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A Drop in the Ocean

When it comes to tropical getaways The islands of French Polynesia are in a league of their own

Nowhere on earth does ‘tropical’ quite like the islands of French Polynesia. There is nothing to top their jagged mountains dripping with rainforest, no coral reefs to match the underwater magic of their lagoons, and even the cultural richness of their ceremonies cannot be found anywhere else.

Tahiti and her accompanying chain of Society Islands are at the cultural heart of French Polynesia and are yours to explore aboard the 34 metre VvS1 on a seven-day sojourn. With her shallow draught, VvS1 is one of the only yachts in French Polynesia able to cruise through the interior lagoons of the atolls of Bora Bora and its neighbouring islands of Raiatea, Taha and Huahine. As the sun rises behind the densely vegetated mountain of Bora Bora, allow the hum of VvS1 and the scent of the Tahitian Tiare blended with the aroma of fresh croissants to entice you up on deck as you gently cruise around your first island.

Bora Bora is as close to the tropical ideal as it comes – a fantasy landscape that has earned near-mythical status. Its dark-green mountains, known locally as Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia, appear to hover as they rise up out of a deep, blue lagoon, their peaks lost amid the clouds that huddle over the islands rather than the vast expanse of ocean that surrounds them in every direction. The reef around the lagoon is clustered with cartoon-like desert islands, known locally as motus. It is the lagoon that makes Bora Bora – and her neighbouring islands of Taha’a, Raiatea and Huahine – so exceptional. Over two million years ago a volcanic eruption left behind mountains rising above the surface of the South Pacific and surrounded by a barrier reef. Between reef and mountain lie glorious lagoons, home to a stunning array of marine life that cruise the gentle, shallow waters.

While you dine on the open deck looking out to foothills covered with frangipani and hibiscus, VvS1 will cruise through the lagoon of Bora Bora and through the Te Ava Nui Pass to the open water. From here it is a short hop through the Pai Pai Pass to the lagoon that surrounds the island of Taha’a, which lies silhouetted against the magnificent Polynesian sunset. The following morning, take the tender to discover the lagoon’s underwater world. Float amid a rippling rainbow of fish, including striped snapper, vibrant parrotfish, emperor angelfish and butterfly fish. Snorkel and be seduced by the mushroom-textured wings of the huge stingrays and manta rays that gently slide past you. Rest on land at one of the many deserted motus where your crew have spent the morning transforming the white-sand beach into an alfresco dining room. You can then pass leisurely hours drinking local Hinanu beer and feasting on camargue fish fresh from the lagoon, accompanied by breadfruit and taro root baked slowly in an ahimoa – a traditional Polynesian cooking pit dug into the ground.

Neighbouring Raiatea’s rugged interior is equally as impressive as its surrounding beaches. Lying in the same lagoon as Taha’a, Raiatea is home to French Polynesia’s most sacred temple, dedicated to Oro, the god of war and once the site of human sacrifices. It was from here that Polynesians departed in dug-out canoes to discover faraway islands such as Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand. High above the temple, the formidable Tapioi mountain rises out of the morning mist and makes for an energetic hike to discover a spectacular view over Raiatea, her surrounding lagoon and neighbouring islands. The slightly less energetic can kayak up the Faaroa river into Raiatea’s tropical interior and visit the island’s horticultural gardens. Spread over four acres, you will find star fruit, ylang-ylang trees, grapefruit, plumbago, cocoa trees, and other tropical species in abundance.

Cruise through the Iriru pass and on to Huahine – the final island in this small archipelago. It is formed of two islands, Huahine Nui in the north and Huahine Iti in the south, separated by a narrow submarine isthmus which, as the legend goes, were separated by the canoe of Hiro. The island’s slopes are smothered with hibiscus while the fertile lower lands and surrounding motus are cultivated for watermelon, vanilla and cantaloupe. As with many of the islands in French Polynesia, Huahine is home to a pearl farm. Step ashore to watch the masters in action as they remove pearls from the oysters and replace the seed for the next cultivation. Then it’s time to return to VvS1 for a farewell ceremony and folkloric evening of Tahitian dance and music performed by locals.   
Launched in March 2007, VvS1 has been built by Alloy Yachts International. She is a luxury exploration vessel capable of world cruising yet versatile enough to enter small bays, anchor behind coral atolls, and explore the fishing hot spots over submarine reefs. She is therefore ideal for the shallow waters of French Polynesia. Rather than dominating the motus and islands, the 34m exploration vessel compliments the environment as it is for this that she was designed. With her shallow draught of 2.2 metres she is able to access the remote cruising grounds around the lagoons and reefs of French Polynesia that are inaccessible to other yachts of her size, and even smaller.

Created by Alloy Yachts in conjunction with the owner and Gregory Marshall Naval Architects, the yacht’s elegant interior is a harmonious blend of leather and wood, including lime-washed American oak walls, African dark Wenge cabinetry, bamboo and Wenge-planked floors, canvas and titanium ceilings and brushed stainless steel fittings. Furnishings made of native New Zealand timbers and fine Italian leather compliment the surroundings and the resulting light and airy interior exudes a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

With a large master suite located on the main deck, a queen-size VIP stateroom, and two further double staterooms, VvS1 can accommodate up to eight guests in absolute luxury. The accommodations are created with richly coloured timber veneers and all have en suite facilities and stunning views through their large windows. The classic elegance of the interior is enhanced by modern accessories, such as large, flat-screen televisions, DVD players and satellite phones.

The main deck is home to the formal lounge area, where light filters through Venetian blinds that mask large picture windows. With luxurious lounge chairs, an extensive library area, a home cinema and superb surround-sound system, the area is ideal for relaxing. The main dining saloon, located in the centre of the main deck, features large panoramic windows giving views over the surrounding waters. There is also a large seating area with a full-size dining table on the aft deck, which can be used for large parties or intimate dining.

With her shallow draught allowing VvS1 to approach close to shore, the aft deck swim platform is ideal for guests to access the lagoon waters, either to swim or kayak to the nearby shores of the motus or to snorkel, scuba dive and fish directly from the yacht. For those looking for alternative physical activity the yacht also boasts a gymnasium in the skylounge area, which leads on to an office and casual lounge.

The flybridge/sun deck is home to another lounge area, a fully equipped Teppanyaki bar with surround seating for alternative dining, a barbecue area, wet bar and coffee area.

A crew of six are on hand to take care of the guests’ every need.

More Stories By Miriam Cain

Miriam Cain is the communications and publications manager for Camper & Nicholsons International. She is also the managing editor for the the luxury travel magazine Sea & I.

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