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Hidden Pristine world of Mo'orea

This tiny island Mo’orea hidden in the Pacific Oceans is truly a pristine and untouched world away from the rest of the world. 

By i.c Golina
mo'orea
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Hidden in one of the many islands in the French Polynesia archipelago is Mo’orea. Mo’orea is a South Pacific island, part of French Polynesia’s Society of islands and is known for its jagged volcanic mountains and sandy beaches. In the north, Mount Rotui overlooks picturesque Ōpūnohu Bay and the settlements around Cook’s Bay. Inland, hiking trails wind through rainforest on the slopes of Mount Tohivea. The Belvedere Lookout has panoramic views of the island’s peaks and Tahiti beyond.

Mo'orea bay

The island was formed as a volcano 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago, the result of a geologic hotspot in the mantle under the oceanic plate that formed the whole of the Society Archipelago. It is theorized that the current bays were formerly river basins that filled during the Holocene sea rise. The island was formed as a volcano 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago, the result of a geologic hotspot in the mantle under the oceanic plate that formed the whole of the Society Archipelago. It is theorized that the current bays were formerly river basins that filled during the Holocene sea rise.

Mo’orea is about 10 miles in width from the west to the east. There are two small, nearly symmetrical bays on the north shore. The one to the west is called ‘Ōpūnohu Bay, which is not very populated but many travelers have come into the bay. The main surrounding communes of the bay are Piha’ena in the east and Papetō’ai to the west. The one to the east is Cook’s Bay, also called Pao Pao Bay since the largest commune of Mo’orea is at the bottom of the bay. The other communes are Piha’ena to the west and busy Maharepa to the east. The highest point is Mount Tohi’e’a, near the center of Mo’orea. It dominates the vista from the two bays and can be seen from Tahiti. There are also hiking trails in the mountains. The Vai’are Bay is another small inlet, smaller than the two main bays, on the east shore. The main village is located just south of the bay.

Like many of the other islands, Mo’orea was first settled by Polynesians from the islands west of Mo’orea. They arrived on canoes coming down from South Asia looking for islands to settle. It is estimated that they arrived on Mo’orea roughly 1000 years ago. There are some ancient landmarks on Mo’orea known as marae, which consists of ancient stone rocks shaped like pyramids. On the rocks are carvings that tell when sacrifices occasionally took place. The oldest marae is the ‘Āfareaitu Marae, located in the island’s main village. It was made by the early Polynesians in the year 900.

The first European that recorded its sight was Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606. The first settlers who were Europeans arrived during the 18th century. The first European to arrive on the island were the Englishmen Samuel Wallis and James Cook. Captain James Cook first landed on Tahiti, where he planned the 1769 Transit of Venus observed from Tahiti and Mo’orea. At Mo’orea, where Ta’aroa was chief, Cook first landed in ‘Ōpūnohu Bay, Cook’s Bay was later named in his honor. Spanish sailor Domingo de Bonechea visited it in 1774 and named it Santo DomingoThe island was among those visited by the United States Exploring Expedition on its tour of the South Pacific in 1839. Charles Darwin found inspiration for his theory regarding the formation of coral atolls when looking down upon Mo’orea while standing on a peak on Tahiti. He described it as a “picture in a frame”, referring to the barrier reef encircling the island. Don the Beachcomber lived here briefly in the 1920s until his houseboat was destroyed by tropical cyclones. In October 7, 1967, construction was completed on the Mo’orea Airport.

Because of its stunning scenery and accessibility to Pape’ete, Mo’orea is visited by many western tourists who travel to French Polynesia. Especially popular as a honeymoon destination, therefore considered to be very expensive island and not a lot of tourist flood the island. In Frommer’s travel guide that he considered it the most beautiful island in the world. It is not a tourist populated location because of the accessibiliy to the island. The main entry point to the island is from Papeete, capital of Tahiti. Several ferries go to the Vai’are wharf in Mo’orea daily from Pape’ete. The Vai’are wharf is in the Vai’are bay. There are 3 ferries. One of them is the ‘Aremiti 5. The largest one is the ‘Aremiti Ferry and the other one is the Terevau ferry. The ferries have to pass through Mo’orea’s coral pass, then toward Pape’ete across the ocean and into the Tahiti Lagoon. The Vai’are bay is in the east part of Mo’orea. Mo’orea’s Tema’e Airport has connections to the international airport in Pape’ete and onward to other Society Islands such as Bora Bora. If the islanders want to make an international flight, they would take Air Tahiti to get to the Fa’a’ā International Airport on Tahiti. The Mo’orea airport is located north of the Vai’are bay. There is one road that goes around the island. Along the road are kilometre markers from 1 to 35. The first one is near the airport. The 35th one is in Ha’apiti. There are also white signs that tell the driver which commune they entered. Other signs have the communes name with a red slash through it, meaning that the driver is leaving the commune.

My time on this beautiful and pristine island hidden from the rest of the world was very brief. I decided to take a tour of the local tour service which took us up to Belvedere Lookout which has the panoramic views of the island’s peaks and Tahiti beyond. The view was just absolutely stunning but the road leading up to the top was arguably the most scariest bus ride I ever done. The road was absolutely so narrow without any road signs or rules alongside this sheer dropping cliffs and at the same time, the condition of the bus according to me was not what I expected to transport tourist up this narrow cliffs.

From a personal perspective: As I travel to some of this exotic holiday destinations in world, I not only see the beautiful scenery and stunning views but try to understand the local people and what tourism does to them.

 

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