South Pacific Specialists

Taha’a – The Vanilla Island

Taha’a, with the rich aroma of vanilla lingering heavily in the air, offers a glimpse of the traditional, tranquil life of the Tahitians. The flower-shaped island’s simple beauty is charmed by soft mountain shapes and surrounded by tiny motu with bright sand beaches. In the fertile valleys cutting within the island, local farmers grow watermelon, vanilla, and copra.  The island is made up of a majestic massif, clad in emerald-coloured vegetation, divided by three valleys.

Tahaa, slightly smaller and less populated than Raiatea, shares a wonderful lagoon rich in sealife. The island boasts a full 80% of all Tahiti’s Vanilla production. Both Islands are also inundated with Pearl Farms legendary for their superb quality, high aesthetic appeal, and value.

The island is particularly peaceful because it does not have an airport, (Raiatea’s airport is very close), and it offers the visitor a rare taste of authenticity.

Tahaa resembles an immense, colorful garden. You can enjoy tropical fruits while taking a guided 4×4 excursion which will allow you to meet creative artisans, botanical experts or pearl farmers, delighted to share the secrets of the iridescent black pearl of Polynesia with you.

For the visitor to Taha’a, the cadence of life creates activities with a more relaxing pace:
- Exploration of the tiny villages and simple island living along the shores by car or bicycle.
- Discovery of the family-owned pearl farms.
- Enjoyment of the white-sand beaches at a “motu picnic”.
- Adventure into the mountains on one of the many ancient hiking trails.
- Relaxation at the luxurious and remote resorts.

Some of the most popular activities for visitors include:

Vanilla Plantations
The scented air of Taha’a comes from the fragrance of vanilla pods curing in the sun. Over 80% of Tahiti’s harvest of this famous spice is grown here. Plantation tours include strolling among the rows of climbing orchids and a demonstration of the pollination and curing process.

Island Exploration
Taha’a is an enjoyable island to explore. By car or bus tour, drive along the quiet circle-island roads and stop at the villages and peaceful shores. By boat, cruise within bays dotted with pearl farms or come ashore on a tiny motu. By foot, follow a guide along ancient footpaths including a trek to the Temehani Plateau and to the slopes of Mount Temehani to see the opening of the Tiare Apetahi flowers.

Diving
A favorite of all divers, the shared lagoon between the islands is rich with numbers of sites and in variety including landscapes of sea mounts, caverns, drop-offs, and famous wrecks.

Snorkeling
The calm and secluded lagoon is home to a wide variety of reef fish and plant life. Since fish-feeding is practiced, the lagoon attracts large schools of eels, perches, triggerfish, red snappers, silver jacks, tunas, red runners, and reef sharks.

Picnic on Your Own Island
Dozens of tiny motu surround these islands and many are available for half- or full-day use for couples or groups. Most islands can be circled in a few minutes by foot and are the perfect spot to picnic under a coconut tree, snorkel around the island, or relax with a book.

Village Hopping and Shopping
Visitors who seek a simpler life enjoy the villages along the coast of Taha’a. The quaint village of Haamene has nearby pearl farms and a turtle preserve, the north-shore village of Patio is known for traditional fishing and copra activities, and Tiva is surrounded by Vanilla plantations.

Other activities and sites on Taha’a include:
- 4X4 Safaris to explore the remote interior roads and coastal villages.
- Vanilla plantations and family-owned pearl farms.
- Lagoon excursions by powered outrigger canoe, glass-bottomed boat, motor boat, kayak, or jetskiing.
- Circle-island tours by bus or private car.
- Deep-sea fishing.
- Botanical gardens.
- Sea turtle preserve.
- Snorkeling excursions around the islands and motu.

A land of many names…

It’s not a mistake! The true Tahitian spelling of Tahaa is with an apostrophe but it might lead to some confusion for those unfamiliar with the sometimes tongue-tying Tahitian language. There are actually a lot of apostrophes in the Tahitian language and, as with the case of Tahaa, these words should be pronounced with a slight pause between vowels to represent the glottal stop. Think of it as the similar break between “Uh-oh” in English. Nevertheless, and perhaps more widely accepted by English speakers, the spelling of Tahaa sans the apostrophe can be found frequently throughout the internet and beyond.

Further research on the name Tahaa will turn up the alternate names of “Uporu Island”, “Oataha” and perhaps most famously “The Vanilla Island”. The latter of these names of course refers to the Island’s global status as a major producer of Vanilla; estimated at 25 tons a year and accounting for more than 70% of all the vanilla produced in French Polynesia.

So, whether you say Taha’a, Tahaa, or the Vanilla Island, this beautiful and fragrant little island is definitely worth a visit!

Source: Tahiti-tourisme.com

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