Harbor with sailboats and green mountains in background
The Marquesas Islands offer a culture and people found nowhere else on the earth.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Marquesas Islands, Tahiti

Romance and Memories Are Discovered in the Rustic, Reclusive South Pacific

What will you remember about the Marquesas Islands? Will it be the ship you live on for 16 days, the Aranui 3, surrounded by travelers from around the world? Will it be the people you meet on the ship – 65 people all discovering the Marquesas Island’s together with every day a new adventure? Even now the Marquesas Islands are but a fond memory as we think back on the experience. It is just what we think a honeymoon should be: memories tied together unforgettable in the retelling.

While the Marquesas Islands certainly have their annoyances, they offer much more with a culture and people found nowhere else on the earth.

The Aranui 3 is about the adventure, the seclusion, the rarity of this group of islands uniquely set apart from the world.

The Marquesas Islands are a lonely archipelago not visited by many tourists and not as easy to get to as Bora Bora or Papeetee, Tahiti. Some will think inconvenience it’s also heaven – no hawkers, tipping, begging and on Tuesday at Hakahau the children and teenagers alike will greet you with a constant “hello” or “Bon Jour.”

Islands Visited

The Marquesas Islands or Henua Enata “Land of Men” are at the end of the world with only 7,000 inhabitants. Some of the smaller islands are virtually untouched since the era of European discovery.

Our trip on the Aranui 3 consisted of visiting the islands of Ua Pou, the most populated with 2,000 people, Hakahetau, Hakahau, Nuku Hiva, Vaitahu, Fatu Hiva, Omoa, Puamau, Ua Huka, Atuona, home of artist Paul Gauguin and Taiohae-Taipivai, where Herman Melville spent time and wrote his book Typee.

Tiki Sites

Since the islands of Tahiti were so remote for years, and still are to a degree, the ancient sites are phenomenal and worth the trip. On several islands you will have chance to hike into the woods and view Tiki sites.

On Puamau, there are the me’ae Iipona (ancient temple) and Takaii, the biggest Tiki of French Polynesia. Many of these sites still carry the energy from human sacrifices and an intense power that the people in this part of the world developed and maintained.

Traveling on Cargo/Passenger Ship

You will find traveling on a passenger/cargo ship, well, different.

For one, our ship had cargo as varied as a coffin (for a chief who didn’t die after all), a dozen SUVs, kerosene containers and everything in between. At each island cargo was unloaded, it is the only means the Marquesan people have of receiving supplies.

On board there is a swimming pool, reasonable cabins, gym and exercise room and a lounge to read or write about your adventures.

You can pick up the ship at either Papeetee, Tahiti or on several of the Marquesan Islands which have small airports. The latter option is good if you don’t have a full 16 days to spend aboard ship.

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Helpful Advice

Take every opportunity to use the pay phone, you never know when there might be another one, or if it will work. Also, take every opportunity to use the toilet – you never know when there might be another one.

If you’re on shore and want to go back to the boat, take the first whale boat back. Don’t depend on the next one coming, it could take a while, leaving you stuck on shore when you are really ready to get back to your cabin.

When you ask a question the answer will probably be “yes.” However, yes means yes, no or maybe depending on whom you ask.

Take money out from the ship’s purser. If you go to a bank on one of the islands then you will find a service charge and a minimum transaction fee, which might be more than you intend to spend.

Beware of the tiny bugs called No Nos. They live on several of the islands and are pesky like mosquitoes, yet cause far more trouble. If they bite you and you scratch the wound, it will swell leaving you to look as if you have the measles.


Rita Cook

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