A huge string of islands stretching out like a pearl necklace in the Pacific Ocean: French Polynesia is truly paradise on earth. Hemmed by coral reefs and turquoise waters, go snorkelling in the lagoons of Bora Bora and Maupiti of the Leeward islands, swimming with manta rays and grey reef sharks in the waters from Rangiroa to Tuamotu. At Tahiti, go surfing or observe the whales, on the island of Huahine, watch the dugout canoes leave on the legendary Hawaiki Nui Va'a race. Next the blue of the sea is replaced by lush green vegetation. Drop anchor at the Marquises or at Raiatea, one of the Society Islands. The countryside is exuberant, depicted by highly contrasted terrain and breathtaking landscapes, ideal for hiking excursions and also visits to Pre-European remains such as those at Maeva. After experiencing Polynesia's art de vivre first-hand around a dish of raw fish, bring back a souvenir of this vibrant culture in your suitcase: a woven straw hat from the Austral Islands, a pearl from the Gambier Islands and maybe even a sophisticated tattoo from Moorea!
Portrayed since the 18th century as the ‘New Cythera’, Polynesia has lost none of its mystical allure. The archipelago offers a good deal more than relaxation and fine sandy beaches: traditional culture is of prime importance here.
This is a major event in the cultural life of the French Polynesia. The "Hawaiki nui Va'a" is the region’s largest dug-out canoe race. But besides the competition, it is also an example of the strong ties that the Polynesians have always had with the sea.
Despite having become a world-wide phenomenon, tattoos often have vastly differing meanings in different cultures. While in the West a tattoo can be a means of self-expression, a symbol of rebellion against authority or a simple “fashion accessory”; in other cultures, and notably the Marquesas Islands, it is a tradition with a long history. In the past few decades, young Marquesans have started to reclaim this facet of their cultural heritage that had all but disappeared during European dominance.