I had the chance recently to sail on a catamaran, from Tahiti to Tetiaroa, the only low island of the Windward Islands and magnificent atoll of Marlon Brando. It was my first sailing experience on a catamaran. The sun was shining for this great adventure and we were all equipped for two days of escape: provisions, sunscreen and hats, swimsuits and cameras! It felt like we were on a vacation already. And to top it off, not a single cloud in the sky! It was a nice crossing because the sea was very calm. It took us a few hours to get to our destination. After 3 hours, we see the shape of the atoll in the distance … little by little our paradise is emerging!
For those who are not fond of sailing, it is also possible to travel to Tetiaroa on a private flight of about 15 minutes. We are getting closer to the few other boats moored outside the lagoon, close to the reef. What an extraordinary landscape from there! An intact and calm paradise where all the colors are bright! The blue around us is beautiful. It’s quite deep but you can still see fishes of all kinds and sharks under the surface of the water. We rush to jump in the water to have a taste of the beautiful day that awaits us. Then we hop on the zodiac and wait to surf a wave to pass the reef (there is no pass). The adventure starts strong!
We have finally entered the lagoon of Tetiaroa and the ride is more than pleasant! All the fishes that we distinguish all around, it’s amazing! Hair in the wind, we admire the different islets which surround us and pass close to the famous bird island. After a while the water is not deep enough for our boat so we stop to walk along a sandbank. What a show, it’s breathtaking! The water is about twenty centimeters deep and the immaculate white sandbank seems to extend as far as the eye can see. A few meters away from us a group of birds flies away. We see a smile on all faces! Barefoot, it’s so much better! We feel such a sensation of lightness at that precise moment; this little walk could have lasted hours, we would have gotten tired! Then the lagoon becomes a little deeper and we get back on the zodiac to continue our tour. Not too far from us is the area where the fabulous resort called The Brando is located. In the lagoon of Tetiaroa, we had the chance to cross more turtles than people. There are not many people here (we probably crossed two small boats all day) and this really made us feel in a privileged place.
It is already almost noon and we are all very hungry. Our small group goes to one of the islets to enjoy a good tahitian raw fish with coconut milk. The fish is fresh, which is rather ideal considering how hot the day is. Around us, there is pure nature as far as the eye can see. We feel like Robinson Crusoe … with all the comfort. The few fishing enthusiasts among us are amazed by all the fishes we see.
After our picnic, we go to another islet not far. The vegetation is less dense and will allow us to walk inside according to our guide. After an invigorating snorkeling session, we walk to another part of the islet, on the reef and ocean side to see the birds. Here again the landscape is breathtaking. It is a real reserve for seabirds and there are beautiful species that are not seen everywhere in French Polynesia and frigates dance in the sky above our heads. Some are perched in the trees with their little ones looking at us, curious but not very impressed by our presence. We observe each other.
The day has gone so fast! We would have continued to discover these islets until nightfall but we have to return to the catamaran before the tide is too low, so that our zodiac can ride a wave to get the other side of the reef. Back on boat, tanned after a day like no other, we enjoy a well-deserved rest around a table, still facing the extraordinary landscape of Tetiaroa, lit by the moon this time. That night we slept on the nets of the catamaran, under the stars. The next day we spent all morning enjoying our last moments in paradise. After an hour of swimming and fishing around the catamaran, we went to discover other parts and secrets of this Polynesian atoll. Then, with our head full of wonderful images, we sail back to Tahiti early in the afternoon. The atoll has an exceptional marine fauna and a fascinating history that I invite all the curious to discover by themselves. It’s very easy to understand why Marlon Brando fell under its while filming “Mutiny on the Bounty” in 1960. Tetiaroa is a haven for birds, turtles and all kinds of marine life and for visitors. We are all leaving with the same certainty: we will be back soon!