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Easter Island, Chile (total solar eclipse), & Tahiti, Moorea & Bora Bora, French Polynesia

July 9 – 17, 2010
Susan L. Anderson


July 9, 2010

The car came for our trip to  Phoenix Sky Harbor at 6 a.m.  We left Phoenix on US Airways flight #24 at 7:40 a.m., with luggage checked through to Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia, arriving in Los Angeles at 9:05 a.m.  We took shuttle to the International Terminal where we met others of our groups going from LAX via Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete ---- 8 hour flight.  We left LAX at 1 p.m. on flight # KH 14.  We were served two very good meals with choices of the main courses.  We arrived in Papeete at 6:20 p.m. 

A bus took us to our hotel for first of two overnights. Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti located on Lafayette Beach, with black sand,  PK 7, 98 701, Arue, Tahiti, French Polynesia.   

Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia.  It is the administration center for the approximately 265,000 people who live in the five archipelagoes that comprise French Polynesia.

The Polynesian triangle stretches across the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Easter Island and north to Hawaii.  The Polynesian countries and territories include French Polynesia, Pitcairn, Easter Island, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, and Tuvalu. 

The name Polynesia comes from the Greek words poly (many) and nesos (islands).  The term was originally coined by Charles de Brosses in 1756 and applied to all the Pacific Ocean islands.  The present restricted use was proposed by Dumont d’Urville in 1831.  These tall, golden-skinned people of this vast region speak closely related languages developed from a single mother tongue.                  

July 10, 2010

We enjoyed a nice buffet breakfast in the outside restaurant.  Took it easy as we thought there was not enough time to take a tour and be back for the noon meeting.  During the morning we sat on lounge chairs between swimming pool and the very fine black sand beach.  Beautiful location, water, hotel, trees, flowers, birds.  At noon we met in the Endeavor meeting room for a nice buffet lunch and briefing re: Easter Island.   This was a total waste of time, no information.   Should have done ½ day tour of Tahiti.

 02:30 p.m.  Buses took us to the Papeete Int’l Airport to go through immigration and security before boarding our charter flight, via Air Tahiti Nui to Easter Island, Chile. 05:00 p.m.  Depart by chartered Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 aircraft for overnight flight to Easter Island.  We had upgraded to “business class” for these two flights that were 5 ½ hours long.  Added 4 hours due to time zone differences.

July 11, 2010

Easter Island home page:

East Island Statue Project:

We landed on Easter Island, Chile at 2:35 a.m.  It had poured rain all day July 10th and was sprinkling when we arrived.  Very thorough immigration and customs checks, several dogs sniffing for drugs and who knows what, all done by Chile military police.  Due to rain we could not go to our observing site so were taken to a downtown restaurant to wait and “rest”, provided juice, coffee and tea.  It rained hard for awhile.  Howard and others walked several blocks to a dark area to photograph the night sky.  We had several kinds of rolls at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast.  Author Dava Sobel was supposed to speak, but although she was there that did not happen.

Easter Island is one of the most mysterious and isolated places on Earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The MOAI stone heads on Easter Island have been a source of wonderment for generations of explorers and this island made for a particularly unusual place from which to view the total solar eclipse.


We loaded seven vans (that held half of our group / would do two trips each time).  There were two college professor guides (one for each group). The rain stopped but the roads, fields and everything was very muddy.  Being in the first group Howard and I were off to the Rapa Nui State Park which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Moai of Easter Island are proud of their heritage.  The massive statues are found all over Easter Island.  92  important archaeological sites have been identified along the south coast alone.

Our first stop was at Ahu Tongariki at Hotu Iti.  This site was ravaged by a huge tsunami in 1960 that tossed the 15 massive statues around like cordwood.  In 1994 Chilean archaeologists reconstructed the 200-meter-long ahu (base the statues sit on) and reerected the Moai using an enormous crane donated by the Japanese Crane manufacturer Tadano.  Our guide had a lot of interesting information as we walked along viewing these huge statues.

