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Where to Connect with Nature in French Polynesia

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French Polynesia is the quintessential place to truly get away from it all. Just a short distance from InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa, InterContinental Le Moana Bora BoraInterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea and InterContinental Resort Tahiti, you’ll find remote islands perfect for escaping the bustling world and embracing the wonders of nature.

No two islands in this natural paradise are alike, and some require more effort to find than others, but wherever you choose to spend a disconnected day with just plants and exotic wildlife for company, the bonds that form between you and your newfound natural self will last for a lifetime.

The Society Islands

THE HEART OF FRENCH POLYNESIA

The Society Islands (Îles de la Société) cluster may be the most populated section of the French Polynesia archipelago, including the paradise islands of Bora Bora, Tahiti and Mo’orea, but ‘populated’ by South Pacific standards often means a village of a few hundred people. The typical French Polynesia image is one of thatched bungalows amidst swooning coconut palms, white beaches and towering, forested peaks. From above, this island group is just a few white and green dots floating in a sea of blue, but on the ground, they are so much more.

In the Society Islands, nature comes looking for you. Inquisitive wildlife eagerly greets you as you pull your boat ashore, and the calls of the wild lure you deeper into the island’s interior. Below are some of the best remote island destinations from some of the most popular Society Islands.

Society Islands

Bora Bora Getaway

UNTOUCHED TUPAI

Bora Bora island is what many people think of when they imagine the South Pacific —fronds of overwater bungalows hovering over clear blue seas, on-call butlers to tend to every desire and locals wearing seashell necklaces and colourful dresses swaying in the wind. Bora Bora is a volcano surrounded by sandy beaches and shallow, clear waters, and the waters are alive with sharks, stingray, turtles and thousands of bright and colourful fish. Spending some time hand-feeding sharks and stingray in the Lagoonarium is a must.

Just a 10-mile hop from Bora Bora by boat, the heart-shaped island of Tūpai is so untouched by man — it has a population of zero — that it is easy to feel like an intruder on an island home to countless bird species. As you step ashore from your boat or disembark your helicopter charter, you will be struck by the density of the forest. There are no distractions here, just turtles laying their eggs on powdery beaches, birds gliding between nests in the tree canopy and leaves rustling in the light sea breeze. Hiking deep into the forests of the interior, over mossy rocks and across gently flowing streams of pure water, is like stepping back in time with absolutely no other humans around.

On Tūpai you can take your pick: Laze on a secluded beach looking out to the wide-open sea or paddle in the shallows in search of sharks and rays. In the summer months you can sit quietly in the shadows as hundreds of turtles come ashore to lash their flippers in the sand and lay their eggs. Or you could hike into the interior in search of colourful petrels, egrets and swallows feeding their chicks and gliding between tree canopies.

 

Tahiti Day Trip

HIKING-FRIENDLY MAI’AO

Tahiti Island is the main island of the French Polynesia archipelago and the most populated, but the main port is based there with connections to many of the quieter islands, including Mai’ao. Located west of the main island, this twin-island group is a combination of emerald lagoon, submerged white beaches and thick forests.

One of the islands is high, with spectacular views from the top of the extinct, 154-metre volcano, and the other low with two saltwater lagoons. Mai’ao’s landscape is prehistoric and one of the best hiking destinations in the South Pacific. As you haul yourself up the cliffs, breathing in pure sea air and witnessing remarkable scenery, you’ll have the chance to connect with the physicality of island life in French Polynesia, moving through the varying elevations and groundcover around Mai’ao.

Few people live on Mai’ao — and those who do rarely leave. In terms of commerce, on the island you’ll find just one shop, traditional weavers producing woven pandanu roofing, and a few family-owned farms. Mass tourism has not reached Mai’ao, and it’s all the better for it. This gives visitors the opportunity to connect, not only with nature, but with simpler way of living.

 

Mo’orea Destinations

AQUATIC MAUPIHAA

Mo’orea is home to the luxurious InterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea, but to the west of the Society Islands group lies the island and islets of Maupihaa. As Maupihaa is an uninhabited island, you need to take a boat charter or helicopter from one of the larger islands in the country to get there, but the effort to get there is worthwhile.

Maupihaa is an eight-kilometre ring island covered in forest and beach. It also includes several thickly vegetated islets connected by shallow coral reefs. Spend your time here appreciating a part of the planet many people never see: the colourful undersea world of the reefs. Snorkel through the corals as tropical fish, turtles, sharks and rays swim by. Above the surface, Maupihaa is the perfect location to spend a day rowing from uninhabited island to uninhabited island, stopping off to admire rare endemic wildlife and plants, distracting your mind from everyday worries.

Once ashore on the island of Motu Maupihaa, an abandoned village is somewhere worth exploring. You can witness how the former inhabitants of this remote island utilised their natural surroundings in everyday life. You can also try your hand at fishing in the shallow clear waters or climb trees in search of refreshing coconuts for those lazy days on the beach.

To experience the pristine beauty and seclusion of French Polynesia, consider booking a dolphin or shark diving and Helene Spa experience with the concierge at InterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea, a jet ski and stingray feeding experience with the concierge at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa, or a uniquely Polynesian shopping experience with the concierge at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti

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