Friday, March 1, 2024

WANDERLUST: Exploring Tahiti – a Polynesian dream destination

Tahiti French Polynesia is the largest of the French Polynesian islands known for its black and white sand beaches, surfing and some epic jungle hiking, says our intrepid traveller and chef on a superyacht, Jamie Neben.

Tahiti is also the birthplace of the overwater bungalow, the luxurious rooms with its feet in the water that travellers absolutely love. It’s at this Polynesian dream destination that I learnt how to scuba dive.

Check out the diving at the end of the runway. There is a neat plane, you can even sit in the cockpit and the shark dive if you’re a bit more game.

We arrived in Tahiti by mistake! After leaving Central America, we had engine trouble and decided Tahiti was our best bet at repairs. After a week, we limped into Marina Taina, about 10km south of the main city of Papeete.

Almost instantly, we had an incredible view of Moorea, the closest island. This was the best place to see the sunset.

Not knowing how long we would be on the island, I ended up helping at a local restaurant Le Cocos (see photo) owned and run by a French couple. It was a lot of fun! It made from some interesting ways to communicate. They somehow convinced me to try Fafaru, a fermented fish dish that smells, and in my opinion tastes of intense rotten fish. I even got to help with a private catering on one of the islands.

On one of my first free days, I ventured up into the hills behind Papeete with a local guide. I highly recommended this! The jungle can be dangerous and local knowledge is always interesting.

We started from a restaurant le Belvedere with an incredible view of the lagoon and the city of Pirae and Papeete. It features a full glass wall in the bathrooms overlooking the valley, check it out. The hike is about 15km round trip but worth the effort. On a clear day, you get a great view of a rock formation called the Crown.

That night, I checked out the food trucks in Vaiete Square. You can find just about everything you want from great local food to pizza and Chinese cuisine. My favourite was a Thai.

Being a chef, I really enjoy exploring the local markets, and the one in Papeete was fantastic. Open most days, if you want the best, get there on a Sunday at 4.30am. There are bbq meats and fresh coconut milk that you’ll want to try, and they sell out very fast. You can also find some great souvenirs here.

Whether you’re into surfing or not, check out Teahupoo on the southwestern coast. It’s host to the Billabong pro surf competition, and in the top 10 deadliest waves in the world. The wave gets up to 7m, you can get a ride out to the break in a taxi boat if you want to see it up-close, you get great views of the island out there also.

Stop at Mauis beach on the way back. There is a cool sand floor restaurant right on the reef. You don’t want to be in a rush…. the restaurant’s motto is ‘you’ll be served with slowness and eagerness—you have time to enjoy the time.’ Until next time, Nana.

Jamie Neben
Jamie Neben
Notes from superyacht chef and photography buff, Jamie Neben’s travel diary.
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