We then returned to the road to reload the seven vans (approximately 10 people per van).  Unfortunately on starting to enter a van, I (Susan) slipped in the mud and fell onto my bottom and back … my white shorts and white jacket were covered with mud.  I don’t remember doing it, but Howard says I saved breaking my arm by jerking my right arm up to keep my camera out of the mud.  I was not hurt, only scraped my left leg and had big bruises develop.  I blame the fall on my new custom shoes as the soles are almost smooth.  I was/am sore in the small of my back and my “butt”.

Next our groups went to Rano Raraku an extinct volcano (quarry), and considered the top sight on the island. There are at least 70 standing Moai (the statues) on the inner or outer slopes of the crater and another 30 laying face down in the group.  A kneeling statue called Tukuturi on the east side of Rano Raraku is unusual.  In all, there are 397 Moai still at the quarry in various states of completion.  Work on the statues ended suddenly, and many were abandoned en route to their ahu.  Due to my fall, I stayed at the start of the walk to the query; and shopped the three local merchants that were set up inside a building.

Next we went to our observing site.  This was a nice area just above a beach and more statues.  Large tents were set up and a crew was putting white cloth covers on the folding chairs at the tables with white cloth table covering and napkins with yellow ribbon trim.  We walked the viewing area and Howard decided to be within our site (needed our name badge to be admitted to our site) and protected from the wind by one of the tents and the rest room building.

On Sunday, July 11, 2010, one of the most unique, special, and potentially “one-of-a-kind” total solar eclipses occurred across a long track of the Southern Pacific Ocean. Approximately half-way through this eclipse, the path crossed over Earth’s most isolated, and storied specks of land ---- Easter Island.

First contact of eclipse was at 12:40 p.m.
Total solar eclipse was 14:08 – 14:13 p.m. 
Fourth contact of eclipse was at 3:34 p.m.

After the total solar eclipse was over we had a large barbecue lunch.  About 3:30 p.m. our group started loading the vans to return to the airport; Howard and I were in the first group.

Our Air Tahiti Nui charter flight TN 702 left at 5 p.m. from Easter Island to Papeete, Tahiti (ICP-PPT)
flight approximately 6 hours.  We arrived in Papeete at approximately 7:15 p.m. (local time).  Again we had to go through immigration and customs (entering French Polynesia from Chile).  After we completed that we had two large buses that returned us to the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti for overnight.

July 12, 2010

Up at 5 a.m. and by 6 a.m. we were sitting by the swimming pool and black sand beach.  When the outside restaurant opened at 6:30 a.m. we had a good buffet breakfast.  We all checked out by 8 a.m.

About 8:30 a.m. our two busses left the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti and took us to the Papeete ferry dock.  There we boarded the ferry for the ride to the island of Moorea, across the 10 miles of the Sea of Moons.  Getting luggage and buses from the dock to our hotel was a fiasco.  We were finally able to check into the hotel and go to our lovely individual bungalows at Sofitel Moorea La Ora Beach Resort, 98728 Maharepa, Moorea, French Polynesia.  This is one place I would like to visit again and again.

Moorea  (Mo-oh-RAY-ah)

The 5-star rated Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort of 35 acres is settled on the edge of a magnificent lagoon, with views over 10 miles of the Sea of Moons to the island of Tahiti.  Moorea has one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  The resort, recently renovated for US $40 million, features 114 luxurious bungalows built over the water, on the beachfront or surrounded by landscaped gardens.  The exterior of each bungalow is traditional Polynesian with a thatched roof.  We had a bathroom with a “rain shower” and garden outside by the shower.  There was a large flat panel TV and we did get CNN International.  We enjoyed the covered porch surrounded by lush gardens

We enjoyed lunch by the beach and bay ---- such beautiful turquoise waters. 

At 1 p.m. eight of us took a 4x4 Safari Tour that covered a lot of territory and provided a lot of  history and information.  We visited the Belvedere and Rotui Lookouts, a volcano crater, ancient temples, fruit plantations, an agricultural school, both Cook and Opunohu Bays, and other locations on the island of Moorea.  The volcanic peaks, reflected in the tranquil waters of Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay, rise like a shark's jaw from the island's basaltic base. The mountain slopes are covered with pineapple plantations, and white sand beaches border crystalline lagoons.

Then we shopped black pearls.  We finally purchased black pearl earrings for me (Susan), set in 18 k gold, after obtaining a very large drop in price.  The pearls have a beautiful luster and no blemishes that the naked eye can see.

