American travel agents are not usually interested in booking small family pensions in French Polynesia. International resorts are more their style: Easy to arrange and the commissions are good. This is rather a pity as the pensions put you in touch with local life and allow you be about the only tourist in the atoll. A reader, Elisabeth Kingwill, recently used Moon Tahiti on a trip around the Tuamotu Islands and sent me feedback on her experiences.
On Manihi atoll Elisabeth stayed at Pearl Village Manihi, a pleasant 10-minute walk from Turipaoa village and the pass. The pension opened in 2010 and consists of four well-constructed cottages, each with a king size plus a single bed, bath with cold water shower, and a small TV. The units face a small private marina and the snorkeling here as well as along the coral rocks just outside the marina is not bad. However, during windy conditions the visibility can be poor due to the sandy bottom. Pearl Village’s owner John Drollet and his assistant Stevie can take you drift snorkeling through the pass or to an uninhabited motu. Bonito fishing outside the lagoon is also possible. All excursions were included in the CFP 20,000 per couple per night. Madame Drollet is a competent cook who will prepare a different dish each night of your stay (breakfast and dinner are also included). For lunch there’s a “Snack” in the village selling casse-croute sandwiches, hamburgers, and hot dogs. You can email Pearl Village Manihi at firstname.lastname@example.org
The highlight of Elisabeth’s atoll adventure was Tetamanu Village on Fakarava atoll. It’s in a dream location with authentic palm-thatched fare right on the south pass. Watching the tide roar in and out like a wild river is mesmerizing. Black tip sharks, giant morays, Napoleon wrasses, and lots of other fish can be easily observed, not only while snorkeling but also from the piers and restaurant. Scuba divers swim with hundreds of sharks in the pass. The dive shop Tetamanu Diving by Eleuthera between the cabins and the restaurant provides good quality diving equipment and a very competent divemaster.
On Tikehau atoll, scenic Relais Royal Tikehau is an ideal spot to recover from a long trip. This small pension sits on its own private motu nestled between a lovely beach and a shallow hoa (reef channel), just a five-minute boat ride from the village. The food is good and ample, and the owner Monique is helpful. The three family-operated pensions just mentioned are only examples of what awaits you in the Tuamotu Islands. Many more are listed in Moon Tahiti.