No matter how much you’ve travelled around the world, you’ve probably fantasised about visiting French Polynesia at one time or another. Why? Well, probably because it is one of the most beautiful places on planet Earth. Covering an area of over four million square kilometres (this includes the surrounding waters as well), French Polynesia is formed of 118 exquisite islands (that is roughly that size of the European Union). An overseas country attached to France, it is located in the South Pacific, between California and Australia (about halfway, if you were to measure). So, without further ado, let us explore the top five things to keep in mind prior to visiting the paradise that is French Polynesia!
1. Insects and snakes:
Don’t be afraid of that title for it intends to convey the exact opposite of what it appears to be at first glance. Why? Well, because there are no poisonous insects and snakes in French Polynesia! In spite of the agreeable climate and the general abundance of life, it does not threaten your existence in any way. This general safety reaches into the water as well as poisonous jellyfish and sea snakes are unheard of. This does not include camouflaged stone fish that can be a slight problem if you are a first-timer. Just keep your eyes peeled in rocky areas and at coral reefs for that is where they are more likely to reside. But even with these stone fish, you are quite safe – the only things that you should keep a close eye on are mosquitoes for they are not only a nuisance, they sometimes carry dengue fever.
2. Island hopping:
Many people will tell you that places like Bora Bora or Tahiti are wonderful but their surrounding islets are even better. Before we get into this, here’s an interesting fact: French Polynesia is visited by as many people in a year as Hawaii in a single day. Keeping that in mind will almost instantly make you understand that it is a more reserved, modest, yet not less beautiful place. What this means is that you are not going to face such a crowd when visiting – things are much calmer and more enjoyable. So, if you wish to explore that solitude further, you can try and go island hopping around the main destinations (yes, those mainstream ones). This, however, is not always easy for you might not always find rides to take you to your designated islets. This varies though as you might sometimes land a deal with a local with a boat (and this is what we recommend that you do). Always go and explore on your own for you might find things that you have never imagined.
3. Aita pea pea:
You may have read that set of words with a raised eyebrow since its meaning is not known by many. Well, in French Polynesia, “aita pea pea” is the equivalent of their way of life: it means “relaxed” or “no worries”. This is a philosophy that is practiced by everyone inherently and you are not likely to encounter a stressed Polynesian. The locals are particularly friendly and they are happy to share their way of life with all visitors. They will often take you into their homes and teach you a thing or two about living in the tropical climate zone. Just don’t make them feel inferior for they hold their culture in high regard. On a side-note: respect the local diversity as the inhabitants respect their land and all will be well.
The elephant in the room has to be brought forth: the internet connection in French Polynesia is quite slow and fairly expensive. Some hotels do offer free WiFi but even that is quite sluggish. This does not mean that some venues will be completely bereft of online connection; it’s just that it was never a priority in the South Pacific. And let’s be honest: you are not going there to be on the internet all the time. Photos can be shared later but the islands will only be there as long as you are (if you know what we mean). The most common internet service provider (ISP) in French Polynesia is called Mana, so you might want to research that if you have urgent business to take care of online.
Let us get the obvious out of the way: the legal drinking age in French Polynesia is 18. Since the whole set of archipelagos (5, to be precise: 4 volcanic and 1 coral) pertains to France, wine will be as abundant as water. You can buy all sorts of wines but that is not what we recommend that you do. What we suggest that you first explore are the exotic drinks that are just as plenty: pineapple juices, coconut shakes, mango essences and so on. Oh, and did we mention that you can sometimes crack coconuts yourself? That experience must not be missed by anyone!
Did you enjoy our list? What experiences have you had in French Polynesia and how have they shaped your trip? Do not hesitate to share your impressions with us in the comment section below and consider checking back from time to time for some interesting updates! Safe travels!