In the Footsteps of Captain Cook
Part 3 – Moorea
The island of Moorea has a much less extensive and mature reef system than many of The Society Islands, and there are only a few motu’s around this island. The airport is located on the northeast corner of the island’s mainland, and, after collecting our luggage, we took a 30-minute bus ride from the airport, west, to the central north coast of the island where the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort is located, and where we would spend the next 3 nights in onshore bungalows. Here, each bungalow has its own secluded patio area with a private plunge-pool! The resort’s restaurant bar overlooks the ocean, with Bora Bora in the background, providing a great sunset view at evening Happy Hour. After unpacking, we met for drinks and dinner of shrimp, swordfish and tuna, before taking a leisurely stroll and calling it a night.
Wednesday morning, we were awakened at daybreak by a local, roaming rooster. It turns out that roosters roaming loose on the island are the norm, as they are protected by law and are a growing nuisance. After taking a tremendous buffet breakfast on the restaurant’s balcony, we took up lounges under a beach hut and snorkeled off the beach to the resort’s mini “coral gardens”. The coral here is much more mature and readily accessible that at our Bora Bora Resort, and the sea life is very abundant.
Later in the morning, a mist flowed down over the mountains from the south, and we took a modest lunch and got ready for our afternoon adventure. After lunch, we took a transport around the bay to the west to The Hotel Intercontinental Resort, where there is located both a Turtle Preserve, and a Bottlenose Dolphin Center. The afternoon would be spent with a Trainer and Bottlenose Dolphin named “Kuohoa”, a 19-year-old male that was rescued from the U.S. Navy. Kuokoa was ~8 ft. long and weighed ~210 lbs., but was gentle interacting with us, allowing us to pet and kiss him, and playfully interacting with us in the water for over ½ hour. After our “Dolphin Adventure” we returned to the Hilton for a Polynesian Buffer Dinner accompanied with Polynesian dancing and a fire-dancing on the beach.
On Thursday, May 11th, Rocky got up early and hike 90 minutes up the Opunoho Valley into the island’s center to the archeological ruins of Marae Ahu a Mahine, and on to a lookout at over 800 meter high. Nowadays, most inhabitants of the island live along the coast, but the ancient Tahitians populated many inland parts of the island.
After returning to the resort, Rocky met the others for breakfast, and then took up on the beach under the shady beach hut before snorkeling out to the very outer edges of the reef. In these deeper waters, the mature and beautiful assortment of coral was extensive and populated with some of the most diverse and larger fish that we had seen on the trip. After lunch at our lounges on the beach, we took a kayak out to the same outer reef location before ending the afternoon in the swimming pool.
After a quick plunge at our bungalow and a leisurely shower, we me for drinks and dinner at the Crepes Restaurant located out over the water in the lagoon on the dock near the overwater bungalows. The crepes were enormous and worth sharing, and after meeting the Chef, we all shared a dessert crepe of bananas, chocolate and coconut ice cream. At the end of dinner, we spent time observing the 4-5 ft. bull sharks that were exploring the area underneath us.
Friday morning, it was time to pack and end our adventure. After meeting in the lobby and checking out, we bused back to the airport for the very short (15 minute) flight back to Papeete, Tahiti, where our international flight back to the U.S. would leave that evening. Since we had several hours before check-in in Papeete, Jeff, Debbie, Rocky and Julie put their luggage in storage and took a taxi into town to sample the local food, brew, and deserts. After short visits at several bars and restaurants, and having lunch, we returned to the airport to check in for our flight, and spent the last few hours in the Priority Lounge. The flight back to Los Angeles was only 8 hours, but was followed by layovers and a stop in Houston, before returning to Orlando for the hour’s drive home.
A very excellent adventure!