most famous form of transportation is the inimitable le truck. This
brightly painted jitney is actually a flatbed truck outfitted with an
open- air cabin and wooden seats. Just wave to the driver to stop and pay
when you get off. It is an entertaining and inexpensive way to get around
and see the sights.
the essence of flowers minoi is oil extracted from the mature coconut.
Minoi can be found in Tahitian products such as suntan oils, lotions,
soaps, shampoos, bath gels and balms. It is an inexpensive purchase that
you will enjoy and certainly want to take home.
turquoise lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago are a natural haven for the
black-lipped oyster, the Pinctada Margaritifera that produces the rare
Tahitian black pearl. It is the only jewel to come from a living creature.
Its astonishing colors range from silver gray to deep greens iridescent
with pink, gold and blue. Some pearls will reflect light with a
rainbow-like effect, but all have their own luster and magic. The black
pearl is French Polynesia's biggest export item and the most sought after
souvenir purchase by visitors.
the sarong, it is a cool, comfortable, all-purpose piece of attire worn by
both men and women. It is made with two yards of brightly painted, printed
or dyed fabric that can be tied in seemingly countless ways. You will find
these colorful garments displayed in shops, sidewalk stands and hotel
boutiques on every island.
Natural resources; volcanic rock, coral,
shell, bone, teeth, wood and vegetable fibers provide the artists' medium.
Finely carved bowls, platters, tikis and ceremonial spears are produced by
Marquesan sculptors. The women of Fatu Hiva still beat the bark of certain
trees to make tapa. Tiny shells and mother-of-pearl from the Tuamotu
lagoons are made into jewelry, decorative mirrors and engraved as souvenir
items. Noted for their fine baskets, mats and hats are the Austral
Islanders. The "mamas" of the Society Islands create the colorful tifaifai
quilts and wall hangings. The artisans of Tahiti are truly master crafts
Produced from the inner bark of the mulberry,
banyan or breadfruit tree this ornamental cloth is still being made today
using the same methods of hundreds of years ago. Men gathered the
materials but it was the women who stripped the bark from the branches,
scraped it thin, soaked it, beat it to a paper-like thickness and finally
decorated it with tattoo like designs.
used is the lagoon side pandanus. Its leaves are woven to form an ('ete)
basket, which provides the Polynesians a multitude of uses. Tahitians use
them for cooking, shopping and carrying fruits, vegetables, and
craftspeople of the Austral Islands are known for their exquisite plait
work. A hillside pandanus is used for this higher-quality work. Influenced
by the missionaries, the Tahitian woven hats have a European style. You
can find them reasonably priced. They make a wonderful souvenir to take
home but practically speaking can be quite useful while on
ancient art form was used as a way of passing along important stories and
legends. It has been an integral part of the Tahitian culture. A tattoo or
tatau indicated status and courage. Traditional Polynesian tattooing has
enjoyed a major resurgence in recent years.
Transportation in the form of an outrigger
canoe indisputably captures the spirit of Tahiti. In the past it was used
for fighting wars and for getting from one island to the next. Today it is
generally used for fishing and a means for a leisurely exploration of the
long Tahitian Festival takes place during the month of July and features
dancing, singing, sporting competitions, arts and crafts displays and
beauty contests. The sporting events include a host of local specialties
including surfing events, canoe races, stone-lifting contests,
javelin-throwing contests and fruit-carrying races. Tahiti's rich,
artistic culture is celebrated during this joyous festival of song, dance,
fun and games.
MOTION PICTURES MADE IN TAHITI
Filmed on Moorea in 1993 "A Love Affair" was a remake
of the 1957 movie, "An Affair to Remember", also filmed on Moorea. In 1979
Dino de Laurentis selected Bora Bora for his movie "Hurricane". Three
times in 50 years the story of the famous uprising aboard the Bounty has
been captured by Hollywood. "Mutiny on the Bounty" made in 1935 stared
Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. "Mutiny on the Bounty" made in 1962
stared Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard. "Bounty" made in 1984 featured Mel
During World War II over 5,000 American GIs
were stationed on the island of Bora Bora. They came to establish an
airstrip and supply base. These military troops inspired the romantic
musical "South Pacific". The old runway can still be seen when you arrive
by plane on the new runway on Motu Mute.
LEIS AND HEI
Tahitians love of beauty is an inherent part
of the Polynesian way of life and culture. Both men and women love to
adorn themselves with flower leis and heis (a scented crown or wreath of
dish of marinated fish is renown and appears on almost every menu. It is
very popular and makes for a perfect lite lunch or a starter appetizer.
