A sign is flashing on my computer screen, a new email in my mailbox. “You are invited to a seasplane scenic flight with Tahiti Air Charter”. Stocked to be offered such an opportunity, I RSVP right away. I receive my boarding pass shortly after: rendez-vous next Friday at 8 am sharp.
The weather is great. Impatient to try this new activity, I am the first one to arrive, 15 minutes early. Further away on the strip I can see the pilots bustling around the seaplane, finalizing the last arrangements. From here, the plane looks tiny compared to the massive A340s in the background. The rest of the passengers finally arrive and we go through security.
After a quick scan of our belongings and an ID check, we are warmly greeted by a tall fellow. His name is Ariitaia and he is one of our pilots.
He takes us towards the aircraft which appears bigger now but not imposing. The bright and shiny colors of the paints prompt us to take a few selfies. The airplane itself reminds me of those you can see in the Indiana Jones movies. Philippe, our second pilot shows up and joins Ariitaia for the security briefing. We are then allowed to embark and take seats. I can feel the general excitement level slightly rising up. I fasten my safety harness and sink in the comfy leather seat. We are only 6 aboard and we can all enjoy the view from our respective windows.
Last checks and we smoothly take off. We are quickly flying at about 1000 feet above sea level. The lagoon below us shows off its various shades of blue: turquoise, emerald, sky blue … the view is breathtaking. While we follow the West Coast, I can glimpse the orange reflections of the Plateau des orangers in the Punaruu valley, and then further away the restless pass of Paea. When we reach the Mara’a caves, we are surprised by turbulences but the pilots reassure us explaining that it is only due to the wind coming down from the valley. The sceneries roll in front of our eyes, and our faces are glued to the windows. After a few minutes, we can already spot the coconut groves, meaning the peninsula is not far.
We’re flying above the picturesque houses, the faapu and the sailing boats anchored in the Phaeton bay when the pilots announce we’re going to touch and go …. in the bay!! The houses appear bigger and bigger and we are now almost at the same height as the trees. We land on the surface of the lagoon and glide for a few meter. The whole manoeuvrer is quite smoothand I actually feel like I am on a boat. What an experience !!
We take off almost right awaywhile we still have momentum. The view on the way back is just as magical, with Moorea, the sisterisland in the background. I find myself daydreaming, gazing at the infinite blue ocean. And, cherry on the cake, just before the plane began its descent, I notice a group of dolphins jumping in the waves near the Taapuna pass. I am over the moon, just like the rest of the passengers. We land safely and start exchanging our impressions while disembarking. I snap a last photo with the crew and leave still in awe.