Austral Island Rurutu, The mysterious land

By Carmen Ellis (Managing Director Majestic Whale Encounters)


Life is busy… demanding jobs, growing families and the responsibilities of day to day life. For many the allure of travel is very tempting and getting offline and away from crowds can be just what the doctor ordered. When we discovered there was a hidden gem in French Polynesia called Rurutu that not only is a pristine and untouched island but is also a nursery and breeding ground for the majestic humpback whale we knew we had to go.

 After our 3 hour flight from Papeete, the first thing we noticed was the natural and raw beauty of the rugged coastline, and on our drive to our accommodation we spotted several whales on the way, which made us so excited for our whale swim in the morning.

 Rurutu is perfect for swimming with humpback whales, as the whales hug the reef meaning you don’t have to go more than 1km out from the fringing reef. We were shown a tree called the erythina, or atae is known as the whale tree, because it blossoms from July onwards signaling the arrival of these majestic sea mammals. There are only two operators on the island, and we met up with one of them in morning ready to go searching for the whales. It didn’t take long at all to find them and when the guides felt the timing was right, we got in the water. We have swam with many whales around the world, but never have we seen water clarity like this. Rurutu has 50-60 meters of crystal clear visibility and it was just a magical experience. We watched on as two adult humpbacks danced and glided around us. While the guides English was a bit limited, we found that they were on top of safety and had a great respect for the whales.

The Island of Rurutu is a raised coral atoll, which is formed when a coral reef grows on an underwater volcanic peak which is then raised above sea level, how cool is that!  It’s known for its limestone caves made of ancient corals, once used as shelters and homes by the local people. The  caves are all different, and one of the largest ones named Ano a’eo is filled with stalagmites and has a hole in the top which the locals would talk to their gods for guidance.  When we visited these caves in the early afternoon, it was so beautiful to see the sunlight beaming through the stalagmites. We ended the day with a lovely horse ride through the mountains and visiting local villages followed by a delicious seafood dinner.


Something else we noticed about this island is that Rurutans are all very patriotic and proud of their small untouched paradise, all houses and gardens are kept neat and tidy and there is not a lot of rubbish to be found. If you are looking for glitz, glamour and 5 star resorts, this may not be the island for you, but if you like the idea of a secluded island full of natural beauty and culture then you should visit Rurutu before the rest of the world finds out about the best kept secret of French Polynesia. 

Rob Thompson