Sabin’s at Sea - Day 39 - Uturoa, Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
by Nina Sabin - Travel Blog
Today we arrived at Uturoa, Raiatea. Just like Bora Bora, Raiatea is part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia.
Raiatea is the second largest of the Society Islands after Tahiti in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the center of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organized migrations to the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Raiatea. Uturoa is the capital city of Raiatea.
According to Polynesian tradition, Raiatea -formerly known as Havaiki, the "sacred island"- was the first inhabited island and Hiro -a descendant of the creator god Taaroa and Oro- was its first king, founder of the dynasty and the Taputapuatea marae at Opoa. The many legends that arise from mythology lend a mysterious and magic atmosphere to the various places of interest. Mt Temehani (772m), a sort of Polynesian Olympus and "fragrant paradise", where the strange and unique "Tiare apetahi" plant is found, watches over this island that is still untouched by the turbulence of modern life. Its mountain range divides the island from north to south. Its many waterfalls, the deep and narrow Faaroa Bay and its fertile valleys are equally attractive as its charming lagoon with its many islets.
In the northern part of the same lagoon, the island of Tahaa according to legend was detached from Raiatea by a sacred eel possessed by the spirit of a princess. This island of soft mountain shapes and filigree coastline has been nicknamed "the vanilla island" because of its many vanilla plantations. The many motu with their stunning white sandy beaches and the turquoise-toned lagoon charm every visitor and cruise passenger.
Overcast weathers doesn’t always stop a cruise ship from going to port. Especially when no tendering is involved. The waters were smooth enough for us to pull into the port of Uturoa, Raiatea. The weather forecast said 100% chance of rain. It doesn’t necessarily mean downpours but definitely wet.
As we waited for our excursion today at the theater (MainStage), where they have everyone who booked a cruise tour sit till the allotted time, the cruise director, Ian, came on the intercom to discuss the day. His comment was ‘there is no bad weather, only bad clothing’. He’s British. This is so true as today was going to be wet and we had to prepare.
In the MainStage, everyone received a colored sticker with a number on it for their excursion. We were pink number four representing the kayak at the Faaora River. There were a total of eight different excursions offered through the cruise.
Once our number was called, we departed the ship and met our guide to begin our day’s adventure with Raiatea Activities. Our guide, Vivin, was originally from France. This island definitely had a French flare.
We had about a 20 minute ride around the island to get to Faaora River. Vivin was very knowledgeable about the island and also shared some personal information about his life. He made us feel very welcome to the island.
There were eight of us from the ship and then another six people from France. The guides went through all the information in English and French. I am impressed that all these islands are fluent in more than one language and everyone speaks English.
We launched all twelve kayaks and we were on our way. The views along the River were amazing. Mountains of the island surrounded us. The tour was about three hours in total. Vivin would stop along the tour and talk about plants, trees, and some history about the island; which I included at the beginning of the blog.
One thing we found interesting that the yellow flower we saw at Bora Bora and Raiatea is that this type of hibiscus changes from yellow in the morning to orange in the afternoon and then by the evening it falls from the trees. We also like the comment that the guide made: Raiatea produces vanilla, Moorea produces pineapples, and Bora Bora produces bungalows (hotel rooms over the water).
The land crabs we saw yesterday in Bora Bora are also in Raiatea. They also like the hibiscus flower. We saw many crabs on the banks along the river.
On the way back to return the kayaks, the skies opened up and we had a nice rain shower. No lighting or thunder - just lots of rain - which was actually refreshing.
At the end of the tour, we were soaked but truly satisfied with the experience and felt like we experienced the essence of Raiatea.
Before heading back to the port, we had a glass of pineapple juice. The Rotoui brand is supposed to be the best on the island. I would agree it was a delicious pineapple juice. We liked it so much that we decided to buy a passion fruit and watermelon juice in that brand to enjoy during the rest of the cruise. We haven’t tried it yet, but my mouth is watering just thinking about tasting it. Will let you know when we do.
Once back at the port, the wind picked up and we were ready to get dry and have lunch on the Lido deck before heading out to explore a little more of Uturoa, Raiatea.
There was some incredible art on the port warehouses, where goods are stored when they arrive to the island.
We browsed the market, which was about two streets with grocery shops, restaurants, clothing shops, and handicraft shops.
The exchange rate is 1000 French Franks is equivalent to $8 USD. Therefore we paid about $6 just for a small flag memorabilia. Other than some candy and the juice we didn’t purchase anything else. French prices coupled with island prices.
We finished our day enjoying the views of the island from the ship up in the crows nest which is on deck with panoramic windows overlooking the front of the ship where we stayed dry and enjoyed some drinks.
Tomorrow we will be arriving around 8:00 am to Baha’i D’ Opunoah, Moorea which is also part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia.