Huahine, French Polynesia
History of Huahine
Captain Cook discovered Huahine and the other Leeward Islands in 1769 - an easy feat, as the Polynesians knew them quite well already. In fact, Huahine had already been settled by Polynesians circa 850. Nonetheless, Cook named the six islands (today the Leeward Islands) the Society Islands. That name was later spread to Tahiti and Moorea as well. Huahine's economy was greatly boosted throughout the 19th century by American whalers avoiding the Antarctic waters in winter. Instead they stayed at islands like Huahine to re-supply with island products, trading foreign plants for hospitality. Today, some of those introduced plants are having adverse impacts on the ecology. Like much of the rest of the Societies, missionaries came to Huahine in 1808. Later, King Pomare II extended his reach to Huahine and abolished the traditional local religion. Missionary law was imposed in 1822. The Leeward Islands (Iles sous le vent) remained a British protectorate until 1887, 45 years longer than Tahiti and Moorea. The French landed marines on Huahine in 1886, telling Britain that they wouldn't annex the islands, but a year later Britain traded them for fishing rights off Newfoundland. Still, the French had problems. Most local chiefs refused to sign the treaty until 1895, and Raiatea held out for two more years. An initial act of the French was to expel the English missionaries. Nonetheless, missionary law did not end until 1945, when all the islanders were given French citizenship.
Huahine is for sure the wildest and most secretive island of the Society Islands thanks to its luxuriant nature and its past full of myths and legends. Located 30 minutes away from Tahiti by plane, it is also the nearest one from the main island of this archipelago. Huahine would draw its name from hua, sex/gender and hine, woman. It is said that this name would refer to a pregnant woman. Furthermore, some think that the Tavaiura Mount looks like a lying woman face with a roundness belly. Formerly, the island was called Matairea which means « cheerful breeze ». At his time, Captain Cook named it « hermosa » which means « beautiful ». This island appears like a feminine and attractive island whose inhabitants are proud of. Huahine is composed by two islands: Huahine Nui (big Huahine) in the North and Huahine Iti (small Huahine) in the South separated by a narrow channel. Both offer a luxuriant vegetation, white sandy beaches, small coves hidden from the eyes, coral desert islets, a lagoon with turquoise colours and much diversified food and fruit-producing cultivation.
A real haven of peace where calm and quiet reign. Nothing better to recharge one’s batteries! Moreover, the local population is friendly and welcoming. Huahine can also pride itself on possessing one of the widest and best preserved archaeological site of the Society Islands: the Maeva marae, a whole of several important marae (sacrifices sites for gods) located at the bottom of the Mouatapu Mount and near the Fauna Nui laguna. Legends hang over this island lusted after by Hiro, god of thieves, and adopted by artists. The island has much more touristic and cultural interests such as the local craft industry, fish parks, authentic fishermen villages, the visit to the sacred eels of Faaie or nice walks in magnificent gardens for the lovers of exotic plants and flowers. On the lagoon side, surfers will enjoy the island as it offers excellent surf sites.
Divers can discover as their please the underwater wildlife (falling coral, caves full of fish, coral gardens…). Finally, several lagoon excursions are proposed by the nautical activities providers. Every year in October, the Hawaiki Nui Va’a race, which is the biggest canoe race of the South Pacific, starts from Huahine.
If I ever get a chance to travel to Hauhine I am going to stay at:
Te Tiare Beach Resort
This resort features 19 garden, 6 beach, 5 lagoon, and 11 deep overwater bungalows all facing west for wonderful views of Raiatea and Taha'a islands as well as spectacular sunsets. The main building, which is home to the restaurant, bar, lunge and boutique is also located over water with wonderful views on the enchanting lagoon. The hotel provides complimentary scheduled boat transfers to and from the main town of Fare and local cultural activities are available on site.