my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti – day 1, Papeete
I can’t believe it has almost been a year since my trip to Tahiti. This post is the first in a series of 10 (one for each day) where I’m reliving this amazing adventure to share with you on my blog and since travel has come to a grinding halt (like everything else) to express how grateful I am to have experienced this as well as meeting some amazing people. I planned to go to London (early August 2020) for a wedding of one of the people I met on this trip but sadly she had to postpone it for a year. We also planned a reunion in Chicago this September for the group but that will have to wait as well. *sigh*
I just got back from paradise. Where is paradise you ask? Tahiti. The island of Tahiti is the largest island of the Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, located in the central part of the South Pacific Ocean. Beauty everywhere you look. No wonder Gauguin lived & died there. If you haven’t been, you should put it on your bucket list. Probably the most beautiful place on the planet I have been so far, although Sitges & San Sebastian, Spain come pretty damn close.
I booked this trip through WeAreBamboo a global give-back travel company which I highly recommend. They offer packages to many amazing places all over the world for different age ranges that include a planned daily itinerary with guides, transportation, accommodations, most meals, many adventurous & cultural activities and there is always a volunteer component to each trip. On this trip, we learned about marine & coral reef conservancy & went to a turtle rehabilitation sanctuary.
So what does one do for 10 days in paradise? Snorkeling (colorful fish, stingrays, & sharks), jungle hiking with the best local guides (in flip-flops no less!), boat excursions (cave exploration & waterfall chasing & jumping) learning about the beautiful Tahitian culture, weeding sacred plots for locals, unearthing artifacts while planting sweet potatoes, beach clean-up, learning about marine conservancy along with a lot of laughing, drinking & having a great deal of fun. Must not forget traveling with and meeting amazing people from all over the globe along the way!
Getting there was exhausting but well worth it. I flew from Chicago to L.A. on American Airlines (4 hrs) to meet up with my friend Susie who flew in from Atlanta, GA. Not too bad of a flight. Then from L.A. to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui flying overnight. This is the worst part for me since I am a horrible sleeper. We jockeyed for position to get our own row and we lucked out there but honestly I don’t think I slept at all. Probably because of being on a cramped on an international flight but also being excited as hell.
The food was horrible like airplane food usually is (that’s why I always travel with trail mix) but the flight attendants were beautiful Tahitians decked out in their colorful Island attire. I tried to pass the 8 hour flight by watching videos & reading about the history & what to do once in Tahiti; Island culture, snorkeling & scuba diving in gorgeous crystal blue water, Tahitian pearls and poisson cru (ceviche)! So it took a total of 16 hours more or less (including travel time to airports & waiting for connection flights) to get there. Like I said, well worth it.
Our guide Arii greeted us at the airport with fresh, fragrant flower leis & a double cheek kiss. A traditional Island greeting. The official languages of French Polynesia are French and Tahitian, although each island group has its own language. English is spoken pretty much everywhere.
We met the others in the group as well and they happened to all be from the U.K. Two of them traveled together while the other two were solo travelers and Susie & I plus Arii to make the total group size of seven. A good size group. Arii suggested getting money from the airport ATM to last a few days. Tahitian currency is the French Pacific Franc (XPF or CFP) and the exchange rate wasn’t too bad $1 US = 100 CFP. First time I got cash I got $4500 XPF/CFP. After my jet lagged brain figured out that the equivalent of $45 US dollars was not going to last long, I got more. Then we loaded into a van and off to our hotel.
We stayed at the Royal Tahitien Hotel in Papeete (Pa-pay-et-tay). Our rooms weren’t ready so we had some drinks to get acquainted with our new adventurous travel buddies and roamed around the beautiful tropical grounds. First thing I noticed when we arrived in Papeete, which is the 2nd largest city in Tahiti (Faa’a being the largest) was the lushness and the chickens. Palm trees, coconut trees & gorgeous tropical flowers everywhere you look and roosters & chickens running around crowing & clucking. Blue skies & crystal clear water the shades of blue & turquoise that was just unreal. Everyone was super friendly and time certainly slowed down, a lot. Slight adjustment for this city girl but hey when in Rome.
After our rooms were ready we freshened up and then headed to town to grab some lunch and explore the market. The market was huge and had a wide range of vendors displaying their wares ranging from fresh vegetables, vibrant, tropical flowers, traditional carvings, spectacular flower crowns, colorful pareos (sarongs) and Tahitian pearls. There were also many restaurants that served local fare.
After exploring the market, we had some lunch (ceviche!) then we stopped at the Jungle Coffee Bar for drinks to keep us awake. We all had traveled quite a distance but were all enjoying our new adventure immensely. So far so good.
After we were sufficiently loaded up with caffeine & alcohol we explored Papeete a bit then returned to our hotel to get some rest and to get ready for the next day. Arii prepped us throughout the day from how much cash we’ll need until the next ATM, what to pack for the next days excursions, meals and basic Island ways.
Our guide Arii was outstanding and I don’t say this lightly because I am a tour guide myself. He was knowledgeable & passionate about sharing his incredible island & culture with us. His enthusiasm was contagious. He was patient, caring and responsive to all our questions and requests and handled all the different personalities in the group amicably.
What an amazing first day on our Tahitian adventure! The details are a little blurry (jet lag!) but that’s why I like to rely on my photos to help me tell the story. Next blog post in this series … Tahiti – day 2, Papeete & Moorea.
Until we can travel again my friends, be well & stay safe.
Love this first entry! Can’t wait to read them all. I can almost smell the ocean air!
What a fun post! I love hearing about your experience – I have never heard of WeAreBamboo, I’ll have to check it out. Your pictures are so fun 🙂
Love love love your first day entry and beautiful photos! Made me feel like I was with you from Chicago til end of first day! Wish I was!! Sounded amazing!!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️
Thanks Jeanette for reading & your continuing support!! It was amazing & I’m planning another trip for next year. Fingers crossed!!
Thanks Melisa for finding me & your kind comments. It was an amazing experience! You should check them out.
lol. It was amazing, wasn’t it? Seems like a dream now. Glad I experienced it with you my friend! Until we can travel (safely) again.
Thanks, Em. It was a truly amazing experience. Seems like a dream now but I’m happy to re-live it & share through posting on my blog & my photos. Thanks for your continued support my friend!
Such a wonderful trip. Just thought you should add a link at the bottom of each day to the next day so it is easy to keep reading about the wonderful adventure.
Thanks, Dave. Good idea!