Huahine, Tahiti's Garden Island
As you know, I love lush, green islands, especially when they're surrounded with water that seems to exist simply to define just how many shades of blue are possible. As a romantic at heart (hey, this is Tahiti), I'm a sucker for breathtaking island beauty. I get swept away by the charms of Huahine in the Society Islands of Tahiti almost instantly upon arrival. The island's steep, jungle-covered mountains and, for me, the loveliest lagoon in the Societies form a tableau of tropical greens and blues that instantly wraps you in its South Pacific ambience. It's the most geographically diverse of all the islands in Tahiti. There are places in the world that seem to stay tucked away even though they're in plain sight, and Huahine remains one of those secret gems. I'm literally the only traveler on the water taxi, which takes me to the Te Tiare Resort. The same is true when I meet up with Annie Brunnet of PADI Dive Center Mahana Dive in the main village of Fare (pronounced Fah-ray). Fare has retained an authentic air, like the island itself. Polynesia, and all that means, has taken deep root here. Culture and nature dictate life. The ocean ripples with the energy of sharks, turtles, rays and all the electric thrills those critters bring. Annie and I take her boat about 10 minutes' distance to the outside of Avapeihi Pass. It's a current dive, but that's fine because all the marine life I've come to experience loves these conditions.
We're not in the water for long when we encounter a school of barracuda that begins to swirl around us, above our heads. Annie heads into the current, where blacktip reef sharks cruise, almost rubbing shoulders with spotted eagle rays. Schools of bigeyes and striped snapper hide out from the current in shadowy overhangs. The chirps and whistles of unseen dolphins echo through the water column. We pull ourselves a little deeper into the current to get closer to the rays, sharks and barracuda. For a while we just settle in to watch the show -- kind of a revolving door of megafauna. When we need to return to the boat, we're accompanied by several species of butterflyfish and triggerfish that hang around through the entire safety stop.
Back on the boat, the quiet solitude and almost ineffable beauty of the island sweep back into my heart. That night I walk out onto my deck at the Te Tiare Resort and let the warm evening breeze cool me. I think I could live on this island. I step down to the beach, slip into the glassy water of the lagoon and float in the silent company of a star-filled night.