle when viewed from the air – the forgotten lip of a long-sunken volcano in the middle of the ocean. When we land at the small hut of an airport we are as close to Mexico as we are to New Zealand sitting on a series of low-lying sand spits some of which you can walk between.There is one road here the short drive out of the airport then it is all boats to connect the sandy specks to each other. On a clear day like today you can glimpse the motus directly opposite across the dark blue water of the 30-metre-deep lagoon at Tikehaus centre.
This lagoon is full of life: reef sharks fight with each other for food sucker fish – silver fish that look like they have a rubber shoe sole on their head – try to attached themselves to the predators while Picasso fish (lagoon triggerfish) mind their own business.
Sea birds follow our boat to the private island resort of Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort where you have the choice of overwater bungalows or the more traditional beach huts. We are staying in the beach huts made from teak bamboo and woven pandanus leaves designed to blend into the islandinside it has a tropical-surreal upmarket Gilligans Island feel with polished shells and coral-walled outdoor bathroom. As a tiki-bar fan this would be my ideal home.
My outdoor decking has a view of the beach with a hammock strewn between two palm trees just beyond then comes the blazingly pink sunset. The sand on Tikehau is said to have a pink tinge but the sky puts on such a show it is hard to saypost-sunset it is off to the resort restaurant for a local speciality: trilogie polynesienne raw fish three ways – tartare sashimi and poisson cru (cured in coconut and lime).
Since arriving on Tikehau I have had a growing sense of what it feels to be truly isolated and after dinner it reaches its peak. As I head down to the beach in the dark it is the silence and stillness that strikes me as I lay on the sand for a spot of stargazingthe lack of ambient light makes the stars shine brightly and they reflect back the remoteness I feel on my own little sand island barely peeking out of the South Pacific sea. Bora Bora may be Tahitis celeb-magnet but I much prefer these stars.
Huahine is known as the garden island.