We had excellent steak dinners; and watched the entertainment provide by six Polynesian young women who danced to music and made multiple changes of sarongs and hair do’s.

Overnight Sofitel Moorea La Ora Beach Resort

July 13, 2010

Moorea Island was formerly called Aimeho (or Eimeo). It emerged from the water 3 million years ago. Today, it counts 12,000 inhabitants concentrated in the many villages located seaside – Maharepa, Paopao, Haapiti, Afareaitu (the administrative headquarters) and Vaiare. Its surface is 52 square miles. The island features 8 mountains (the highest is Mount Tohiea – 3,960 feet) and it is only 17 km (10 miles) away from Tahiti across the Sea of Moons. Because of this short distance, Moorea often carries the nickname of “Sister island” (of Tahiti). The name Moorea, which means the “yellow lizard”, comes from a legend where a big yellow  lizard opened the 2 bays with its tail.

At 9 a.m. we left for the Moana Lagoon Tour, also with Albert Transportation Co.  We boarded a nice catamaran and were off sightseeing under a beautiful blue sky and on beautiful shades of turquoise and blue waters.  We visited Cooks” and Opnohu Bays and then went along the coast.  Made an hour stop so everyone could snorkel, feed the sting rays and feed black tipped sharks.  Howard really enjoyed this, taking underwater pictures.  I didn’t take my mask and only got into the warm water once.  After the feedings we proceeded to a motu (small island).  There was time for more snorkeling, which Howard took advantage of, while the crew prepared a huge picnic lunch of delicious barbecued chicken  with lots of salads, fruits and things to accompany the meal.  There was more time to snorkel while the crew cleaned up and reloaded the catamaran.  We had a beautiful boat ride back to Moorea, stopping to deposit some of the people at resorts located away from the Sofitel; we came back to the resort via van arriving at 4 p.m.

We enjoyed the buffet dinner and sat outside to dine and for the entertainment provide by six Polynesian young women who danced to music and made multiple changes of sarongs and hair do’s.

This is an island and a resort that I can surely see visiting again in two or three years.  Although we did see one cruise ship while there, we’ve decided that the ships do not spend enough time with each island and we would rather return and stay on one island.

Overnight Sofitel Moorea La Ora Beach Resort, 98728 Maharepa Moorea, French Polynesia                       


July 14, 2010

This morning we packed, then had a lovely buffet breakfast overlooking the beach, bay, and across the water to Tahiti.  We checked out at noon, and continued to walk the beautiful ground taking pictures of the flowers, gold fish in a lovely pond and the area.  Earlier we had sat on our porch and read for awhile.

Most of our group left for home today, while some of us continued on to Bora Bora.  At 2:15 p.m. we boarded a bus for the Moorea Airport.  Our flight VT 2401 departed Moorea at 3:30 p.m. and arrived at the Bora Bora Airport (located on an island) at 4:20 p.m.  After getting our luggage we boarded a catamaran for the approximately 40 minute trip to our resort hotel.  The luggage went ahead in a faster boat. 

Bora Bora is 161 miles northwest of Tahiti in the Leeward Society Islands.  First view from an airplane it appears as a precious emerald in a setting of turquoise, encircled by a protective necklace of sparkling pearls.

Our check in was done on the catamaran trip to resort.  Upon arrival we sat at tables by the pool enjoying the fresh pineapple juice.  Shortly we were taken in groups of about four at a time, to our individual over the water bungalows.  Ours was #20.  There were fresh hibiscuses on the glass coffee table in living room, more arranged on the bed, and still more in the bathroom ---- beautiful; more hibiscuses were arranged the next day.  Our two large roll along duffle bags were delivered about five minutes later.

The luxury junior suite bungalows are built on stilts over the turquoise lagoon. They measure a spacious 600 sq ft and have pointed roofs of thatched pandanus as did the traditional Polynesian homes called fare.  They contain beautiful wicker furniture, king-size bedroom with large picture window, private two tier sun terrace, ladder into the surf, spacious dressing room, bathroom, writing desk, and two flat screen T-V’s.  In the living room there is a glass coffee table with sliding top that may be opened to feed bits of bread to the fish and sting rays swimming below.

