Updated: Jan 22, 2020
Our week-long cruise on Dream Yacht Charter's catamaran ended in Raiatea where we found that we had a whole day to spend before taking a flight back to Bora Bora. We had already explored Raiatea and didn't really know what to do. We had luckily met a friendly American woman, Jennifer Westfall, a few days earlier during a land tour. Jennifer runs Te Mana Travels, a yacht charter company that specializes in trips through the islands of Tahiti, Raiatea and Bora Bora. She very kindly arranged a day trip for us with a neighbor of hers, Tama, at Hamana Cultural Tours. The name of the tour company says it all as our day off the beaten path was a true journey into the culture of French Polynesia with special emphasis on the island of Taha'a, just across the water from Raiatea, but even more remote and pristine.
Taha'a is a sister island of Raiatea but feels a million miles away.
Tama, wearing a beautiful, bright pink Polynesian shirt, met us at the dock as we stepped off our catamaran and took us for a day-long trip we will never forget. We started the trip with our new friend Jennifer from Te Mana Travels along for the ride. Tama took us to one of Jennifer's favorite stops at the Ferme Perliere Champon where Monique Champon gave us a personal tour of the pearl farm and the showroom in the beautiful family home on the shore.
After dropping Jennifer off at her house, our trip continued with frequent stops for exotic food that Tama treated us to. When we were sipping refreshing juice from our own coconuts, Tama told us that we needed to try some island rum and we didn't disagree. Our next stop was at a relatively new distillery that is home to Mana'o Tahiti, a producer of fine rums made with organically grown Tahitian sugarcane. Brand ambassador Olivier Duret showed us around and had us sample a flight of three of his rums. Of course, we purchased a bottle of the delicious brew.
Our next visit was to La Vallee de la Vanille, a completely organic vanilla plantation that is the source of a large percentage of the real Tahitian vanilla distributed worldwide. A very knowledgeable family member showed us around and explained why Tahitian vanilla is so pricey and so delicious. Because there are no bees, each individual flower has to be pollinated by hand and the resulting vanilla pods have to be carefully massaged to ensure that the resulting vanilla beans have the flavor that has made them famous. The plantation has a shop where lucky tourists can choose from dozens of vanilla-based products.
Along the way, Tama played his ukelele at a particularly scenic stop and serenaded us in English, Spanish and Tahitian. Be sure to take a trip with Tama at Hamana Cultural Tours. You too won't forget him and his beautiful outlook on life.