The recipe is simple with delectable results. 1.cube raw tuna. rinse with
salted water, leave to soak in refrigerator for 1/2 hour in salted water
with crushed garlic. 2. grate 2 raw carrots, dice 2 tomatoes, slice 1
cucumber and chop 3 green onions. 3.drain the liquid from the fish. add
the juice of 2-3 limes and let stand 5 minutes. drain and add the
vegetables and blend with unsweetened coconut milk. Garnish with
their natural grace, innate pride, gentle beauty and warm hospitality, the
people of Tahiti are artists in the enjoyment of living. The giggling
children are warm and affectionate. They young girls and women are shy and
self-conscious, yet sensuous and lively on the dance floor. The young men
are natural sportsmen, full of vitality, with an intense zest for life.
The old people have merry hearts, gentle souls and smiling eyes and
possess a keen sense of humor, dignity and wisdom. Perhaps the most rare
and precious of gems you will discover are the Tahitian people.
national flower, the fragrant white gardenia, Tiare Tahiti (gardenia
tahitensis). From the moment you step off the plane you be surrounded by
the sweet perfume of this luminous, star-shaped flower.
has numerous plantations of this aromatic "black gold" that flourishes in
the fertile soil. The variety vanilla tahitensis produces beans that are
richer in oil and quite superior to any other species. Tahitian vanilla
beans make a fragrant and unusual souvenir for visitors.
traditional house or dwelling. It is constructed entirely from plant
material and is built directly on the ground. The framework is made of
coconut wood and the roof of woven coconut palms or pandanus leaves, which
are waterproof. Today, the hotels of Tahiti have adopted the style of the
fare in creating their charmingly unique bungalows.
Throughout the Society Islands you will find ruins of these large stone
temples where various religious and social events took place. Polynesian
civilization was essentially passed on by oral means. As a result, little
is known about the details of the ceremonies enacted on the marae only
two centuries ago.
hundreds of species of shells found in French Polynesia. It can be
tempting to pick up shells while snorkeling or diving but not recommended
as this can upset the ecosystem. A crab may even inhabit a seashell found
along the beach. Shells can be purchased in shops along with shell jewelry
and shell leis, which make a terrific souvenir.
is not the view, which visitors come to admire climbing Mount Temehani,
but to catch a glimpse of this extremely unique flower that cannot be
transplanted and grows nowhere else on earth. Legend has this exquisite
flower is the hand of an island maiden who called out to her lover as she
died in his arms, "Every morning when you come to the mountain, I will
give you my hand to caress".
tree has been the staff of life for islanders for thousands of years. To a
large extent their entire manner of life was intertwined with this
extraordinary tree. Every part of the coconut palm, from the tallest
palm-frond to the deepest root was used for daily living. It provides
food, liquid, material for weaving hats, mats and baskets, fiber for rope,
bark and roots for medicine, and oil for perfumes and soaps.
public market place located in downtown Papeete is not to be missed.
Downstairs you find islanders selling every imaginable tropical flower,
Tahitian fruits and vegetables and fresh catch of the day. Upstairs you
will find locally made crafts including tifaifai quilts, pareus, shell
necklaces, woven hats and baskets.
Meals on wheels. In the evening, along
Papeete's waterfront you will find roulottes or vans serving the best
inexpensive food in town. They are colorfully painted, gaily lit and serve
anything from steaks to crepes to chop suey to pizza.
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
H.M.S. Bounty is one of the most famous ships to drop anchor in Tahitian
waters. In 1789 the Bounty left Tahiti and set sail for Tonga. Captain
Bligh had become excessively severe with his crew. His harshness was too
difficult for the men to endure after the idyllic life they had enjoyed in
Tahiti. Lead by Fletcher Christian, their fury finally exploded into a
dramatic mutiny which is remember as the most famous in
Captain Cook took
this young Tahitian man back to England aboard his ship the Adventure. He
was presented to King George III, introduced to famous people and attended
balls and hunts. Cook brought Omai back during his third and final voyage
to the South Pacific.
Whether snorkeling or diving in the crystal
clear waters it is easy to view some of the 800 species of fish. You will
often come across brightly-colored angelfish, damsel and clown fish,
parrotfish, soldierfish and the strange little boxfish that move about
FRANCE AND POLYNESIA
The French were not the first people from
Europe to visit Tahiti. However, a keen interest was aroused when the
French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville claimed it for his
homeland. The issue of title to the islands was not resolved with England
until 1847. But France never once faltered in their devout conviction that
Tahiti was meant to be theirs.
