Sadly, we only got 2 nights here but it was amazing from the moment we landed. This is the smallest airport I’ve ever seen and consisted of one open-air building and about 2 staff.
Us on arrival on beautiful Maupiti wearing our goodbye laias from Raiatea and our welcome laias from Tea:
We were greeted by our Tea (Tay ah), who owns the pension where we stayed. He helped load our stuff into a small boat and we (and 4 of his friends) were off- first stop, the main island to pick up some beer from the single shop that sells it! We then plopped ourselves under a palm tree for an hour, getting to know the guys and settling into the Maupiti way! (or should I say, Polynesian?). Tea translated as needed since the guys didn’t speak English but we had fun speaking French and it never ceases to amaze me how much people can communicate without language anyway.
Relaxing under the palm tree with our new friends:
We got to the pension and met the 2 other couples and had dinner. Tea and his wife prepared outstanding food which we enjoyed on the outdoor patio near the sea-side beach (as opposed to the lagoon side). The next morning, Tea took us to the manta cleaning station where we spent an hour snorkeling with 3 big mantas! The lagoon is pretty small and very shallow so even as we approached the pass, you could see the bottom.
John and one of three mantas at the cleaning station:
Three large reef mantas playing around at the cleaning station:
We headed to the main island for lunch- at the only restaurant around. We saw a few other people we knew from Raiatea- then hiked to the top of the mountain- 400m even though it was hot, we just couldn’t resist the view since the sun came out and it was clear. It took us about an hour to get to the top- it was short, but it was hard and I think John suffered a bit (and for the next 3 days!) but it was well worth it.
View from the top- you can see the barrier reef all the way around the island and the single pass (here) between 2 small motus:
Panoramic view from the top- ours is the motu on the left:
It had been an amazing day so far but to finish it off, sat on the lagoon side beach at our pension and watched a beautiful sunset.
The next day we had half day until our flight to Bora Bora so we snorkeled the sea side of the motu. It was really cool to see the reef so close to the beach- on most other islands, the barrier reef extends miles away but here, just outside the pension it is as close as 15m away. We were tempted to swim to the edge but it’s so dense with coral and the water is so shallow, it’s impossible. We did enjoy some very careful snorkeling though and the crystal clear water, healthy coral and plentiful fish made for a top-notch snorkel!
John snorkeling with his hands amongst the coral on the sea side of the motu, about 20m from our bungalow:
Amazing clear water a short walk down the beach, at least it was deep enough to swim but just barely!:
I feel like Maupiti is French Polynesia’s little secret- and I desperately hope it stays that way. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, that’s for sure, but it’s somehow better than so many other places and I’m not sure I can articulate why… I think it’s because I didn’t feel like a tourist, I felt like I was seeing the REAL Maupiti, seeing real people living their normal lives, and for a short time, we got to live there too. Maupiti is home to only 1100 people so it’s no surprise that everyone knows each other. But maybe it is a surprise that they appear to genuinely like and respect each other- they are always greeting and helping and chatting- in stark contrast to the cities of China, actually, a stark contrast to most places I’m most familiar with.
John walking the beach on the sea side of the motu where we snorkeled on the last day:
Another factor is that for the first time, the idealic beach paradise that has long eluded us proved its’ existance. The IKEA art and desktop screen savers always present vacant beaches in crystal water with bright green palm trees – but everytime we find such beauty, it’s scarred with people, buildings and other human “things” and it’s barely recognizable as the thing it once was. But here, what you see is what you get. These photos are not an illusion of a place that is no longer here, it’s REAL. I hope we have the occassion to find some more of these treasures before they are gone.
The beach on the lagoon side- the lagoon is behind me: