FINDING MANA ON HUAHINE

The Garden Isle Of French Polynesia from the air - Huahine

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© Diane Macdonald - All Rights Reserved

Huahine? No doubt you have heard of the islands of Huahine and Bora, Bora, and maybe even Moorea, but Huahine? In the Leeward group of French Polynesia's archipelago, the Society Islands, Huahine is but a 40 minute stone's throw from the island of Huahine, and our flight from Moorea took only 35 minutes.

Tahiti Nui plane which brought us to Houhine

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So why is magical Huahine (total poulation around 6,000 people) such a well-guarded secret? (It's known sometimes as The Secret Island. Well, she does not have a city with a large market like Papeete on Tahiti where you can shop for everything from black pearls to local fish caught in the lagoon, or an abundance of resorts like the rest of the island. There are only a handful of very small resorts and some pensions (B&Bs) on Huahine. There is no night life or famous big restaurants like Bloody Mary's on Bora Bora, which also has an abundance of resorts.

Therefore, the average tourist seems to bypass this jewel of an island, which really is two islands connected by a bridge and surrounded by a fringe of coral reefs and several motus or islets. Huahine Nui, or Big Huahine - the more populated island lies to the north; Huahine Iti, or Small Huahine - the more rugged and less populated island – lies to the south. The airport and main village of Fare with its Sunday market and shops are on Huahine Nui, but the resort where we stayed for four nights, Hotel Le Mahana Huahine, is on Huahine Iti close to the small village of Parea.

Hand drawn map of Huahine

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Huahine is a version of the Tahitian word Vahine, meaning “woman.” According to the driver who drove us south to our resort on Huahine Iti, this mountain ridge resembles the outline of a pregnant woman lying down. This is also a symbol of the fertility of Huahine.

The mountain ridge which gives Huahine her name, Huahine

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The bridge separating Huahine-Nui and Huahine-Iti, Huahine

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Tahitian legend says that Mana, a polytheistic belief from ancient Polynesian times, is the life force or energy which connects all of her 118 inhabited islands, giving special meaning to Island Time in French Polynesia. If I believed that I found Bali Hai on Moorea, then surely I experienced Mana on Huahine! Here is where I first encountered the true island experience of French Polynesia - feeling more like a traveler through time than a tourist, experiencing the authentic Tahiti where time slowed down to a crawl.

What then kept me spellbound about Huahine? It was not only the fact that Huahine is known as The Garden Island or The Garden of Eden of French Polynesia, growing coconuts, bananas, vanilla beans, watermelons, breadfruit and a myriad of tropical flowers, but that she consists mainly of a huge tropical jungle, fringed with sandy beaches and also that her ancient culture could be found in the ruined maraes (sacred temples) scattered throughout the two islands. Here could be found the greatest concentration of them in all of French Polynesia. Some of these maraes are believed to date back to around 700AD and to the Lapita people, the ancestors of the Tahitians. Huahine then is considered the cradle of French Polynesian culture, and was once the home of Tahitian royalty.

Breadfruit, Huahine

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Bougainvillea, Huahine

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Marea Anini Sign, Huahine

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Marea Anini, Huahine

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© Diane Macdonald - All Rights Reserved

This paradise is reserved for those of us who enjoy experiencing the outdoors and the true culture and history of a region, so tourists in their masses thankfully don't flock here! Yet, my husband and I found so much to do on Huahine, besides sitting on the deck of our beach bungalow watching the waves, or rather lack of them, in the lagoon!

View from our beach bungalow, Houahine

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There are tours we could have taken into the tropical forests and into the lagoon for snorkeling and sightseeing, but we chose to explore as much as we could on foot from our resort, discovering there was much to see right on our doorstep! We also rented a car for one day and toured the entire coastal route of the two islands – definitely worth doing! And if you happen to be fortunate enough to visit in October, you may get to experience the excitement of the Hawaiki Nui Va'a, an outrigger canoe race which starts out from Huahine. All throughout our trip to French Polynesia, we witnessed athletes practicing for it, the largest of its kind in French Polynesia!

Our Fiat Panda rental car which we drove around the entire two islands of Huahine

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© Diane Macdonald - All Rights Reserved

Huahine then, has given me much to write about, and I'm excited that I will be able to share my photography and experiences with you in other posts to come. This is just an introduction to the island. In upcoming posts I will write about the resort and about our experiences in detail on Huahine! So, please keep checking in!

If you have enjoyed reading this introduction to Huahine, you may want to check out my other posts in this series:

  1. French Polynesia – A State Of mind
  2. Moorea French Polynesia – First Impressions And The Resort
  3. Moorea - French Polynesia – Bali Hai