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A Tahitian Welcome

Posted on 16/10/2013 by

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Lesley Brough, ITC’s International Marketing Manager, went to Papeete in September on a work trip with Christine Lynch from NZIE. She shares some of her memorable moments.

Tahiti knows how to welcome people like no place else! As we arrived from our Air Tahiti Nui flight, we were treated to Tahitian singing and dancing. There was an even better surprise outside, with one of our wonderful International Travel College (ITC) graduates Christelle Ho and Ariitea waiting for me with a lovely frangipani flower lei. Now that’s a nice welcome!   ITC has three graduates who currently live in Tahiti, and I was lucky enough to catch up with them all. Tiffany Harry, now working at Easy Tahiti travel agency in Papeete, was a superb tour guide on our day off. Together we caught the ferry, which in just 35 minutes took us to beautiful Moorea, where Tiffany’s sister Vaima met us.  Vaima, her husband Patrick, and nephew Rahiti had planned a wonderful day for us, which included taking the family boat out.   This was to become one of my most memorable days ever! The outer reef shelters a lot of the coast of Moorea, and the water is incredibly calm, clear and a gorgeous aqua colour. Patrick drove the boat along the coast past over-water bungalow resorts (the likes of which I had only seen in magazines before) until we arrived at a very special spot. Here we had the opportunity to swim with blacktip reef sharks and stingrays. The water was chest high and while the sharks got close, they were still about a metre away (and thankfully harmless!). The stingrays were also harmless but incredibly friendly. They swam right up to us and swept across our arms, legs and even our chest. Did you know that they eat not only through their mouth, but also through two holes at the top of their heads? That was pretty neat to watch and to feel their soft, spongy bodies.   From here we journeyed to an island for a picnic, where the picnic table and chairs were put straight into the metre-deep water on a sand bank. Now this was fun!  Vaima had packed a beautiful lunch for us all, which included lots of fresh fish in coconut milk and other Tahitian dishes. We were very spoilt. After lunch I snorkelled with the numerous tropical fish.   As we were heading back to the house on the boat, we came across two humpback whales (a mother and baby) in the harbour. Apparently no one had seen whales inside the reef for many years, so it was quite amazing. With the words “You only live once!” Tiffany jumped in to swim with them. Patrick and I agreed and jumped in too. The water was very deep here (between 50 to 100 feet deep). It was scary, but this was definitely something I didn’t want to miss out on. These whales were HUGE! We could only see a small part of their bodies from the boat, so looking at them in the water with goggles was amazing.

To finish of this amazing day Patrick took us for a 4WD experience up the back of their property to view their pineapple plantation.

On another day I was able to visit Christelle at her work at Deep Nature Spa located at the Intercontinental Hotel. The spa was stunning and the hotel has its very own seawater lagoon that guests can swim in with the tropical fish.

One evening Christelle and I met with another ITC graduate, Alexandra Lion. We had a special night that included dinner at Christelle’s family roulotte (food truck) and ate her mother’s famous mahi mahi grilled fish.   It was a lovely surprise to be invited out to dinner by the parents of Mani, one of our current students. Daniel, Mahinateata and I had a lovely meal at The Royal Tahitian Hotel and we spotted the Brazilian beach soccer team who were staying there for the FIFA world beach soccer tournament. The opening night of the tournament was a great spectacle that included shutting down the main road, four stages of live music and a huge firework show. Papeete was the place to be on that night!   On our last day in Tahiti we went to a half-day student fair and spent the afternoon being driven around Tahiti (which takes 2-3 hours) by the lovely Poe Bessert and her wonderful mother LANI.

We saw the only white sand beach in Tahiti (all the others have black sand), fern grottos, waterfalls, a blowhole and the beautiful east coast. On the way we also met up with Danilo and Cecile who gave us each a stunning handmade poster of French Polynesia, drawn by Danilo. The drive ended at sunset at the spot where James Cook landed at Tahiti.   When it was time to say leave it was wonderful to have Christelle, Ariitea and Alex all come to the airport to say goodbye and give me a shell necklace (a tradition in Tahiti when someone leaves).

I would love to say a big thank you to Christelle, Ariitea, Tiffany, Alex, Vaima, Patrick, Rahiti, Poe, LANI, Mary, Daniel, Mahinateata, Danilo and Cecile; and of course to Christine and Chris (my fellow travel buddies). Tahiti was a stunning place to visit and you all made my trip truly amazing.

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