We loved the bungalow so much we didn’t want to leave.  We had room service for dinner ---- very good steaks, plus we even added deserts

InterContinental Le Moana Resort Bora Bora (two nights), Point Matira, Bp 156, Bora Bora 98730, French Polynesia.

July 15, 2010

Enjoyed a good buffet breakfast overlooking the beautiful beach and water.  We walked the beautiful grounds and visited the gift shop for some items, wind blowing.

Howard had to snorkel, bungalows set in water about four feet deep (varies a little), so did so.  The waves were really too high for this, but he did get out to the deep water (deeper blue color) as wanted to take more fish photo’s, decided he would get pushed into the coral if he stayed out there so finally came back into the shallower waters. 

We talked about taking an afternoon tour to go around the island, but decided to just “rest” after our hectic trip so far.  It was nice to sit on our sun terrace, and in living room, or bedroom, and see the beautiful water (of various shades) from our own accommodations.  We did go to the dining room for dinner and again enjoyed good steaks.

Overnight:  InterContinental Le Moana Resort Bora Bora (two nights)

July 16, 2010

We were packed by 7 a.m. and had another bountiful buffet breakfast.  We then returned to our bungalow until 11 a.m. check out. We visited with several others of our group and then had a nice lunch at noon.  Our catamaran left this lovely resort at 1:45 p.m. for the trip back to the airport.  Our flight, VT 428, in a small Air Tahiti Nui airplane, an otter, left about 4:15 p.m. and arrived in Papeete, Tahiti 5:05 p.m.

We left Papeete, Tahiti (airport PPT) for Los Angeles, CA (airport LAX) at 10 p.m. on Air Tahiti Nui flight HK 14.  Again were served two nice meals with choice of entrée.  We arrived in Los Angeles about 9:15 a.m.  on July 17, 2010.   We had checked our luggage thru to PHX ---- had to pick it up at LAX, go through immigration and customs, then we left our luggage for the airport to move over to the other terminal.  We took the shuttle to terminal #1 and had to wait until 4:15 p.m. for flight to Phoenix.  We arrived, and then took a taxi to our home arriving at 6 p.m.

I stopped counting as everywhere we were greeted with flower lei’s and pineapple juice to drink.

Below additional information re: Bora Bora:

Welcome to paradise. Originally settled in the 4th century, the island is a verdant jewel in a beautiful sea. Lush tropical rainforests and its location at the edge of an azure lagoon make Bora Bora one of the most beautiful, romantic places in the world. Bora Bora is a small island thick with coconut forests and colorful villages and surrounded by miles of fine, white sandy beaches and crystal clear, turquoise water as far as the eye can see.

Superlatives are missing to describe the beauty of Bora Bora, the “Pearl of the Pacific”. The most famous of the Leeward Islands occupies a surface of 15 square miles and is located 140 miles north-west of Tahiti, just under one hour away by plane from Papeete. Your arrival at Bora Bora will definitely leave you with one of the nicest souvenirs of your trip: the airport being located on an islet, your flight will be followed by a short boat ride over the lagoon along the numerous islets.

Bora Bora (or “Pora Pora”) emerged from the waters 3 million years ago. Like all the other Polynesian islands, this volcanic island is slowly sinking into the ocean.

The first signs of human life on the island of Bora Bora (formerly called Vavau, which may indicate that it was colonized by inhabitants of a Tongan island carrying the same name) are dated 900 BC, just after the populating of the island of Raiatea. According to legend, Bora Bora means “first born” because it was the first island to emerge from the waters after the creation of Raiatea. In ancient times it was actually called “Mai Te Pora”, which literally means “created by the Gods”. Approximately 40 maraes can be found in Bora Bora – the most significant one being the marae Fare Opu which is decorated with petroglyphs.

The lagoon of Bora Bora constitutes the best asset of the island and an excellent playground for many lagoon activities. Indeed, island tours using either an outrigger canoe or a jet ski remain the best way of discovering the extraordinary colors of its crystal-clear waters, those conveyances making it possible to reach the farthest and most secluded spots and beaches.

Most of these lagoon excursions include several swimming and snorkeling stops and, in some cases, a picnic on an islet (motu) or the traditional shark feeding where you will get the opportunity of watching them in their natural environment.


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