adventures in the south seas

South Sea Immersion takes place on Tahiti, Moorea and Rangiroa.

  • Nature, Culture, and History of the Most Beautiful Islands in the World
  • Easy Hikes, Snorkeling, Boating, and Exploration
  • Lots of interaction with local inhabitants
  • 8 nights in Hotels, 8 days of adventure

This expedition is designed to provide an in-depth experience of three of the most spectacular islands in the South Seas – Tahiti, Moorea, and Rangiroa. In Tahiti, we see lush tropical landscapes, the triple waterfalls of Faarumai, and ancient ceremonial sites. From Tahiti we cross the “Sea of the Moon” to Moorea—arguably the most beautiful island in the world with its deep emerald green valleys. Here we watch spinner dolphins cavort in the reef pass, hike to archaeological sites, and relax in bungalows set on a protected lagoon. We then fly to Rangiroa, in the Tuamotu Archipelago. This is the second largest atoll in the world with low islets and coral reefs enclosing an immense azure blue lagoon. Here we will spend three days exploring this a marine wonderland.

The trajectory of this trip takes us in sequence through the three stages of oceanic island evolution from a young high volcanic island (Tahiti), to the dramatic eroded ridges and broad lagoon of Moorea, and at last to an atoll where nothing is left of the old volcanic island but the coral reef and islets that ringed its shore, and the lagoon that now covers its sunken remains. Along the way we will learn about the how these islands evolved and the plants and animals that came to live here. We will also learn about the Polynesian people, how they found their way to these remote islands, how their culture has developed, and what it faces in this modern world. Join us for trip that will relax your soul and enrich your mind, and leave you with a new appreciation of this island paradise.

Detailed Itinerary

Meals included in these tours are specified at the end of each itinerary day as "B," "L," or "D" (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner).

Day 1 - Tahiti

Your flight will arrive mid-evening and you will be met by your guide at the airport and taken to your hotel for the night.

Day 2 - Tahiti

After breakfast we gather for Trip Orientation and then head out to tour the island. Tahiti is the largest island of the five island groups that make up French Polynesia, and is certainly the best known, thanks in large part to the many artists who visited or made their homes here, including Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Paul Gauguin. The first stop will be the Musee des Iles, which houses a superb collection of Polynesian artifacts, including ceremonial costumes, pre-European textiles made from tree bark, sacred tiki, and fine hand-carved outrigger canoes. While here, your guide introduces you to both the living culture and history of the islands. Then we will make our way around the island stopping to look at massive sea caves, hike to the magnificent waterfalls at Te Faarumai, and stop at the black sand beach of Point Venus on the shore of Matavai Bay, where the first European ships landed. The bay once sheltered Captain Cook and the crew of the Endeavor during their exploration of Polynesia in 1769. In 1790, the Bounty, captained by the infamous Captain Bligh, anchored here, and a young Charles Darwin on board the Beagle hiked up nearby valleys and pondered the development of coral reefs. Hotel overnight; BLD

Day 3 - Moorea

Moorea is about 2 million years old and the effects of erosion have hollowed out the interior of the island, left spectacular cliffs and peaks on the surrounding slopes, and created two great bays. The lagoon is much more developed and the barrier reef completely encircles this older island. After crossing the Sea of the Moon by ferry and settling into our hotel, we will go to the UC Berkeley Atitia Center, and be treated to a Tahitian feast hosted by a local community members. We will spend the afternoon here learning about culture from the local elders and about the research program from the station staff. Late in the day we will take a swim in the lagoon, sort out or snorkeling gear, and prepare ourselves for cocktails at sunset. BLD

Day 4 - Moorea

Today will be spent exploring the lagoon, the coral reef, and reef islands of Moorea. In the morning while the wind is still calm we will set out to look for spinner dolphins and humpback whales that are often found in the lagoon and near-shore waters (whales are here late-July to early November). After this we will stop to snorkel in the lagoon in a spot where it is easy to observe fish, rays, and reef sharks. By mid-day we will find our way to a reef island (motu) where we will stop for a picnic. While here we will talk about how these beautiful little islands form and take some time to look at vegetation and birds as well as get some more snorkeling in. Then it is back to the hotel in time for happy hour. BL

Day 5 - Moorea

This morning we will head up into Opunohu Valley to investigate the remains of an ancient village and look for endemic birds. We will take in the spectacular view at the Belvedere and talk about the geology of the island before descending into the forest to look at archaeological sites. At the end of the morning we will visit the Kellum Gardens, meet Mari Mari Kellum, and while enjoying a picnic lunch we will hear her stories of growing up on Moorea. The afternoon will be free for shopping, exploring, or just relaxing on the beach. BLD

Day 6 - Rangiroa

We will be moving this morning, first to the Moorea airport for a short flight to Papeete, and then a bit longer one to Rangiroa. We will check into our hotel, enjoy a lunch, and then head out onto the lagoon for some snorkeling. Rangiroa has a spectacular array of fish and sharks, and we will begin to meet them all this afternoon. Depending on the tide we may also be able to do a drift snorkel in the pass, sliding along at a few knots with as the huge lagoon fills with clear ocean water. BLD

Day 7 - Rangiroa

This day we will set out across Rangiroa’s massive lagoon to some beautiful isolated motu on the far side. Here we will snorkel and explore and see the endemic ultramarine lorikeets swinging from palm fronds. Lunch will be a beach picnic. A highlight of the day will be a visit to “shark city” where we will see, and swim with, a large representative group of local sharks – black tip, white tip, and lemon. BL

Day 8 - Rangiroa

Today we will head off in a different direction across the lagoon to a very special place. Along the way we will stop at a patch reef to collect some lagoon fish for our lunch. This side of the lagoon was uplifted many thousands of years ago and there is fossilized coral reef exposed in what the locals call “feo”. The motu here spaced along the reef so that we can explore both on foot and by snorkeling, As we make our way out to the reef crest the fossilized coral rises up like a fortress and we will have to find our way through it to the outer shore. BLD

Day 9 - Rangiroa

This morning we will offer leisurely options so that you will be able to shop, or stroll through the local village, or get in that last snorkeling adventure. We will have a nice lunch at our hotel and then catch a flight back to Tahiti. Here we will have day rooms at a hotel so that we can relax, or hit the town of Papeete for the last shopping spree. BL

south seas scrapbook

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