The Paul Gauguin

Fakarava

Fatu Hiva

Hiva Oa and Paul Gauguin's grave

Motu Mahana

Moorea

Cruise in French Polynesia

August 2012

In August 2012, Kathy and I went to French Polynesia for a cruise aboard the M/S Paul Gauguin. Kathy had always been intrigued by Bora Bora and I had been interested in the Marquesas ever since I used to read about around-the-world sailing journeys that got to those islands after a 25 or 30 day sail. French Polynesia is made up of 5 island groups: the Society Islands (which include Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora), the Tuamotus which are all atols (with lagoons but no mountains), the Marquesas (the farthest north, off by themselves), and 2 gruops that we didn't visit, the Australs and the Gambier islands. The particular cruise that we took is one of only 3 per year that goes to the Marquesas. We were on the ship 14 nights and then on Moorea for 3 days in an over the water bungalow. The panorama below shows one of the bays on Moorea.

Bay on Moorea

The map below shows our route (not to scale).

Paul Gauguin Cruise Map

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The first day we were at sea. I had a chance to explore the ship and take pictures. Here are some pictures of the ship. The room with the bed is our stateroom.

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The next day we anchored in the lagoon at Fakatava, one of the atolls in the Tuamotus. From the ship you can see just how narrow the strip of land surrounding the lagoon is. The open ocean is visible behind the church in the picture below. Here are some pictures from our exploration of the island.

Fakarava

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After another day at sea we arrived in the Marquesas where we would visit 4 islands. Two of the islands only had about 600 people living on them; the other two had about 2,000. Each afternoon when we weighed anchor and sailed away, "Le Gauguines" (the ship's entertainers) seranaded us. Here are some pictures from Fatu Hiva, including one of the ship's chef buing fresh tuna.

Sail away party with Le Gauguines

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The next day we dropped anchor off of Hiva Oa. This is one of the more populous islands. Paul Gauguin spent the last, most productive years of his life here. This is where he painted his most famous, most ambitious piece "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?". Here are some pictures from Hiva Oa including some of the Marquesan dance troupe who put on a show for us.

Paul Gauguin's moost famous painting

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In Tahuata, the town dance troupe put on a show for us.

Tahuata dancers Tahuata dancers

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Our next stop was Nuka Hiva where we explored high up in the mountains and looked down on a beach where Survivor was filmed. Then we had two days at sea on the way back to the Society Islands. After seeing Huahine and Bora Bora, we had our most fun day with a picnic on a deserted island. It was the Motu (small island) Mahana that is on the outer edge (barrier reef) of the lagoon that encloses the islands of Taha'a and Raiatea. We snorkeled and Kathy saw her first Picasso Triggerfish. The crew fixed a fabulous barbecue and lunch. Here are some pictures from that day.

Motu Mahana

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On our last full day on the Paul Gauguin, it anchored off of Moorea. We did a little sightseeing, but we knew that we would be coming back for 3 more nights on land. That night (in the harbor in Tahiti) there was a Tahitian dance show put on by "O Tahiti E", Polynesia's number one folkloric dance troupe. The show was great.

S/V Paul Gauguin off Moorea O Tahiti E dancers

The next morning we toured Papeete and then took the ferry back to Moorea. When we got to the hotel, we were able to upgrade our room to an overwater bungalow. Here are some pictures from our stay on Moorea. Included are a couple showing Kathy helping to prepare some traditional Polynesian food. She is helping the wife of the director of the Berkley Research Center on Moorea. The wife is from the Tuomotus (the director is American). He had given us a tour of part of the island.

After 3 days of relaxing, we took the ferry back to Papeete anf flew home. The trip had been everything that we had hoped it would be. We gad a great time!


C. Brandon Jones
email: Brandon "at" cbjones.info
updated February 1, 2013