Pacific Ocean

Maupiti, a Polynesian jewel…

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Maupiti is the last of French Polynesia’s Leeward Islands to be served by sea and air transport links from its neighbors to the east, Bora Bora and Raiatea. Oh, there isn’t a flight every day, only 2 or 3 a week. And the Maupiti Express, the little passenger ferry which runs to Bora Bora and Raiatea, only makes the trip every 2 or 3 days. When the pass can be entered, of course! If not, she remains tied to the dock. Further west, you find the final reaches of French Polynesia, with Mopelia, and then the tiny little lost atolls of Bellinghausen and Scilly, which are uninhabited. Maupiti really is a jewel - a high island (380 meters) dropped in the middle of a lagoon of enchanting colors. A lagoon of sparkling beauty. Maupiti, a miniature jewel, lives to the rhythm of pushbikes and scooters which ride peacefully round the one road which circles the island, in the middle of the lagoon. On the surrounding motus, the Polynesians grow watermelons, and have recently started a few family-run guesthouses for the savvy tourists (I would recommend, once in your life, to spend a week at the Rose des Iles guesthouse, or at the Maupiti Village guesthouse on the Tiapaa motu, close to the pass…).

There are no hotels here, the locals don’t want them. In spite of having a little airport, one of the most picturesque in the world. The little village, with its beautiful flowers, is spread out along the foot of an imposing cliff of volcanic rock some 230 meters high, a reminder of the island’s geological origins. Gone are the bungalows on stilts of Bora Bora! Gone are the jetskis! Never mind about the shopping! No pearl stores here… nor pirogue canoes overflowing with tourists. But of course the manta rays have remained here in Maupiti’s lagoon. So we watched them, and swam with them… The inhabitants of Maupiti have been very wise, and have managed to preserve their charmed way of life and let time take care of itself, peacefully. By refusing the money, they have said no to stress, to consumerism and to the degradation of their environment. And they have retained the joy of simple living. They make a living from growing a few vegetables on the motus around the lagoon’s rim, harvesting fruit, fishing for mahi-mahi (dorade coryphene) from their traditional potimarara fishing boats, or more simply catching fish from the lagoon such as snapper, parrotfish or jacks. There’s no ciguatera in Maupiti: this little corner of paradise has not been polluted by toxins! We’re glad we ignored everyone who said, “Maupiti? Forget it - the pass is too dangerous!” But… you do still need to be careful! The pass at Maupiti really can be dangerous. It has a bad reputation, which is justified. But too dangerous? That depends on the conditions, and also the experience of the crew who attempt it. There’s only one solution: the problem must be properly investigated before taking responsibility. Everyone knows that in order to get to Heaven, you have to pass through purgatory first. ...

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