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Luxury Yacht Charter - Tahiti And Rangiroa

Aug 26, 2008
The South Pacific is truly the stuff dreams are made of. It is what we all wish for when we're sitting in our fluorescent-lit offices on a dull, grey March day, looking out on the piles of dirty snow on the sidewalk, longing to be somewhere else. Palm-fringed beaches with soft white sand, azure, incredibly clear water, tranquil aquamarine lagoons with fish in amazing colors, volcanic islands with flower-scented breezes and overwater bungalows - simply paradise on earth.

Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls known as French Polynesia. It is located in the Society Islands archipelago, which includes other vacation destination favorites such as Moorea, Raiatea and Bora Bora. Tahiti is the most populated, with 178,133 inhabitants, and home of the capital, Papeete. The island is volcanic with high mountain peaks, deep valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and lush rainforests. The north east coast has black sand beaches, and the south west side has white sand. There are several yacht charter companies on Tahiti, and all charter varieties are available - fully crewed, skippered or bareboat. Raiatea, a 40-minute flight from Papeete, is the base for most charter companies. The best time to visit is March to November, with April, May, June and September being the top choices. During those months, you can expect moderate trade winds blowing from the East at 10 to 15 knots, air temperatures in the mid 80s and water temperatures around 80. January and February bring heavy rains, and, as is the case in so many places, July and August are the height of tourist season and therefore more crowded.

If you want to experience something a bit off the beaten path, head northeast from Raiatea to the Tuamotu archipelago. This chain of atolls, the largest in the world, is about the size of Western Europe with 78 sparsely populated and wonderfully undeveloped islands. The Tuamotus is not a common tourist destination, and you can expect a true south seas getaway here. You can choose to charter your yacht on Raiatiea and cruise over, or fly to Rangiroa, the largest atoll, and pick up your yacht there.

Rangiroa lies about an hour's flight from Tahiti and is known for its pearl farming, superlative diving, and quite surprisingly, its local wine, Vin de Tahiti. Rangiroa Vineyard was created by French wine enthusiast Dominique Auroy in 1992 by shipping in the appropriate type of soil from Tahiti and vines from France and Italy. It proved to be a successful endeavor and today the vines produce two harvests per year.

Diving and snorkeling, however, is the primary reason people visit Rangiroa; it is considered one of the world's best diving spots. The 240 tiny islets, all below 3 feet in elevation and separated by 100 small channels, create a huge, crystal clear lagoon (with 150-foot visibility in the water) in that impossible turquoise-jade green color you think, until you see it, must be photoshopped. Whether you prefer snorkeling, scuba diving, or the view from a glass-bottomed boat, you can expect to see dolphins, black tipped, lemon, nurse, and grey reef sharks, red snapper, napoleon fish, surgeon fish, barracuda, tuna, jackfish, moray eels, various rays, several sea turtle species and sometimes even Manta rays. The two deep passes connecting the lagoon and ocean (Avatoru and Tiputa, which are also the names of the two villages on the island) are where most of the marine action is, and don't miss the adrenaline-pumping daily event called "shoot the pass" when you (and the fish) are rushed with the tidal water through the pass at a very high speed.

After all this excitement, a great way to end your day is by getting a massage at the Kia Ora Hotel (near the Tiputa pass) followed by a pre-dinner drink on their glass-bottomed, above-water bar before heading into the open-air restaurant for a traditional Polynesian meal, perhaps paired with one of the local wines!
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