6 October 2016
After a short introduction to Polynesian hospitality last week in the Gambier Islands, Tara’s crew enjoyed a magnificent arrival in Tahiti with dance, music and necklaces of flowers. A perfect welcome to begin a busy week on this island — a major stopover of the Tara Pacific expedition.
The schooner is continuing her route through the Polynesian Windward Islands (“Iles du Vent”), the archipelago that includes Tahiti. Before arriving in the capital, Papeete, Tara spent 2 days just a few kilometers away on the island of Moorea, Tahiti’s little sister. The boat anchored in the Opunohu Bay, a fabulous setting with a lagoon surrounded by rocky peaks covered by lush vegetation. Located in this unique environment is the CRIOBE laboratory (Center for Island Research and Environmental Observatory), one of Tara Pacific’s leading partners. Serge Planes (CNRS / EPHE / UPVD), the scientific director of the expedition, members of CRIOBE and their partners came aboard to visit the schooner and learn about our mission.
Tara docking at Moorea to host school visits and meet with local politicians. © François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation
On Tuesday the crew left with regret the fabulous landscapes of Moorea for the bigger island of Tahiti. Tara had just docked at Papeete opposite the famous Vai’ete Square when the sounds of traditional drums greeted us. On the quay, musicians and dancers offered us a perfect welcome and a lovely example of Polynesian culture. After installing the gangway, the crew finally set foot on ground, greeted by a guard of honor, loads of smiles, garlands of flowers and fresh coconuts.
On the main dock in Papeete, the crew is greeted with traditional dances and songs. © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation
The festivities continued with a series of speeches in the kiosk on Vai’ete Square. Serge Planes and Romain Troublé presented the objectives of Tara Pacific and thanked local partners. They were followed by local representatives, including Patrick Howell, Polynesian Minister of Health and Research. He saluted the work of Tara and evoked the great explorers who also came to Tahiti — Bougainville, Cook and La Pérouse. “You’re the worthy descendants!”, he concluded in his welcoming speech. And indeed, for Tara’s crew discovering Polynesian hospitality, the feelings were certainly very close to those of the great explorers several centuries earlier. In his “Journey around the World” published in 1771, Bougainville wrote about Tahiti: “I felt transported into the garden of Eden [...] Everywhere we see hospitality, restfulness, sweet joy & all signs of happiness.” We couldn’t have said it better.
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