It was a restless sleep as the boat yanked hard on its chain throughout the night. There was a weird current and or sea change that caused the boat to jerk on her anchor waking us with a start. But it was another beautiful day with the sun shining, bright white puff clouds and see through, blue water. It was time to do some provisioning so we moved to Apooiti.
Apooiti (pronounced “a-poo-e-tee”) is a fairly large bay with a marina and several charter boat companies. We needed to dump trash and recycling and pick up some provisions before we moved on to Bora Bora.
Not sure what happened, but we came up short on our navigation. First time we’ve done that! We dropped the hook at Carneage which is a boat yard a ¼ mile south of Apooiti. No big deal. A super friendly worker showed us where we could dump our trash and then told us how to get to Apooiti by dinghy.
We pulled up at the Apooiti marina and found the grocery store. But like most days we arrived during lunch and they were closed. Most island stores close from 12-2p. Drat.
We decided to hop back in the dinghy and go around the corner to Uturoa. This new village is about 1.2 nm from Apooiti, but with our 25hp outboard it only took us about 15 minutes to get there. We grabbed our provisions, zipped back to the boat, and headed back to TauTau to anchor.
This spot is so beautiful we had to come back a second time. We were the second boat to drop the hook here, but another 2 boats joined us before the sun set. We enjoyed some float time and were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset. The top photo shows Bora Bora peeking through the atolls (tall mountains in the background), a beautiful motu in the center and the private hotel on the bottom.
Raitea (pronounced “ray-a-ta-ya”) was considered by the ancient Polynesians as the cradle of their thousand-year-old civilization. It was a religious and cultural center that was very important throughout the Pacific. The religious chiefs from other archipelagos gathered at marae Taputapuatea. In addition, it is said that it was from Raitea that the Polynesian immigrants departed to settle other islands in the Pacific from Cook Islands to New Zealand. Its original name “Havai’i Nui” means “Big Springing Water” and its current name, Raitea means “Far Away Heaven.” The island is roughly 92 square miles and has 12k inhabitants and is still considered the cultural center of Polynesia..
There are several “must see” sites on Raitea including an exploration up the only river in French Polynesia, Faaroa River and a visit to the largest marae in Polynesia, the Taputapuatea. The entire sacred site occupies 2.125 hectares and consists of ancient marae, agricultural terraces, and archaeological remains of houses. This is where inauguration ceremonies, political alliances and international meetings would take place in ancient times. For a long time, the site was taboo and then it became the headquarters of religious and political powers. These days, communities of Hawaii, New Zealand, and Cook Islands still meet at this pilgrimage venue, which they consider as the home of their sacred culture.
ARRIVAL TO RAITEA
We had officially arrived in Uturoa (pronounced “ou-to-ro-a”) to get fuel but we only stayed one night at this anchorage. The next day we moved to Opoa (o-po-a) Bay where we could access the sacred site of Taputapuatea.
There was only one boat in Opoa bay when we arrived. As we pulled in, he dropped his dinghy, came over and offered to help us with the last mooring which had no painter. Super nice! We exchanged pleasantries, thanked him and finished securing Sugar Shack before heading to shore.
Taputapuatea illustrates in an exceptional way of 1,000 years of ma’chi civilization and is a symbol of human and spiritual values of Polynesia. It is also a testament to the extraordinary navigation skills of this people, sailing long distances across the Great Ocean on double hulled canoes. These open air temples are majestic and transformative.
Taputapuatea Marae of Raiatea
I wish there had been a tour, guide or more explanation in English as we just could not fully appreciate this sacred site. There was little to no understanding of the extraordinary history. But what I could piece together is below.
This is a map of the archaeological site which highlights the largest marae and sacred areas.
Map of the Marae Land
Marae Tau aitu
The first site we visited was on the water’s edge. I was able to get photos from land and sea of the “Marae Tau aitu.” From my uneducated eye, it looks like rocks across a huge square space leading up to large boulders by the sea. Shoot me now for saying something so mundane about such a holy and historical place.
Marae Tau aitu
The largest marae is called Marae Taputapuatea and is the cultural center of the grounds. It had many “Tira” which are large, metal, sacred masts. Tira decorated the marae along with tapa barkcloth or brightly colored feathered pennants. Legend has it that they may have had features that recalled the journey of the dead to the land of the ancestors. The Taputapuatea has large slabs carved in coral rising up to 3 meters high.
