We had planned to take Noelle on an Intergenerational Road Scholar trip with a focus on Ocean Ecology with Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment (AOE). When Road Scholar canceled their program due to under-subscription, we decided to go anyway and replicate as many activities as M.S. Paul Gauguin excursions or our Tahiti hotel could provide.
NB: [click] means you can click the image for a larger, perhaps different, view.

Our plane pulled up to the gate on time, a good omen for a happy trip.
A better omen: Tahiti Nui served Tahitian beer on board =>

These singers and dancers entertained arriving passengers and kept them from becoming too impatient awaiting customs agents on "Island Time". The agents finally showed up half an hour after we disembarked to let us enter Tahiti.

The Intercontinental Hotel had wonderful grounds, including this swimming pool and an ocean-connected Lagoonarium in the background, where guests could swim among tropical fish, shellfish, and coral.

Noelle swam among a swarm of fish that congregated near an entry from the ocean--where the current provided food.

The Intercontinental restaurant served fine meals, including this sushi sampler platter.

We all kayaked about the lagoon by the hotel, first hour free!

With two fine restaurants, three swimming locations, kayaking, tennis courts and multiple retreats for local fauna, the hotel was a fine resort. These turtles warmed themselves in the sun.

Our Island Circuit Tour, provided by Dave Ellard, took us to many Tahitian attractions, including this Grotte de Maraa. Dave said that this had been a sacred bathing pool for original Tahitians until Paul Gauguin bathed here in the hopes of curing his syphilis.

Other stops included Viamahuta waterfall, 295 feet high,
Jardin d'eau de Vaipahi, featuring huge ginger blossoms:

...a blowhole activated by incoming tide filling a lava tube,

...and the Point Venus Lighthouse, operating since 1867. This was where Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus across the sun.

This black sand beach (below) also had a monument to the Bounty. According to Dave, white sand was imported to the beach for filming of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Local scenery highlights the movie.[click]:

The next day, we rode a bus to Papeete and shopped for pareos at the local market. Here, Noelle got a lesson in one of the many ways to tie the garment.

These Tikis guarded the hilltop above our hotel.

The next day, we boarded the 330-passenger M.S. Paul Gauguin--our home for the next week.

The Children of Raiatea entertained us with songs and dances. Their Mommas and Papas danced with selected passengers, showed men how to tie a pareo into shorts, then taught women how to perform traditional Raiatean dances.

On our Raiatea shore excursion, we hiked to the top of Mt. Tapioi with our naturalists, Meagan and Bobbie. Note the M.S.Paul Gauguin behind Marilyn's right shoulder.

We hiked by this sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) that closed its leaves when touched!

The crew dropped a tender into the lagoon to take us to Taha'a the next day.

Mud (Mangrove) Crabs greeted us as we came ashore at Taha'a for a 4x4 tour of the island.

We had a delightful and informative tour of a family-run vanilla plantation, including instructions on how to make extract.

Next Taha'a stop: a Black Tahitian Pearl farm. A farmer shows where a tiny piece of mantle tissue from a donor shell is inserted into a gonad to stimulate calcium-carbonate accretion, making a pearl. To perform this on a live Black-lipped oyster, the shell can only be opened a few millimeters.

We visited a sea-turtle rescue center, where we learned about life-cycles, species (Leatherback and Green Turtles were recovering here), and threats faced by sea turtles.

That afternoon, we went to a Motu (islet), where AOE participants got to tie-dye a pareo.

Bobbie and Meagan also taught snorkeling to AOE students while Marilyn and I kayaked and snorkeled around Motu Mahana.

The next morning, distinctive Bora Bora emerged from clouds behind an atoll island as we cruised to a Stingray encounter.

Bobbie and Noelle in a close encounter of the stingray kind!


Black-tipped reef sharks, other fish, and multiple seabirds congregated near the stingray encounter site, all seeking a handout.

The locals (speck behind tender) really enjoyed surfing on wakes as tenders shuttled passengers back and forth to Bora Bora. [click]

That afternoon, Chef Mark Bishop took AOE participants on a galley tour, followed by ice cream.

The next morning found us at a motu for snorkeling, collecting hermit crabs for races (above), and relaxing, playing games, and collecting samples of sea life for later examination under a microscope.

That afternoon, AOE had a bridge tour (above), sorted trash by its expected lifetime in the ocean, and looked at micrographic images, such this brine shrimp:

A stargazing party followed that night-Southern Cross!

After a night's sailing over long, Mal-de-mer inducing rollers, we arrived at Moorea
(all together: "Bali Ha'i may call you,..." ).

A dance troop, with a table of local fruits for our pleasure (back left), greeted our tender at the dock

We continued with an AOE hike up Magic Mountain-great views!

Goats scampered away as we descended. Bread-delivery boxes graced the fronts of all houses along one of the roads (below):

Professor Mark Eddowes led a tour the next day. We walked as he told us about Tikis, Marae, biology, ...Just delightful! =>

Point Belvedere provided great views of Mt. Rotui, Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay in the rain/mist.

The walk back took us through rain forest and multiple Marae.

A night snorkeling expedition yielded views of nocturnal fish and eels. The best part: with all flashlights off, any physical motion triggered phosphorescent plankton to light up--like looking down at a starry sky!

Few plants are as colorful as pineapple, just coming into bloom.


This crab exoskeleton was next to the dock--the remains of a successful molt. Now, if the defenseless crab can just avoid becoming a meal before growing a new suit of armor...

Following an informative lecture on Coral Reef and Island Formation, Bobbie and Meagan presented two new AOE inductees with certificates.

The MS Paul Gauguin in a light, fine, warm drizzle--liquid sunshine.

We returned to Papeete that night, and left the ship in the morning. Our walkabout took us by Paofai Gardens and this memorial to victims of French nuclear testing in the Society Islands--over 193 tests displaced natives from many islands due to blast, fallout, ...

Multiple outrigger canoes waited along the harbor for paddlers to enter the surf and frolic.


A final lunch, a final brew (just another lager since no dark ales seemed to be available on the islands), then off to the airport.
We spent the rainy afternoon reading, loitering and waiting for periodic shop openings (only when planes arrived or outgoing passengers queued up for boarding passes).

Back in the U.S. my wonderful children had stocked multiple ales, including this delectable Double Stout.

Advice: If you decide to go to Tahiti, take $$$$$. Prices are comparable to those in Norway.

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