One of the
first and most lasting impressions that greet visitors to Tahiti are the
lush surroundings, and in particular the gorgeous floral sights and scents
which permeate the tropical air. A myriad of tropical vibrancy and
perfume, flowers are an essential part of the life in the islands of
Tahiti. The "Tiare Tahiti", a heavily scented gardenia forms the basis of
the traditional "hei" wreath and part of the greeting for arriving
visitors. In fact, the Tiare Tahiti is so important that it has its own
national holiday. Orchids, anthuriums, ginger, hibiscus.... Tahiti's
abundance of flora will astound and delight you and will certainly be a
lasting memory of these fabled isles.
time Polynesians knew the directions and seasons of the wind. They used
the stars to navigate. The long constellations of stars in the southern
hemisphere enable them to locate the islands. They relied on an intuitive
understanding of various signs to reach land, the flight of birds, wave
forms, the direction of the swell, the sound of the breakers, the color of
the clouds, which reflected the sandy shores of the lagoons. Their level
of navigation ranks them high among the world's greatest
colors with artistic designs, the Tahitian stamps have become quite very
collectable. Philatelists will discover themes of fruits, flowers, fauna,
islanders, outriggers, dance and musical instruments. Stamps can be
purchased throughout the islands but the best place is in Papeete at the
main post office.
are 25 different varieties of breadfruit and almost as many uses. Healers
used the latex from the bark to plaster fractures, sprains and rheumatism.
In early times the tree's sap was used to caulk canoes and the glue was
used for capturing birds. The bark from the young branches was used to
make tapa and the trunk of the tree could be hollowed out for small
canoes. But its main role was that of a wonderful food source for the
Tahitians have a
consuming passion for dance. Everyone dances, men, women and children
alike. Dances were directly linked with every aspect of traditional life.
So one not only danced for joy, but also to welcome a visitor, to pray to
the Gods, to challenge an enemy, to proclaim one's victory in competition
or to accompany the great and solemn celebrations on the marae.
everywhere this local beer is available in bottles, cans and on tap. It is
brewed on the island of Tahiti in the Punaruu Valley. Hinano is without a
doubt the beer of choice as the annual consumption rate is about 65 liters
Brilliantly colored appliqued or patchwork
throws are made by the Tahitian women. Missionaries introduced the craft
and flowers and fruit are the predominant design patterns. Wrapping
someone in a tifaifai is a sign of welcome and traditionally; it is an
important wedding gift.
"Mother Hubbard" dress was introduced by the missionaries. Still worn
today, the Tahitian women prefer a bright, vibrant palette to the subdued,
muted colors of their counterparts.
hooks were usually carved out of mother-of-pearl and sharpened with the
help of coral files. Their shapes varied according the fish they wanted to
catch. Little hooks made of shell were kept for fishing in shallow water.
Big fish taken from the barrier reef were lured with large wooden hooks
with a sharp point.
The "fara", or
pandanus is second only to the coconut palm in Polynesia for its
usefulness. It is common throughout the islands and although it can grow
in mountainous regions, it is mostly found on the atolls where its roots
take hold very easily in the salt water and sand. Once dried, its leaves
are used for weaving roofs and for basket-making. The sails of ancient
canoes were plaited in fara.
Just as dance played an integral role in the
Tahitian way of life so did the music that accompanied. Musical
instruments were very basic which included percussion and wind. The
stringed instruments came much later. The nose-flute, conch-shell and
various drums provided rhythm for both festivities and religious
percussion instruments are usually made from hollowed out tree trunks. The
"toere" is a long wooden cylinder, which can be beaten with a stick. The
"pahu" is a drum, which has a sharkskin stretched across the top and can
be beaten with the hands or with a stick.
made out of a large murex (charonia tritonis) was used to summon people to
the marae or to announce important news.
instrument so widely used today came much later than the primitive drums.
Probably introduced from Hawaii where they were brought by the Spaniards
in the 17th century.
CONTEMPORARY TAHITIAN ART
A number of talented European and Polynesian
artists work in French Polynesia. Their works are on display in galleries
on Tahiti and Moorea. Originals and high-quality prints and posters are
TAMA'ARA'A AND AHIMA'A
Ahimaa is the Polynesian oven in which food is
baked. Branches and stones are arranged at the bottom of a hole dug in the
ground. The branches are kindled and heat the stones. A layer of banana
leaves is then placed on top followed by the layer of food generally
consisting of pig, fish and vegetables. The entire pit is then covered
with leaves and canvas bags and then sand to make it airtight. Cooking
takes several hours. When the oven is opened the feast or Tamaaraa
fruit basket is a cornucopia filled with savory tropical treats. Exotic
fruits are as varied in color and taste as they are in shape and texture.
You have a grand choice of sweet pineapples, huge juicy grapefruits
(pamplemousse), mouth-watering mangoes, luscious papaya, succulent guavas,
zesty limes, tropical lychees, bananas in all shapes and sizes, huge
watermelons, cantaloupes galore, perfumed vanilla, the versatile coconut
plus a magnificent selection of other natural delicacies. The bevy of
fruits offered in such abundant quantity and superb quality are a
healthful radiance to tropical living.