Trip Report: OZ, Cook Is, French Polynesia

Sep 13th, 2004, 09:31 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report: OZ, Cook Is, French Polynesia

Hi all,
Just returned a few days ago from a delightful 3 week trip to the South Pacific. Here's a report I hope you will find interesting. Please ask questions if you have any.

The trip started in Chicago, with the long flight to LAX, SYD and on to Uluru, our first stop. I spent two nights at the Desert Garden Resort and took tours to Ayres Rock and the Olgas. I also did a star gazing tour that was really neat. The sky is filled with stars when one is out in the open darkness of Uluru!

The next stop was Cairns for one week. I was meeting up with friends from Sydney so stayed in the same hotel they had chosen. It was the Mercure Harbourside. Nice hotel, but a bit of a walk to the main shopping and boat docks of Cairns.

We did the Kuranda train/skyrail day tour and had a nice time. We also did a Daintree tour that included a Croc farm. Since I had been out on the reef on 3 other trips to Cairns, I opted for a day of shopping and doing laundry while others did snorkeling and deep sea fishing. Next time I visit the reef area, I'll maybe stay in Palm Cove. It looked very nice, and not as built up as Port Douglas is now. In the 16 years I've been visiting OZ, Cairns has changed from a sleepy fishing town to a big "city" with more traffic and one-way streets! YIKES!

Next stop, Sydney. The two days in SYD were spent walking all over the Quay and central city, as well as the bridge climb (which was awesome) and the Manly ferry for fish and chips along the beach.
My hotel was the Four Points Darling Harbor. The hotel was quite nice, though the room was small. The hotel restaurant was nice for breakfast buffet. The location was not too bad. I could walk to shopping, the Rocks, the Quay, Darling Harbor (which isn't that great anymore).

Next stop, Cook Islands for 4 days. I stayed at the Pacific Resort on Muri Lagoon on the island of Rarotonga. It was the ideal spot for peace and quiet. The beach was really lovely, and at low tide you could walk out to two little motus (islands) in knee deep water. It is hard to describe the many colors in the lagoon water. Beautiful!! I could easily return to the Cook Islands for a week or two. The people there were soooo friendly and helpful.

I had a really fun 3-4 hour tour in a Jeep type vehicle. We went around the island, but sometimes off road. We had awesome views of the lagoon and reefs and motus that surround Rarotonga. The guide was very interesting and fun. I would recommend this tour for a first visit to Raro. I would also recommend the book Papa Mike's Cook Islands Handbook by Mike Hollywood. It was a fun read, as well as being filled with helpful information.

Another tour I took was the day trip to Aitutaki on Air Rarotonga. The tour included flights to and from, a drive around the main island of Aitutaki, and a nice boat ride on the lagoon there. There was time for beach walking and snorkeling. There was also a nice lunch served on the boat. Aitutaki is beautiful! The lagoon there is huge. "One Foot Island" is a place where you can get your passport stamped (for a price).

Rarotonga has a town where you can do your souvenir shopping. Avarua is easy to get to, via the buses that go around the island.

Be prepared to pay a $NZ25 departure tax when you travel onward. You can buy a voucher at the ANZ Bank in Avarua or else wait until you get to the airport and pay at the ANZ bank there.

Last stop was French Polynesia. I did not think the people were as friendly or helpful here as they were in the Cook Is. I stayed in Tahiti for a couple of nights, which I would NOT do again. I would fly in, and then leave ASAP for one of the other islands. On this trip I went to Bora Bora for a few days, staying at the Maitai Resort. It was really very lovely! But I was surprised and disappointed with the level of noise pollution there. I didn't expect to hear so much traffic or barking dogs in the night!!! And then there were the boom boxes in some of the cars going by. I guess I expected quiet in that lovely location. Oh well...

While on Bora Bora, I saw the Radisson ship Paul Gaugin and I also saw a Windstar ship (don't know which one). I decided that a Windstar cruise will be on my short list of things to do in the near future. The ship was really beautiful!!

It was really nice to break up the long trip home from OZ by island hopping on the way. The Air New Zealand flight that I took made stops in Raro and Tahiti. I'm glad I got off the plane each place to visit for a while!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 07:31 AM
  #2  
 
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Sounds like a great trip!

