This is the second in our Paul Gauguin cruise series. The previous post was called “It can’t get any better than this” because we kept saying that over and over on our first day. But we hadn’t even left the hotel. On our second day, we toured Moorea in a 4×4 photo safari.
Want to save money?
We booked this tour with a fellow named Hero at the Tahiti ferry pier. He represented the local tourist bureau and gave a little presentation. His advice was that hotels mark things up by at least 33% and that we should not be afraid to book directly with tour operators on the island. We were thinking of taking an island safari tour when the Paul Gauguin docked on Moorea but we decided to do it pre cruise instead. What a good idea! It cost us $45 each; had we purchased it from the hotel, it would have been $90 each. But was it the same tour?
When our guide Eloy picked us up promptly at our hotel, our first stop was at the cruise pier awaiting some Paul Gauguin guests. These guests never showed up so we ended up with a private tour. But the fact remains it was the exact same tour had we purchased through Paul Gauguin or the hotel. We can’t guarantee this for all excursions of course but this time certainly worked out great. Hero was a hero to us. So don’t be afraid to book directly with Hero in Tahiti. The only downside is that we gave him a $5 per person deposit; in the hotel no deposit is necessary. Turned out to be great deal. In a later post we extol the virtues of booking excursions on the ship. Stay tuned.
Photo Safari – great sites
Our guide Eloy was articulate, knowledgeable, courteous and professional. After leaving the pier, we stopped at a nearby beach full of black sand. Why black? The whole island was a volcano many years ago. While this is the only black sand you’ll see on the island it’s an interesting reminder of the geologic past. Not that you need a lot of reminding because Moorea is basically a caved in volcano with parts of the cone still intact. You get the picture from a stop at Belvedere which is a high look out point from which you can see both Cook’s Bay and ‘Ōpūnohu Bay. The views are simply stunning and speak for themselves. There’s loads of hiking trails that spread out from Belevdere – some go higher but most explore the fields below. You really feel like you’re inside the ancient volcano’s crater.
On our way down the mountain we stopped at one of the Marae or ancient worship grounds. In this case an archery platform was built to host a sort of archery competition in honor of the warrior god. Next we stopped at a pineapple field where we learned some of the agricultural techniques. We definitely needed the four wheel drive to get through some of the agricultural roads! We were then driven to the Juice Factory. Here you can sample both fresh fruit as well as local alcohols. And of course you can purchase any as well. Which we did! They had just come out with a Guava and Watermelon fruit juice that we enjoyed back to our hotel room. Moorea loves it’s fruit!
Photo Safari – great food
Next we visited a Botanical Garden where we saw a small vanilla crop growing. We now understand why vanilla is so expensive to purchase as it’s painstaking to harvest and process. The gardens also offered homemade vanilla ice cream and jams and we were afforded another beautiful view while cooling off with the ice cream. We asked Eloy if we could stop and get some supplies at the local store. He stopped at a roadside stand and we got fresh coconut water (literally they chopped the coconut open right then and there) as well as some grapefruits and bananas. We then stopped at a small store to get bottled water, a baguette and some cheese.
This site has a nice overview of Moorea: Island overview
The Intercontinental Hotel – Moorea
The hotel is a true 4 star property. It’s nicely landscaped with several restaurants to choose from. It has a very nice beach, great pools, snorkeling on property with many amenities in the rooms. But it has two very unique features. First, it houses the Moorea Dolphin Center. You have to pay extra for an actual experience with the dolphins but watching them from the bridge is free. They are fun to watch to be sure and just very nice to have right on property. It’s literally embedded within the over water bungalows – so we passed it every day. Click here to learn more.
The other unique feature is the turtle rescue. Just a short walk from the dolphins is a sea turtle rescue in a sectioned off area of the lagoon. Here you’ll see some turtles freely swimming and others in little holding pens which act like nurseries. You can read about each of the residents (there were 21 turtles when we were there) and why they needed rescuing. More information about the Turtle rescue can be found here.
The hotel attracts an international crowd. The official language is French though lots of English is also spoken. We met folks from Australia, Europe and of course the US. One of the really nice things was simply star gazing. Because there’s not much light pollution in Moorea the view is spectacular. We were able to see the milky way with our naked eyes.
And of course there were the fish. The water is so clear that you can easily see them as you walk across pedestrian bridges and along the water’s edge. Even at night, the lights allow you to see the fish. So between the dolphins, turtles the fish and stars, there’s lots to keep you occupied during down times.
Another day in Paradise
Food in Moorea and in fact all the Society Islands is expensive. Our first (and at that price only) Mojito was $18 and our hamburger was $24! So now you know our motivation for getting bread, cheese, fruit and drinks from the roadside stand! Our rooms came with breakfast included – it looked like most people ate breakfast at the hotel. It was a nice buffet that cost $41 per person per day to purchase separately. The hotel has a full room service menu which we took advantage of one evening. In general the food is very good but the service is pretty slow by American standards. Forget about getting your water glass refilled – we soon learned to order a 2 liter bottle of water so we could leave it on the table.
So the first part of the day was spent touring the island. The remainder was spent snorkeling and relaxing by the pool. Just another day in paradise. The weather was terrific though the sun is intense. Luckily the pool had enough chairs in the shade. There was a strong breeze blowing; there were times we were actually chilled sitting on our deck because the breeze was so strong. But over on the main island at the restaurant the breeze was tame and welcome.
Here’s some of the fish that we saw in the waters outside our bungalow.
The next post will discuss our last day in Moorea and our transport to Tahiti to start our cruise.