Post written by Erika.
French Polynesia is often regarded as paradise on Earth.
The archipelago in the South Pacific is a honeymooner’s dream and its crystal waters and soft white sands have long been associated with the ultimate luxurious destination.
I, like millions of others had often gazed upon images of French Polynesia’s transparent waters and dreamed of visiting its lush, craggy mountain peaks. Yet, like the majority of daydreamers, I too had initially dismissed traveling to the French territory due my assumption that a visit would empty out my savings account.
The high prices of everything from airfare to lodging and from car rentals to groceries in French Polynesia, makes sticking to budget parameters a bit challenging. Thus, visiting the archipelago–especially for American tourists–is often seen as a once-in-a-lifetime splurge.Throughout the week we spent
Throughout the week we spent on the island territory, Dan and I were hard-pressed to find other travelers visiting the islands as part of a normal, yearly vacation.
But visiting French Polynesia can be done on a budget and, while cutting costs may mean cooking one’s own food or scrimping on accommodation, the rewards of setting foot in paradise are incalculable.
To help offset the high costs associated with travel around the islands, Dan and I decided to rent out an Airbnb for $55 a night–a steal in a country where lodging can run upwards of $1,000. The Airbnb was about five minutes by bike from the luxurious Sofitel Resort and adjacent Tamae Beach–where Dan and I spent hours lounging around the soft sands and exploring the colorful reef.
But nothing quite prepared me for the underwater world of Moorea.
With the snorkeling equipment that we had rented from the Sofitel, we swam below the luxurious underwater bungalows, among schools of tropical fish. The water clarity was so great that even the pictures taken with our underwater camera were able to avoid the tint of green from the algae that so often accompanies photos taken of the underwater world.
If we thought that snorkeling around Tamae Beach provided the best underwater views we had ever seen, we were fully unprepared for the underwater aquarium that we would find in the coral gardens of the Moorea Lagoonarium near Afareaitu.
The Lagoonarium is Tripadvisor’s number one recommendation for visitors to Moorea–and for good reason. It is a shallow lagoon that houses swarms of tropical fish and a healthy population of rays and docile black-tipped reef sharks. Visiting the Lagoonarium costs roughly thirty dollars for the day and the price includes a transfer to a private island within the lagoon, access to day bungalows, snorkel equipment, kayaks, picnic tables and unlimited access to the coral gardens.
Over the course of the day, Dan and I took advantage of the amenities at the Lagoonarium. We swam amongst the fish, took out the kayaks and lounged around in the shade of the beach cabanas.
Twice a day, the owner of the Lagoonarium takes visitors out to the reef to feed the resident fish. It is an unparalleled opportunity to get close and personal to the reef sharks and rays (most of whose stingers have been clipped) that reside within the shallow waters off of Moorea’s coast.
As we swam among the warm waters of the Moorea Lagoonarium and wove our way between sharks, rays, and schools of tropical fish, I felt as though I had just stepped into an episode of Blue Planet and could almost hear David Attenborough’s voice explaining the wonders of the underwater world.
There’s not much else I can say about the world that lies below Moorea’s waters, other than the fact that I encourage you all to see it for yourself.
I promise you will not be disappointed.