Can I ask how/who with you arranged your flights with? I'm planning a multi-stop trip next summer to Fiji, NZ and Oz.
Thanks!
pb_and_j is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 09:35 AM
  #3  
cmw
 
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Why do you say you wouldn't stay in Tahiti again? I am planning a trip in December for 16 days (there are four of us adults going) and we are staying on Tahiti for 2-3 nights, Bora Bora (overwater bungalow for 4 nights), Rangiroa for two nights and hopefully a villa in Moorea for 4-5 nights. Do you have any advice for this trip?
cmw is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 04:10 PM
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pb and i:
I had a travel agent who worked with United Vacations to put it all together. There were no "surprises" when we got there and every hotel was quite nice. We were pleased. The only thing I would like to have seen would be an itemized list of prices of all the places we stayed. Other than that, I'd book with United Vacations again.

to cmw:
I was disappointed in the noise and rather dirty conditions in Papeete. There were dogs barking at odd hours and there were loud cars both very late and very early. It just isn't a place I'd call paradise when you are kept awake!!

Bora Bora was really beautiful! I just didn't care for the boom boxes in some of the cars that went by our hotel on the roadway. The "main road" ran between our hotel lobby and the beach where the over water bungalows are located. You would have thought, or hoped, that such a beautiful place would also be very PEACEFUL. It wasn't, in my opinion. Maybe your over water will be away from the main road. A few resorts seemed to be back a little way.

I did not go to Rangiroa or Moorea. Moorea looked very nice from the air. I think I might have enjoyed a visit there.

I was also disappointed that the people in Tahiti and Bora Bora weren't all that friendly. Cook Islands just really bowled me over with lovely people and gorgeous scenery and pristine blue water.

IF I would return to French Polynesia, I would not stop in Tahiti but would go straight out to one of the other islands in the chain. Someone in my TA office had commented that we should "skip Tahiti" and they were absolutely right, from what we experienced.

There may be some really nice beaches and resorts around the island of Tahiti. I have no opinion on this, as I did not visit anyplace outside of the capital city. I would hope that if you are planning on several days on Tahiti that you are staying AWAY from the city. That would be my advice.

Please read others' posts on French Polynesia to see how others feel about the place. I don't want you to make hasty decisions about your own vacation based upon my less than desirable experiences there. After all, it's just MY opinion.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 05:22 PM
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cmw -
Simsonc512's experience with Tahiti is in line with the convential wisdom that the less time spent on Tahiti the better. Papeete is indeed crowded, noisy, and far from idyllic. It is possible to enjoy your stay on the island however - depending on what you do and what you expect. Papeete is an excellent place for shopping and nightlife - 2 things that the other areas of French Polynesia are not really known for. In addition, by all accounts, if you have the time to venture ourside Papeete into the courtryside (especially in the Tahiti-Iti area (the southern lobe of the island)) you will find it very quiet and beautiful - though you'll not find much in the way of good swimming beaches.

In any event, Tahiti can be a good part of your vacation if you understand what you are getting there. I hear from time to time of folks who just book a trip to Tahiti itself without heading out to the other islands. These are people who have not done their homework and who usually end up very disappointed.

For most visitors, Tahiti is mainly the gateway to the other islands. This is appropriate - but it doesn't mean there is no value in exploring the place.

Ken
LordBalfor is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 05:24 PM
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PS to simpsonc510 -

Very good trip report. I enjoyed reading it very much.

Thanks

Ken
LordBalfor is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 07:03 PM
  #7  
cmw
 
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Thanks Ken and Simpsonc510!
I will be printing these reports out for the rest of my 'group' to read before making any final decisions on our length of stay in Tahiti. You are definitely right when you say it all depends on what you are looking for. I like the nightlife, fast pace and busy town for a day/night but nothing more then that. It seems like a night or two in Tahiti is really all we need.
Thanks again!!
Christine
cmw is offline  
Sep 14th, 2004, 07:41 PM
  #8  
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I'm glad you found my report useful as well as interesting. Thanks everyone.

I'll still try to answer other questions too, if there are any.
simpsonc510 is offline  
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