Ra’iatea and Taha’a, French Polynesia

Jun 11, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


Early morning light found National Geographic Orion on approach to Ra’iatea Island, the second largest island in the Society Islands. This island shares a fringing reef and inner lagoon with Taha’a just to the south. Bringing the ship through one of the passes into the inner sanctuary of the lagoon is always fascinating to watch as we are surrounded in seas less than a fathom deep!

Our morning was spent at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Marae Taputapuātea, an important cultural area established sometime around 1,000 AD. This sacred ceremonial and funerary complex is quite extensive and once served as a gathering place for priests and Polynesian way finders from islands all over the Polynesian Triangle. The beautiful patterns in the basaltic structures made for a photographic dream as well!

We repositioned the ship to Taha’a Island in the afternoon to enjoy a family run vanilla plantation as well as snorkeling and beach time on our own little private motu, a small island lying directly on one of the channels cutting through the outer fringing reef. Very different experiences, but both perfect examples of what French Polynesia has to offer.

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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