Moorea: From mountain to sea

Article from Island Time by Mike Hall

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A short ferry ride from Papeete, across the deepest blue water you’ve ever seen, sits magnificent Moorea. As you enter the port through one of the smallest gaps in the reef, the first thing that strikes is Moorea’s incredible backdrop. The many mountains provide the most dramatic setting.

As you transfer to your hotel, chances are your driver will introduce you to these mountains and the many legends of their shapes. Rotui sits in the prime position, looking towards where you just entered.

But there are many others to explore, including Moua Roa, Moua Puta and the highest peak, Tohiea. They are mesmerizing to view, challenging to climb and fun to explore.

The beauty of these mountains, the reef and lagoons of Moorea is reason alone to make the effortless journey. The icing on the cake is the activities and adventures available every day during your stay. With plenty of world-class resorts to relax and unwind at, choosing to lie flat while sipping pina coladas is not to be frowned at. However, there are countless opportunities to get out and about, should you choose to broaden your experience of Moorea.

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An all-terrain, four-wheel-drive motorbike adventure tour is a great way to go inland and explore those incredible mountain areas. Doing this early in a holiday will also build excitement for some of the hiking and mountain bike trails. The ATV tour runs for four hours, traversing the hills and cruising the main road of Moorea. The bikes have enough pep to keep speed demons happy, but feel safe and secure for first-timers. It’s possible to do this alone, but a couple sharing an ATV through the bumpy terrain is great fun.

You’ll also have someone to share the magnificent views with as the winding trails zig-zag through pineapple plantations or from the platform of Magic Mountain. From here you’ll see the spot where cruise ships anchor and the full lie of the land and lagoon areas.

You’ll also get a quick history lesson from your guide, who will explain not only some of the fascinating history of the island, but also the moving tectonic plates of the area. It’s informative and highly entertaining.

If indulgence in a game of golf is more your style, be sure to book a tee time at the Green Pearl Golf Club, designed by Jack Nicklaus. A par 70, 18-hole golf course with challenging greens and a fair bit of water to hit over or around, Green Pearl is a course with everything. Four different tee blocks mean golfers of all handicaps are catered for, and the Srixon hire clubs mean you can turn up empty-handed.

To top off the day, dine at the restaurant, Le Green Pearl. Head chef Yvonnick Lenoir drives extremely high standards for the restaurant, making sure the adherance to fresh ingredients, carefully prepared with dedication and attention to detail, are the primary objectives.

The shrimps were fresh, the tuna was seared flawlessly and the steak was deliciously garnished and cooked to perfection. It may have tasted even better if I hadn’t lost six golf balls earlier in the day.

As a day out, the Green Pearl is not limited to those who play golf. The views across to the mainland are exceptional, and the clubrooms and restaurant area are elevated and welcoming. It’s a great way to see another part of Moorea and indulge in some golf cart driving to vantage points many wouldn’t get to.

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All of the hotels and resorts have their own activities, but even exploring on bikes or by foot around the general location of the hotels will give an insight to another side of Moorea. If you’d rather spend your time in this beautiful paradise on the water, there are plenty of options. Lagoon Explorer’s transparent kayak tours offer an unforgettable way to see the seabed. Paddle a completely transparent kayak over Moorea lagoon for ultimate encounters with tropical fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles and dolphins.

Lagoon Explorer offers a number of tours of differing lengths and fitness ability. Whether you are looking for a quick two hours on the water, a sunset tour to experience the lagoon arguably at it’s finest, or a half-day adventure, there’s something for every member of the family to enjoy. If getting into the water is more your thing, you must visit the Lagoonarium de Moorea. The exotic fish and coral, the clarity of the water and the abundant sea life make this the premium snorkelling location on Moorea.

Swimming with reef sharks and stingrays is a life-changing experience. Not as scary as it sounds, the lagoonarium is the perfect spot to be with these fish in their natural habitat. Any fears dissolve once you’re underwater. If you’ve never done this, it’s highly recommended.

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The people who run the various activities on Moorea are also what makes them super special. The locals make you feel at ease and make you welcome, and ensure that every experience is personalised. They are also genuinely proud of their island paradise and are happy to share its beauty and secrets with travellers from around the world.

As far as dining on Moorea goes, the various 'Snack Restaurants' are a great way to get out and about and experience different local food options away from resort fare. Snack Mahana serves some of the freshest fish I’ve ever tasted. Sitting on the grass, next to the water, it is relaxed dining, like eating in a friend’s back yard. If you’re a planning a visit, make sure to go early, as the quality of the food means it’s not uncommon for them to sell out before closing time.

And while you’re in Moorea, you must call into the Toatea Creperie at the Hilton Moorea. Tucked away on the walkway to the over-water bungalows, Chef Claude Gerard and his team of welcoming staff serve delicious savoury crepes. With names like the Captain Cook, the Viking and the Carnivore, you will not leave unsatisfied.

Sitting on a deck above the clear water of the lagoon, watching blacktip sharks gliding around in the water below you, you can’t help but linger for a delicious desert crepe.

Reserve a table in advance, as the Creperie is deservedly very popular and frequently fully booked - often with repeat visitors, because one of these crepes is never enough. Just ask the blacktip sharks!

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Also worth a mention is the Moorea Beach Café, a restaurant and yacht club in a stunning, Instagram-worthy location. There’s an extensive menu and the service is excellent. You can enjoy the dramatic sunset with a glass or a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. You can even make it a magnum, as the Moorea Beach Café has a free shuttle service, and they will pick you up and deliver you back to your resort.

A trip to Moorea can be a “lie by the pool or on the beach” resort holiday. Luxurious resorts, quality dining and the happy hours at sunset are absolutely an attraction to this part of the world. But if you start to crave more than lazy sunbathing and snorkelling from the deck of your underwater bungalow, you will not be disappointed.

There are so many different land and water-based, activities available for visitors that you will easily fill a week. Spend some time looking into all the options before your trip. And when you do arrive in Moorea, count on meeting other people from all over the world, fill your Instagram feed with envy-inducing pictures, and savour every moment while you explore heaven on earth.

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