Last week, Ryan and I took a leisurely stroll over to the National Gallery of Art to see the newly installed Gauguin exhibit, Gauguin: Maker of Myth (one of the perks of living in DC is the access to the free museums!) and it just reinforced my intense longing to go to Tahiti!!! Gauguin was a french Post-Impressionist painter that relocated to French Polynesia after suffering through depression and the lose of his job as a successful stock broker after a stock market crash. He spent almost a decade in Tahiti painting and carving before moving to the Marquesas Islands in 1901, where he would die 2 years later. His grave is still there and has a cast of one of his most beloved works – Oviri. The original Oviri is usually housed at the Musee d’Orsay in France, but is a part of the traveling exhibit here in DC.
Gauguin seemed to love the same things about Tahiti that anyone would, especially a feeling of escape to somewhere tropical & exotic. I’m sure you’ve all seen the images – little straw huts suspended above the water, your own little paradise island in a tranquil sea of mystifyingly blue color. I can see why Gauguin would have been compelled to stay here, whittling away at his carvings (which are quite good – I didn’t know that he carved until the exhibit) or painting his next tahitian scene. But just in case you aren’t convinced of Tahiti’s awe-inspiring beauty:
A quick check on Lonely Planet reveals that the best time to go is during the dry season, May-October….hmmm…looks like that’s right around the corner!
So yes it’s beautiful, but what is there to do? (As if lounging around in such a beautiful place is NOT enough…). There is a lot more to do in Tahiti and the surrounding islands than people might think, although it should seem fairly obvious that there are a good deal of water activities. If you like to dive, the crystal clear water is more than just an element of a fantastic photo or the source of your own personal, natural dream machine at night. Tahiti offers diving with the added “bonus” of some shark sightings. They idea of being far below the surface (over 10 feet is a little far for me) with a breathing apparatus strapped to my back so I can pretend I’m a fish, all the while being encircled by sharks, is not an appealing one; however, I know that lots of people would love this. If simply being near the wildlife is not enough for you, you can also feed the sharks and the rays during some dives.
If you are with me and want to will the idea of sharks from your mind altogether, then snorkeling is likely a better option that is thankfully also offered in Tahiti. Again, with the clarity of the water, it is not surprising that you would have some great views and you get to stay at the surface.
Another good way to enjoy the views of Tahiti (and not just the underwater views) is by boat! I know I would be absolutely happy to spend a day paddling around the islands, but even if you aren’t much of a paddler a different type of floating vessel can be found for you. Sailing and other boat cruises are great options for getting out on the open water without using your own manpower.
For those that are more the land-lover type or just want to switch it up from all the water activities, there’s always hiking.
All this activity will certainly work up an appetite and food wise, Tahiti offers up its fruit of the sea in various forms. The traditional dish is poisson cru – a raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk, but there are many other types of seafood as well. If you don’t like seafood (something I will never truly understand, but to each his own), the local pork is supposed to be quite tasty too.
All in all, Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia seem to me like a destination filled with relaxation, sun, sand, beautiful water, yummy fresh food, and a tranquility that would cost you much more money in places in the Carribbean. Again, I have never been; but, hopefully that will change soon and I can report back on how right I was. 🙂