Cruise visitors to French Polynesia usually find their adventure in the aquamarine lagoons of Bora Bora or Moorea. But itineraries that include Raiatea offer baby boomer travelers the chance to explore a lesser known tropical paradise.
When Alan and I visited, while on a Regent cruise from Los Angeles to Sydney, we opted for the Faaroa River and Island Exploration excursion. After a drive along the coast, our 4-wheel-drive vehicle turned inland, transporting us up a muddy road that traveled through the crater of an extinct volcano.
Our guide made stops along the way to introduce us to the hand-softening properties of wild ginger juice. Later, he demonstrated how Tahitians make serving plates out of large leaves.
Back on the main road, we explored Marae Taputapuatea, a sacred Polynesian site where temple ruins look out onto the sea. We also sampled fresh juice and fruit served on an arrangement of large leaves, surrounded by tropical flowers, all served from the hood of the jeep. Transferring to a motorized canoe, we zoomed along the lagoon to the mouth of the Faaroa River, taking a close look at island vegetation and river life.
The next morning, our ship, Voyager, quietly cruised down the lagoon that separates Raiatea from her sister island, Tahaa. On our balcony, Alan and I sipped coffee as a rooster crowed in the dawn light that bathed the scene in a golden glow. The ship slipped out of the lagoon through a pass near a motu where over-the-water bungalows seemed to say, “stay here, stay here.” That’s how dreams of adventure are born.