random adventures

my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti – day 2, Papeete & Mo’orea

This post is the second in a series of 10 (one for each day) of my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti, where I’m reliving this amazing adventure from last year and sharing it with you. Ever since travel has come to a grinding halt (like everything else) I’m very grateful to have had this experience and look forward to future adventures.

welcome dinner

Last night, our guide Arii presented us with traditional flower crowns before our welcome dinner. We dined at the La Royal restaurant which is a short walk from the Royal Tahitien Hotel and offers a beautiful panoramic view of the black volcanic sand beach. During a delicious dinner, we got to know our fellow travelers a bit better, relax and let the island vibe settle in. Tomorrow’s adventure would bring us to a cultural center to learn about the local crafts, dance & cooking traditions of Tahiti.

Room with a view
Room with a view

day 2 – waking up in paradise

After a leisurely breakfast and another walk around the gorgeous grounds we packed up our gear and took a ferry to the sister island of Tahiti, Mo’orea (Mo-oh-ray-ah). We were in awe surrounded by so many glorious shades of blue. The weather was perfect. After disembarking, we piled into a van and headed to our next adventure. About midway through the ride, we took a quick break to stretch our legs and to take some photos.

opa’a = coconut

Back in the van, our next stop was the cultural center. Greeted by a group of friendly islanders, they introduced us to their many cultural traditions. First, we learned about the importance of coconuts (the leaves, milk & meat) to island life & how to crack one open. We all took turns and it was not easy. I’ll admit I was not a huge fan of coconut. I grew up eating the chewy, bagged stuff but was soon converted after trying it fresh.

Next we learned how to make a basket out of coconut fronds. It was much harder than it looked. Thanks to our very patient teacher we all passed Basket Weaving 101! My basket unknowingly played a very important role for the rest of the trip. It became the essential ‘snack’ basket that went with us everywhere.

pehe = music

Time to learn about Tahitian instruments & music. We were treated to a lively concert of a variety of drums, guitars & ukuleles. Then we participated in an drum exercise. So much fun!

tamure = dance

Attempting ‘Ori’ or Tahitian dance was next. Our lovely instructor showed us the moves and we were to follow. Similar to Hula the Hawaiian dance, which uses arm movements for the symbolism, Tahitian dances involves more hip movements for the story-telling.

Tahitian dancing was used to enthrall a lover, to challenge an enemy, to worship a god, and even for prayer. Each dance was unique, but all of them were important to the people and their way of life. Dancing evolved and became a part of ceremonies throughout the French Polynesian islands for thousands of years.study.com

Though my parents were wonderful dancers, I did not inherit that gene. But along with the rest of the group I gave it a shot. First us girls then the guys. It was all good fun & provided a ton of laughs.

tamaaraa = lunch

We worked up quite an appetite from all that dancing & laughing (thanks Sean!) and it was getting close to lunchtime. Time to learn to make some, what I refer to as Tahitian ceviche (poisson cru which means “raw fish” in French and in Tahitian known as ia ota (ee-ah oh-tah). Fresh, raw tuna mixed with lime juice & a variety of fresh vegetables (just like regular ceviche) but they added coconut milk. Genius & delicious!

Other traditional Tahitian foods we tried at lunch were breadfruit or uru, which is a starchy, vitamin-rich fruit is typically eaten as a side dish after being cooked in a hima’a (underground oven), a tapioca-like dish called po’e made from taro, grilled beef & yams. And to wash it all down, fresh coconut water still in it’s shell.

After a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon immersed in Tahitian culture, time to head to our next accommodations. It was an open air bungalow with a thatched roof & very thin walls. It was nothing fancy, basic but comfortable. Susie & I took the loft which looked a little treacherous. Thankfully, she brought her headlamp, which proved extremely helpful when climbing the steep stairs in the middle of the night.

While we were in Mo’orea, we had a local chef cook all of our meals . The meal house was connected to two guesthouses where we would hang out when we had a little down time. We learned all about reviving/restoring coral here later in the trip. After a wonderful dinner, we headed back to our bungalow, about a 10-minute walk.

One of the funniest stories from this trip (and there were many) was from this first night in Mo’orea. One I’ll never, ever forget. After dinner, we fell into the habit of having drinks & watching the sunset. The other half of the group stayed at a bungalow similar to ours but closer to the beach so this became our hang out. After relaxing and watching another beautiful sunset we all were ready to call it a night.

f#*%ing cows

Our group headed to our bungalow to prepare for our snorkeling adventure the next day. Soon it was lights out and everyone was drifting off to sleep after another incredible day in paradise.

Then, in the middle of the night, we were jolted awake by the most god-awful sound. Seriously, it was cross between a scream and a guttural groan. Needless to say, it was very scary & unsettling to be startled awake around 3 a.m. While we were scrambling around in the dark searching for a flashlight to take a peek out of the window to see what was making the horrible noise, it stopped.

We think we scared whatever it was by yelling & screaming from inside our bungalow. After the initial shock wore off, we figured out that the cows we passed everyday from here to the meal house probably broke free and were, er, um mating right outside our bungalow. We were in tears, laughing so hard. Finally we were able to get back to sleep.

The next morning before we brought our snorkeling gear to the meal house and to have breakfast, we stopped by the beach house and asked if they happened to have some late night visitors. LOL. They did! Ha, I think they headed there after our place. Too funny!

What a fabulous second day on our Tahitian adventure! If you missed day 1 click here. Stay tuned for the next post in this series, my adventure & volunteer trip to Tahiti – day 3, Mo’orea.

Until we can travel again my friends, be well & stay safe.


  • Donna Emperador

    I am a New Yorker moved to Florida. You are right about the coconuts. We have a tree out front that my husband has had to learn how to harvest. I now make coconut milk, toasted coconut, and we drink the coconut water, but it is difficult cracking those things open. Your article has great photos. I can’t wait to hear about the volunteering.

  • Rachel Gerard

    The belly dancing sounds like a blast!! And those flower crowns were.gorgeous!! Glad you had a great time 😊

  • Kyle

    Wow I should get out of my house and travel.really love your post and love your pictures they look gorgeous.

  • Savita

    This looks like a beautiful trip! Lovely photos.

  • savita

    Looks like a beautiful trip! Lovely photos!

  • savita

    Lovely photos! Looks like it was a beautiful trip.

  • mimi

    That’s awesome that you utilize your coconut tree, Donna. Thanks for visiting my site & commenting!

  • mimi

    It was an incredible experience, Rachel. Thanks for visiting my site & commenting!

  • mimi

    Thanks for visiting my site & commenting, Kyle!

  • mimi

    Thanks for visiting my site & commenting, Savita!

  • Susan

    Loved reading about your great trip to Tahiti with Bamboo. I traveled to Thailand’s and Cambodia with and now booked for their Tahiti trip this October. Thanks for sharing such great memories.

  • mimi

    Thanks, Susan! It really was one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. Enjoy your trip!

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