Huahine, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Day 6 we woke up at Huahine. If you look closely at her from where we anchored you could see what its first inhabitants thought was the shape of a pregnant woman sleeping - little like the island in the animated movie, Moana. Huahine is a very spiritual island, and legend has it that the princess from Raiatea came over and married the Chief of Huahine - referred to as the Garden of Eden.
We took the most amazing Sacred Sites and Cultural Tour. I think this tour may be the best I have ever done. Our guide was passionate about his home and his occupation. He shared knowledge about the culture, history, geology, ecology, and more. Barefooted he walked up and down the hills with ease, stood on the hot asphalt road in the tropical mid-day heat like it was nothing, truly a product of this amazing island. He took us to ruins, ancient sacred sites, the museum, to a tiny vanilla place, to see the blue-eyed eels and to see some of the most amazing views.
We were met at the dock where our tender dropped us off. We loaded into open air trucks and were transported in two groups to our first stop. Near the village of Maeva is the archeological site of pre- European marae (stone temples). It is the largest concentration in all Polynesia with over 200 archeological stone structures including marae of island chieftains, dwellings, horticultural developments and religious and ceremonial structures. As you walk through the area you realize you are stepping where chiefs and priests once dwelled. Huahine has the oldest recorded date of habitants in the Society Islands, dating back to 850 AD. The mythology of the island is as fascinating as the history. Across the street is a lovely museum which is small but full of information. The hike to the sites is sometimes slippery and narrow, but well worth the effort through the gorgeous, lush jungle.
One of the things I loved about French Polynesia is there are zero snakes!!! I am not a fan of snakes and often when I hike in lush areas I am always leery of their presence. Here we could walk freely with no worries. The closest thing to a snake is the sacred blue eyed eels which we visited. They are protected because the Polynesians considered them sacred. They apparently travel as far as Asia during their lifetime. Their blue eyes are blind but they have an amazing sense of smell. Our guide brought them food and they gathered around him allowing him to even pet them. This was not the highlight of my day, but I did find it very interesting.
There is a spot on Huahine where the river or inlet becomes narrow. There, still exists, from over 500 years ago, the ancient way of catching fish by creating rock mazes. The fish swim in and cannot swim out, making it easy to catch your dinner.
Huahine’s land is so fertile that if you drop a seed it will grow. This is good and bad because there are a number of plants taking over that are not indigenous to the island.
Our tour also included a brief stop at a family run vanilla shop. There was very little to see but you could buy some amazing products and also enjoy fresh ice cream. It was nice to give the locals some business.
The views from some of the high spots on the island were amazing! Huahine is actually two islands because, according to mythology, a god either drove his canoe into it ripping it apart or a spear separated it during a competition of the gods. Depending on who you talk to and what you want to believe you can draw your own conclusions. We loved the feel of this island and at this point in our cruise this was our favorite one.
Our guide made the tour that much better, he was one of the best guides I have ever hired. It was fun to learn that he was the tour guide for the Obamas, the Hanks, the Springsteens and Oprah when they visited on David Geffen's yacht. Yes I am name-dropping! If you watch Tom Hanks’ interview with Stephen Cobert he talks about their bike tour in French Polynesia. That was with “our guide” in Huahine!