The Laughing Tiki Of Raivavae - Tahiti Tourisme © Pierre VergerThe Laughing Tiki Of Raivavae - Tahiti Tourisme
©The Laughing Tiki Of Raivavae - Tahiti Tourisme|Pierre Verger

Three days in Raivavae

Raivavae, an unspoiled jewel

Bora Bora is obviously the dream destination for visitors to Polynesia. However, Raivavae has little reason to envy the Pearl of the Pacific.Three days in this remote garden of Eden, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, will give you the opportunity to unwind and appreciate the island’s natural beauty.

View From Mount Hiro in Raivavae - Tahiti Tourisme © Frédéric CristolView From Mount Hiro in Raivavae - Tahiti Tourisme
©View From Mount Hiro in Raivavae - Tahiti Tourisme |Frédéric Cristol

Day 1

Raivavae airport was opened in 2002 and is about a ten-minute drive from the main village. There’s no shuttle service, so the owner of your Guesthouse will pick you up, with a smile and a welcoming “‘Ia oga na” (‘Ia ora na in the language of Raivavae).

The climate is cooler than in the rest of Polynesia and is ideal for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables: taro, lychees, bananas, mangoes etc. Together with fishing, this enables many families on the island to be almost totally self-sufficient.

There are no big luxury hotels on the island and life is peaceful and in tune with nature. In the past, developers have tried to open the island to outside investors, but the islanders have always resisted, choosing to retain their authenticity and relative isolation. If you discuss this with the locals, you’ll soon learn that they prefer to keep things just as they are.

It’s easy to understand why this timeless, volcanic island in the middle of an emerald lagoon should attract so much attention. So, as soon as you’ve put your bags in your room, set off on a bike tour – most guesthouses will rent them by the day – and discover the charms of Raivavae for yourself. You’ll be unlucky if you cross the path of a single motor car on the 24km road that goes round the island, but what you will pass is lush green countryside and views over the vast, turquoise lagoon. And you’ll leave the stress of life back home a little further behind with every push of the pedal.

An island of flowers, with an exceptional variety of hibiscus plants of all colors and sizes. You’ll also pass bunches of bananas suspended over the water, so that rodents can’t get at them.

At the weekend, stop and enjoy the melodious harmonies coming from inside the various churches. There are services on both Saturdays and Sundays, depending on the religion, and the churches are usually filled to capacity. The result is a moment of pure emotion – goosebumps guaranteed!

If you’re in Raivavae at the end of the year, you’ll be able to enjoy freshly-harvested lychees. This delicious, juicy sweet fruit of the Austral Islands is shipped to Tahiti and then delivered throughout Polynesia, where lychees are an integral part of the end of year festivities in every household!

Day 2

Less well-known than some of the islands in the neighboring archipelagos, Raivavae is sometimes referred to as « the most beautiful island in the Pacific» by those lucky enough to have been there. There are twenty-eight motu around the coral reef, where multitudes of seabirds come to nest and each motu is circled by a white sandy beach and crystal clear water. Take a boat excursion to motu Vaiamanu, about twenty minutes from the main island. Known as the « motu of pools » the water is a veritable artist’s palette of greens and blues. In the fierce sunshine, you’ll be grateful for any shade you can find on the motu to enjoy your lunch of refreshing and delicious poisson cru au lait de coco, accompanied by dishes of fried fish or chicken, and with fresh fruit for dessert. You won’t find a more beautiful setting for lunch anywhere. Afterwards, you can relax in one of the shallow pools of water. But be careful, the sun is so strong that sometimes the water in the pools gets too hot!

For those inspired by the adventures of Tom Hanks in Castaway, opt for the excursion that proposes a « night on the motu ». You’ll have to reserve in advance, but it’s a unique experience. Your only company for the night will be the tupa (land crabs), bernard-l’hermites (hermit crabs) and a cooler box containing your evening meal and breakfast for the next day. You’ll sleep in a rudimentary shelter, cut off from the world. Completely alone, you’ll be able to appreciate the calm and enjoy the magnificent sunset. At night, the star-studded sky is simply spectacular, and in a full moon the atmosphere is otherworldly.

Day 3

It would be a pity to visit Raivavae without hiking to the top of Mount Hiro. The trek, accompanied by a guide, will take about an hour, depending on your physical condition, and culminates at 438 meters.The trail is difficult in places and shouldn’t be attempted in bad weather because it can be slippery. However, if the conditions are good, the climb really is worth the effort. From the peak of the mountain the view of the lagoon is vertiginous, but awesome. A breathtaking 360° panorama of blues and greens which makes you feel very small, but extremely privileged.

Less energetic is a hike along the trail that partly crosses the island, the traversière. A long walk in the beautiful countryside and as a bonus, you can collect wild raspberries!

As you can see, Raivavae is the ideal destination for ‘getting away from it all’. Far from the stresses and strains of the modern world, it keeps to its own very insular rhythm. An authentic and unspoiled island where the peace and calm is only disturbed by the occasional grunting of a neighbor’s pig or the crowing of a cock.

This haven of tranquility is the ideal place for relaxation and contemplation. Life goes by at a slower pace, giving you time to appreciate the sound of the waves on the shore and the wind in the trees. And the beauty of silence.

During the rest of your third day on the island, visit some of the archeological sites, such as the maraeand caves. And before you go, don’t forget to say hello (and goodbye) to the island’s only remaining ti’i (tiki) of the four which once existed on Raivavae. Of the other three, two are now in Tahiti and the third lies at the bottom of the lagoon!