As if Tahiti weren't already bursting at the seams with enough riches above and below the water, one of the little-known experiences is that they've got humpback whales, too. Once the honeymooners come and go and September rolls around, the humpbacks come up from the southern oceans to give birth and loll about in the warm waters off several Tahitian islands. In the Australs, which are 325 miles south of the main island of Tahiti, no remote corner of French Polynesia is more famous for whales than Rurutu (try saying that three times fast). Here, the Polynesian lifestyle dominates daily life, there are no big hotels and the closest fast-food chain is literally thousands of miles away. For an escape to an idyllic tropical world ruled by the whims of tide and time, you'll be hard pressed to find a better getaway. Add a plethora of whales, which begin to arrive mid-August and stay through mid-November, and you've got a bonafide dreamland for those of us who like to spend time in the water with big, sentient and majestic animals. Off Rurutu, the encounter can last for hours in shallow water.
Typically, snorkelers have interactions with curious calves, while the mother "naps" on the seafloor with one eye on the little one. When the mother rises from the seafloor and comes in close to have a look, it's impossible not to feel an overwhelming sense of awe. For most travelers lucky enough to experience whales so intimately, it is a life-changing experience that makes it worth every effort to get to this outpost. Encounters take place almost within swimming distance of the shore and, for the lucky, can last all day. Interactions with migrating humpbacks also occur off Moorea, if you'd rather enjoy your time ashore in some of Tahiti's famous over-water bungalows. Some of the other islands in Tahiti's Society group, as well as the Tuamotus, have frequent whale sightings. But for pure humpback whale overload, you will find your nirvana off Rurutu.