Tahiti - Tonga - Fiji
Island hopping in the Pacific Ocean
Tahiti - Fiji
Mon. 08 - 06 - '20
Thu. 02 - 07 - '20
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It must be this very specific voyage that will give sailors the true Pacific feeling, hopping from one island to the other, exploring the region like the Polynesians did around the second half of the first millennium AD. It was here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that the Polynesian navigations opened up the last unsettled frontiers of the Pacific. Seeking for new small islands, preferably with few or no inhabitants, it was them who established cultures that remained the most isolated and peculiar in the world. While the Polynesians built up their picture of the Pacific by exploring directly into the wind, in order to find their way home with the Southeastern trade winds, we will start the other way around. From Tahiti, the wind will gently lead us to the range of islands in front of us, such as the Southern Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji. It is the wind that will decide which islands we will encounter before we arrive in our next stop Fiji.
When you read about Tahiti there is one word used most, in the first European recordings as well as the stories told today, Paradise. It is not hard to see why. It might be the most complete way to describe these wonderful islands in the South Pacific. The lush rainforests, the white beaches, the countless waterfalls, the untouched mountains covered in rainforest. The people and their warm welcoming customs, their traditional dances and crafts. The colour of the water, the colour of the fish in the reefs, the song of the birds, the lakes and lagoons. All of Tahiti is paradise, and it will be ours to explore.
After a sail of more than 2300 nautical miles we will arrive at Tahiti. These islands form a group of 118 islands. The biggest Island is simply called Tahiti and is home to the capital city of Papeete. Papeete, meaning ‘water basket’, was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh water. Now, Papeete, is where most of the island’s population resides near the shore, leaving the interior of the island feeling almost untouched and ancient with its majestic peaks, mystical valleys, crystal clear streams, thundering waterfalls and endless rainforest. You can find black sand beaches on the East coast, white sand beaches on the West coast but either black or white, these beaches are breathtakingly striking with their palm trees and the azure coloured seas rolling gently onto them. Beneath these pallets of blue and green water, tropical-coloured fish of many different shapes and sizes can be seen in the coral gardens that thrive in the warm temperatures. These coral reefs are home to some 800 different fish species. You may spot a giant manta ray glide past, enjoy the curious play of dolphins and ancient sea turtles can be seen in these waters. Every year, from August to October, these waters also welcome many humpback whales coming to mate and give birth in the deep and safe bays before returning to the South Pole. You might be able to see these wales by themselves or with their young offspring around Tahiti by the time Bark EUROPA drops her anchor.
The islands are a heaven for birds, with so many fruit trees, flowers, over a thousand different plant species and many streams and rivers, lots of migrating birds take rest on the Islands. Many of them will nest and raise their young in the safe and sheltered uninhabited islets of the islands. Among others you can see Blue- footed boobies, frigates, salanganes, hunting martins, pacific swallow, Tahiti kingfisher and small herons. While walking under a cover of many banana, coconut and breadfruit trees, you may find yourself surrounded by butterflies and bumble bees, some gecko’s in different colours can be spotted in between the tropical tiare flower bushes, the proud emblem of Tahiti. The first Tahitians arrived from Western Polynesia sometime around 1000 CE, after a long migration from South East Asia or Indonesia, via the Fijian, Samoan and Tongan Archipelagos.
A lot of history is alive today and many stories can be told about these incredible people. The stories can be illustrated with traditional dance, craft, war and navigation manuscripts and traditional fishing customs and dishes. There where many different tribes on the islands over the years and many exchanged trade and customs in peace and war times.
After 1480 nautical miles of sailing, we will reach the Kingdom of Tonga, also known as the Friendly Islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The kingdom consists of about 170 islands that are divided into four main island groups. Tongatapu in the south, Ha’apai in the centre, Vavaú in the north and ‘Eua in the east.
Tonga is the only remaining constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific and is known by its pristine sandy beaches, fascinating coral reefs and rich Polynesian culture. Unspoiled by big resorts or modern houses, Tonga remains as authentic as possible. Life here ticks at its own pace and the Tongan rituals and artforms are still very much alive.
The first settlers in Tonga arrived somewhere around 3000 years ago, when the Polynesians started to explore the Pacific waters south east from Southeast Asia. The first Europeans that arrived in (Northern) Tonga were the Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire in 1616, in their search for a new route to The East. They were followed by the next Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1643 and James Cook in 1773. Shortly after, European missionaries came to the island.
In 1845 the scattered islands became united as the Kingdom of Tonga, and 30 years later officially became a constitutional monarchy and British Protectorate. In 1970 Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations and regained full control of domestic and foreign affairs, holding its unique position as the only monarchy in Polynesia.
Not only settlers, explorers or tourists come to visit Tonga’s shores. After a long journey from the krill laden depths of Antarctica, the humpback whales come to the reef-protected waters of Tonga to give birth to their young and feed them. With some luck we will see many of these beautiful creatures slowly making their way through Pacific waters.
Sailing further, Fiji will be the end of this voyage, best known of all stops so far. With its myriad greens in the landscapes, the yellows of the palm trees, the orange of ripe mangos and papayas and blue and greens of the sea, Fiji is a colourful destination. Below the surface an even colourful pallet presents itself, with thriving corals and tropical fish all around.
Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands and more than 500 islets, stretching the Fijians territory about 18.300 square kilometers. The two major islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, accounting for more than 80% of the population.
The first settlers of Fiji are known to be the Austronesian people who reached Fiji about 3500 to 1000 BC, followed by the Melanesian people around 1000 BC. It is believed that with the great Lapita migration into the Pacific, the Polynesians settled in Fiji as well, which is clearly shown from archeological evidence, showing a strong connection to the Polynesian culture.
Fiji’s history is one of mobility, and while exploring the region with large elegant watercrafts with rigged sails, a unique Fijian culture developed. The watercraft was called a drua, which was originally from Micronesia, spreading to Fiji and from there to Tonga and Samoa.
The first known contact with Europeans is dated in 1643, when Abel Tasman explored Vanua Levu and Taveuni. British explorers followed in the late 18th century. After a period as an independent kingdom, the British established the colony of Fiji in 1874, which went on until 1970, when Fiji gained its independence again as the Dominion of Fiji.
Fiji, the islands of pristine turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and jungle rivers has a very tight-knit society, mostly village based, but at the same time Fijians are very friendly and welcoming to visitors.
On the tropical islands of Fiji more than 800 unique plant species and animals can be found, such as the orange fruit dove, the Fiji petrel or the Gau Iguana, a native lizard.