On 9-10-11, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our epic Wong Couple wedding! Everyone says it, but we feel it too—we don’t know what happened to the last 12 months. Maybe I’ve misplaced them somewhere. Maybe they’re lurking in the mysterious places alongside all my missing elastic hair bands. I’m not sure. Perhaps it doesn’t feel quite like a year yet because we only just took our honeymoon four months ago in June. We were only going to do one blog post about our honeymoon, but after struggling to cull the photos, we realised we could only do it justice with two posts! So, enjoy Part 1 and stay tuned for Part 2 of the turquoise and honey-colored eyegasm that is French Polynesia. Trust us, it doesn’t disappoint!
I had to twist Jeff’s arm to convince him we should go to French Polynesia (read: I mentioned the words scuba and sharks and we were good to go) but after we decided on our destination, we discovered that our October wedding date put us smack at the start of the rainy season in the South Pacific. We were not about to spend beaucoup bucks on a Tahitian holiday to risk sitting in our bungalow in the pouring rain, no sir-ee! So, a June holiday it was. Our patience paid off as we had sun, sun, sun, with a high of 29 and a low of 24 degrees every single day. A local woman told us that usually in the rainy season it just pours and pours… and then one day, someone just turns off the faucet. It seemed we had just missed the end of the rain by about a week! Brilliant.
We landed on the island of Tahiti, which is the largest island in French Polynesia. If you travel there from Australia you will most likely need to spend your first night in Pape’ete like we did, due to the flight schedules out to the smaller islands. Pape’ete is a bit grimy around the edges and was quite reminiscent of some cities in South East Asia, with everything coated in a thin layer of exhaust fume residue. However, it was still interesting to wander around and explore the fish and trinket markets and the many, many pearl shops. We scored a great discount rate at a resort hotel just outside of the main city centre, where we found the completely beautiful black sand beach pictured above. It was hot and humid and it took a flat 60 seconds for us to feel like we were on holiday. We heard that there are good things to see and do on the island of Tahiti, but we decided to spend our week on the smaller islands. The next day, we headed to the local ferry port to hop on a one-hour ferry over to the island of Moorea.
Now, before Jeff knew about all the awesomeness that French Polynesia has to offer, he did have some hesitations on taking this trip. Everyone has heard of the reputation of French Polynesia—more specifically, the “Society Island” of Bora Bora—as only accessible to those with the ability to spin straw into gold. And while it’s true you may have to give up your first born child for some of the Bora Bora overwater bungalows, there are actually a number of affordable places to stay on many of the islands in French Polynesia. There may even be a few such places on Bora Bora, but we skipped it and decided on Moorea and the tiny atoll of Tikehau (which will have to wait for the next post).
Moorea was even better than I had imagined. It is an absolutely stunning green mountainous island. Can you spend upwards of $800 a night on a Moorea waterfront bungalow? Easily. Our price for the same view? AU$137! And that included a nice Tahitian host, a Frenchy-french breakfast of baguettes, cheese, coffee, tea, tropical fruit, and a menu of authentic Tahitian dinner options! What is this amazing placed called you ask? It is called Pension Motu Iti and it is one of a number of small locally owned “guesthouses” on the island. Some of these places don’t have websites but can be found in travel guides, and some of the websites are all in French, but places like these can definitely make your Polynesian holiday affordable! Sure, there’s no air-con at Motu Iti, the linens aren’t 400-thread count and the bathroom door needed a tug to open, but… really. Air-con is not needed, and the soft ocean breezes are so soothing you will want to leave your bungalow doors and windows open at all times.
We definitely recommend booking one of the lagoon view rooms that come with a lovely private patio just a metre or so from the water. We were amazed to discover that with our bungalow pictured above, we had prime views of sunrise and sunset. Naturally this is most of what we photographed for the first two days…
The dinner at Pension Motu Iti was great. Our favourite meal was the tuna with Tahitian vanilla sauce, a popular local dish. We also discovered that the hotel has another bonus the big resorts don’t have: CATS! Those who know me, know how much I love them. So naturally I was rather ecstatic to discover these friendly felines, especially this one below in particular, who showed up every night hungry for some of the day’s catch.
Once night fell, we got out the tripod for some long exposures.
The next morning, we spent some time driving around the island exploring…
And of course took a few dips for some snorkelling.
After the tough job of snorkeling in waist-deep water, sunset coconut cocktails are definitely required.
Every morning, the hotel’s friendly cat would pay us a visit on our balcony. This really amazed me since there was no food to lure him in. A purring cat wanting attention to top off all this amazingness?? Now I was really in paradise.
Of course, it wasn’t all fluffy kitty cats and sunshine! I had made promises of scuba and sharks to get Jeff on board with this holiday, and so into the water we went as shark bait. Actually, I had no idea that there would be sharks on this dive, until the scuba boat anchored in the middle of the lagoon and the instructor said in his lovely French accent, “has en-ee one dived with zee shaahks before?” I looked over the side of the boat and there were quite literally about half a dozen sharks circling our boat. I waited for a few other divers to go in first. ;)
Once in the water though, I was surprised to find that it was not that intimidating because the water was so clear. When the boat anchored I was astonished that I could easily see the bottom of the lagoon from the surface. The depth was 20 metres! The pictures below were taken with our underwater point-and-shoot and do not at all do the dive justice. It was absolutely beautiful with hundreds of colorful fish… and several dozen reef and lemon sharks. Unfortunately we learned that much of the coral had been eaten by the Crown-of-thorns starfish, but it was still totally amazing. I managed to keep calm and even went in for a second dive. Are you proud of me, Jeff?
We also took advantage of a lagoon tour on Moorea, where we were told we would get to see a stingray feeding. What we didn’t know was that the ray feeding also included being part of a shark feeding frenzy! To Jeff’s delight, the boat stopped in a very shallow portion of the lagoon, where several dozen tourists waded in the waist-deep water as our Tahitian guides ripped apart chunks of raw fish and threw them into the water. The black-tipped reef sharks swam furiously around in a feeding frenzy. Check out our video of the action!
We watched another stunning sunset…
And spent some time gazing at the Milky Way.
When the sun rose again, it was time to move on to the tiny atoll of Tikehau. Tikehau is almost certainly the most remote place we’ve ever been, and the photos are just as stunning… stay tuned!
What’s that you say? You’re desperate to find a honeymoon photographer for your post-nuptial trip to French Polynesia, or the Cook Islands, or Thailand, or Fiji, or Italy, or Greece, or…??? Well, look no further my friend, you’re in luck! We are available! Who would like us to come along? ;)