Tahiti is one of those far off south seas places that evokes dreams of paradise. So in June 2001, flying to Papeetee, I traveled with my mountain biking buddy, Fred, on Renaissance Cruises locally to visit a number of Tahitian islands including the storied Bora Bora. Along the way, we noticed a quaint group of thatched roof huts on the northwest corner of the island of Moorea. By July 2005 I just couldn’t resist the south seas call again. So off once again with Fred, this time to enjoy a leisurely week at the little French Resort, Les Tipaniers.
While Moorea has a large number of big name resorts, Les Tipaniers is totally laid back and very French with just 22 rooms, all as private cabanas with kitchens, dining areas, and bedrooms. There are plenty of gardens, palm trees, and of course a delightful picture-perfect beach and water sports dock. A charming open air bar and restaurant attracts all the guests every sundown. But the practical aspect is that one can prepare their own breakfast and lunch in their cabana. Bicycles are available to ride down the seaside road to a tiny market where all kinds of fresh local produce and fresh fish are available.
While the previous visit to Tahiti featured a new island everyday, with new discoveries unique to each island, the Moorea trip was to enjoy 6 days in one spot doing as little as possible. Wake up before dawn every morning, walk out to the end of the pier to watch the absolutely beautiful tropical sunrise. I’ve never experienced such dawns. I was the sole person to rise that early, others delighted in laying in bed for hours. Naturally, I was then able to photograph the best run of sunrises ever, all in near silence with only the sounds of jumping fish plopping about.
But, as each day brightened, we’d grab the bikes and head to the tiny market for fresh breakfast fish and lunch items. Naturally being French, the required staple is fresh baguettes to be brought back and toasted – slathered in peanut butter, oh yum!
Fred made a deal with the restaurant dinner chef to save and freeze the fish menu trimmings each night. So after breakfast we’d paddle out to the calm lagoon with a big bag of fish scraps to feed the sting rays. While I’d slowly circle with the outrigger, he’d jump in the 3′ deep clear water and start passing out the fish bits. Almost instantly there’d be maybe a dozen sting rays climbing up his body to make sure they get fed first.
This was so hilarious, just like a giant water puppy farm, everyone clamoring for a morsel. Sting rays are actually very smooth and soft, almost affectionate. Their mouths are like vacuum cleaners – hold a tidbit in your open palm, slurp and it’s gone. A number of medium sized sharks would circle nearby but not attempt to grab anything, just watch the amazing scene. After all the food is gone, we’d paddle leisurely about two motu islands a few hundred feet off shore to explore more sea life, passing the peaceful hours until lunch time.
The motus were visited by many tour groups each day, since the clear water and calm bays were very safe, even for tiny children. Naturally the kids went straight for the sting rays while grandparents stood in the shallow water to watch over them. Every once in a while we’d hear a scream – a sting ray had snuck up behind granny to give her legs a greeting caress. Of course, she thought she was being attacked. Oh, I laughed every day when I saw new guests arrive, knowing that the sting rays were laying in wait for them. They expect your attention, else they’ll give you theirs.
I’ve never experienced a whole “do nothing week” ever. I’d go back in an instant. If this kind of vacation appeals to any reader, why just go someday. The sweetest memories you can create.
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