Travel: Exploring fantastic French Polynesia

Written by Laura Nicholls

When it comes to superyacht cruising grounds, sometimes it may be easy to forget that there is a big wide world to discover outside of the hustle and bustle of the main Mediterranean and Caribbean hotspots. With more and more owners and charter clients opting to stray a little further from the beaten track, here we shine a spotlight on some of the more exciting cruising destinations from all four corners of the world, with the help of the experts who have fallen in love with it. In this issue, we speak with Captain Gavin Bladen, captain of the 44.2-metre Hemisphere, who takes us through her ideal week-long itinerary cruising the waters of French Polynesia.French Polynesia HemispherePhoto: BurgessFrench Polynesia is a place you might find when spinning a globe and seeing where your finger lands. A group of small islands deep in the ocean may seem inaccessible and unsupported, but amongst its protected anchorages, warm clear waters, amazing fauna and flora and its happy inhabitants, French Polynesia is set up to be a perfect charter choice. Plus, there is a bonus of having a captain who can offer more than just the safe manning and operation of your yacht. How often do you get to experience life below the ocean, as well as above? Captain Gavin Bladen is also a PADI dive instructor, so sailing onboard the Hemisphere is a truly unique experience. Hemisphere will be cruising French Polynesia and its 118 islands until June 2019. 

Having qualified as a dive instructor in 1995 and relocating to the British Virgin Islands, Bladen soon became a captain in 1997 and ran various charter yachts for seven years until he met Hemisphere. Ten years ago Hemisphere was still a concept, but Bladen was there from the start. For six years until her launch in August 2011, captain Bladen served as the owner’s representative, overseeing her design, build and commission at Pendennis Shipyard Ltd in Cornwall, UK. Since then, he has taken the catamaran sloop to nearly 40 countries, providing many memorable charter voyages for her guests. French Polynesia HemispherePhoto: Artem Bali“Sometimes you have to step off the beaten path, for the bigger rewards in life,” he said, and French Polynesia is just that. Hemisphere first visited the collection of islands in the South Pacific back in June 2013 and spent a year exploring and playing in this amazing cruising ground. 

“French Polynesia covers an area equal in size to Europe and has five main regions. Hemisphere has extensively cruised the Societies, the Tuamotus and the Marquises - all of which offer something different. French Polynesia is suitable for the first-time charter guest who would like to enjoy a variety of activities, get away from it all and seeks world-class diving,” he added.French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: Dave ShawWith travel connections to the USA, Hawaii, Japan and New Zealand, French Polynesia is not the remote cruising ground it may seem. “It’s only an 8-hour flight from LA, so it’s as close to the west coast of the USA as the Caribbean is,” commented Bladen. “It is in fact very well supported compared to other regions of the world we have operated in, there are good provisioning options without having to fly everything in.”

It is not a surprise that yachts and owners have the desire to try new locations and break away from the congested Mediterranean. “There has been a noticeable increase in yacht traffic in French Polynesia during the four years we have been away, and it will continue to grow as it has so much to offer. It still has the feeling of being remote and close to nature whilst being surrounded by stunning scenery,” Bladed concluded. 

With this in mind, and with the added benefit of previous experiences and expert recommendations, Hemisphere's seven-day itinerary truly makes the most of what beautiful French Polynesia has to offer. French Polynesia HemispherePhoto: BurgessDay 1: Tahiti and Moorea

Fly in and join Hemisphere in Tahiti, and then sail over to Moorea. Here, from July through to November, guests will have the first opportunity to spot Humpback whales. After a swim in the clear blue waters, guests can spend the afternoon snorkelling and feeding the stingrays in Moorea’s lagoon.French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: Artak PetrosyanDay 2: Moorea

Day two is the day for adventures both on land and at sea. After waking up in Moorea, guests can venture out on quad bikes around the dormant volcanoes. The area offers plenty of great views and is filled with lush vegetation and flowers, including pineapple plantations. In the afternoon, scuba diving lessons are available on board. When night falls, the voyage to Huahine begins, cruising under the stars.

French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: Cosmic TimetravelerDay 3: Huahine

At first light, guests and crew can fish the aqua blue waters. Enjoy breakfast on board whilst approaching Huahine and its tropical jungles. Choose from a range of watersports for a fun-filled morning, and then take some time out to enjoy lunch on the beach. Guests can relax during happy hour at a beach bar and then return to the yacht for a seafood dinner, caught fresh by guests that very morning.French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: BurgessDay 4: Raiatea

Hemisphere will weigh anchor in the morning and cruise to Raiatea, which was the centre of the Polynesian society and is the place where explorers sailed from to discover Hawaii and New Zealand. The island is dominated by a 3300-foot lush peak and is a sight to behold. The surrounding reef provides a constant supply of cool waves to surf.French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: Artak PetrosyanDay 5: Tahaa

Time for a day of pampering! Once Hemisphere has arrived at Tahaa, a masseuse can step on board for ultimate relaxation. In the afternoon guests can take advantage of the local vanilla farm, and pay it a visit to collect some fresh vanilla for the evening's dessert.French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: Scott GreerDay 6: Bora Bora

Bora Bora needs no introduction! It exceeds all expectations with its superb diving and snorkelling. Spend the day floating on the reef to explore the colourful underwater life. The evening's special entertainment from Tahitian Dancers in traditional dress is world-famous. Guests will learn their ancient stories passed down through the generations through the movement of dance.French Polynesia Hemisphere Photo: Daniel BettechDay 7: Bora Bora

Wake up and get ready to dive with manta rays on the last day of our French Polynesian adventure. Bora Bora is host to a popular manta ray ‘cleaning station’, where guests can watch cleaner wrasses clean the rays. In the afternoon guests can rent jet skis to explore the nearby lagoon before disembarking Hemisphere.

If this week in paradise is not enough, then extend the trip for another week in the Tuamotus. Whilst Hemisphere relocates to Fakarava to begin the next adventure, why not take the opportunity to stay for a few nights in one of the top hotels in Bora Bora. The flight time is around 80 minutes to Fakarava.

French Polynesia Hemisphere

French Polynesia Top 5

Highlights of cruising in French Polynesia

  1. Diving in the South Fakarava Pass

  2. The Bay of Virgins in Marquises

  3. Local Polynesia drummers and dancers 

  4. The sunset from Tetuatiare Bay sitting at the base of Mount Tefatiarahi

  5. Visiting a pearl farm  



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