This small marea included “to’o” which is an ethnographic sculpture in stone (or wood). They represent the local divinities.
Small Marae with To’o
“Marae Hauviri” has a large platform, a huge To’o and smaller marae toward the sea. A worker was repairing and restoring the “to’o” as we watched.
Repairing and restoring a marae
My friend Rachel (Adventures of Agape) took this awesome photo of a marae in the water.
Underwater Marae. Photo by Rachel Moore, Adventures of Agape
Some pretty photos for you:
We passed this little “islet” on our way to Opoa bay.
Islet near Raiatea
Below is a photo of the tip of the Taputapuatea area and a photo of the small town in Opoa bay with a church and tiny charter company.
Old photo rendering of a pig offering on Taputapuatea tahua marea near the cultural center.
Rendered photo of pig offering at cultural center
In case you are interested, here is some more history:
This legendary marae is famous for its former importance as a meeting place of Polynesian nations and as a starting point for courageous sailing adventures. Many human sacrifices were offered to the altar of Oro, the god of war.
This is a temporary structure known as a “ghost house.” Polynesians made this structure to house the body of a dead person. However, generally the higher social classes who used them. It was a small construction at 6 to 8 meters long and was composed of two parts. The first was a fixed bier and the second was a portable roof which allowed the body to be exposed to the drying sun. The Fare tupapa’u was situated a distance from the ahu on the marae.
These are called a canoe house. They were identical in form but had variations in sizes based on the crafts that they held.
Fare ia manaha
This was the most important house to be found upon the marae. The most important objects were stored here including the sacred images (to’o and ti’i). In addition, it was to the guardians of the marae. They had the privilege to cook their food in ovens using wood gathered within the marae area. This house was erected in one day with the dedicatory human sacrifice placed under the central post of the house.
A god house was very important upon the marae. Fare atua is siutated in a central position facing faces. This elongated box is attached to two carrying poles and placed upon four supporting pillars. They contained the to’o images of actual gods as distinct from those of deified ancestors
How can two islands within the same lagoon be so different? Taha’a, the vanilla island is small, serene and surrounded by motus (sand islets). Whereas Raiatea is the second largest island in the Society Archipelago (just behind Tahiti). Since we have yet to visit Raitea, we will focus on Tahaa as it is a gem of an island.
Life is slow on Tahaa, the vanilla island, which can sweep you away into the traditional and tranquil life of the Tahitians. The soft mountains are surrounded by tiny motus with bright, white sandy beaches. The island is about 33 square miles and is home to just over 5,000 inhabitants. It is known as the vanilla island.
FAUNA OF TAHA’A
Taha’a has almost 4,000 plant species on the island. However, only 950 are considered indigenous to the island. Of the 950 indigenous plants, 50 came from the wind, 200 came by sea and 700 were brought by birds. Europeans brought most of the imported flora and fauna. Overall the island is incredibly lush and colorful with a variety of plants and flowers to admire.
We went to Vahine Island after we left Taha’a. This is a private island and did not offer much to see besides the resort. But what it did offer was wifi out in the bay! Yippie.
We left early the next morning and headed to Hurepiti Bay (pronounced “her-a-pee-tee”) where we could easily get to shore to do a tour.
This was a deep, muddy bay with lots of coral heads and reefs surrounding each edge. We dropped our hook in 16 meters and dragged. We picked up the hook, dropped again in 12 meters, and let out 80 meters of chain before stuck.
Sugar Shack in Hurepiti Bay
We were invited to go on a tour with 3 other boats and this is the best place to catch the start of the tour. We hailed the operator, Noah on the radio and he offered wifi and a brief tour of the property.
Approaching the Vanilla Tour Property from the bay:
Vanilla Tours of Taha’a in Hurepiti Bay
Walk About to the Peninsula
We decided to take a walk around the property, up to the road, and around the bay. The road was asphalt part of the way then turned into a dirt/grass road. We did get some gorgeous views of the bay.
Scenic stops along the tour
We also captured a few pretty sunset photos.
Breathtaking sunset photos
Back to the boat for sunset and dinner. We are all excited about our tour tomorrow.