Beautiful Huahine and the Sacred Eels

Sacred Eels of HuahineWe spent one more day, on Monday, in Moorea mostly relaxing on the boat. In the early afternoon I went to scout some of the snorkeling areas near our anchorage. But, a thunderstorm started threatening the island nearby. So, I chose not to get in the water. Instead, I visited “Albatross II” – a St. Francis 44 owned by a couple from South Africa. Their boat was actually custom finished by a builder in Cape Town so it is quite different from other St. Francis boats I have seen. They gave me a tour of their lovely boat and showed me some of their favorite features. I particularly liked the office/workshop in the aft starboard compartment.

In the late afternoon we prepared to depart Moorea to make an overnight passage to Huahine. Huahine is one of the leeward islands of the French Society Islands, and is the less developed one (fewer hotels and tourists). Even so, the island is very beautiful and has a healthy population of about 6000 scattered about the island. Because of our friends delay in their trip, we needed to see what we could of the society islands this week before they arrive and we go to explore Moorea more thoroughly.

We had called a tour operator to get a full-day 4×4 tour of Huahine starting at 8 AM. The seas were forecasted to be a bit lumpy with 6-8 foot swells and 15 or so knots of wind. We actually had a broad range of conditions and had to make several sail changes and run the motors a good part of the night. We first had to get out of the effects of the island which bent the wind and waves around it. For a while we were sailing at 8-9 knots (faster than the average 6.8 we needed to make it at 6 AM). But, later the winds died off a bit and we had to motor to keep up our speed.

We arrived at the anchorage at 6:30 on Tuesday just after dawn. We were the only boat at the anchorage and it looked wonderful. We made a quick cell phone call to the tour operator to confirm our arrival, and then took showers and got our camera gear and snacks prepared. We went ashore at 8 AM and our tour guide “Joe” was waiting at the dock. Joe is a true local of Huahine whose family has lived here for generations. He speaks several languages thanks to several years of being a tour guide.

Watch the slideshow from our tour here, but make sure you read the text below the slideshow to learn more details about what we saw. Especially about the eels!

View full-sized with descriptions

We were taken to a Marae – a traditional ceremonial site where the polynesians conducted religious ceremonies. Before the white man came, they even practiced canibalism and human sacrifices. The first marae we went to was on a large salt/freshwater lake on the north side. In the pictures, the large rocks at the back with the wooden stakes above it contained the bones. We even saw a few human bones in the rocks.

Nearby we saw fisherman catching large blue crabs. Joe spoke to them and they let us hold some of the crabs which they had wrapped with string to keep the claws from pinching you. Joes says these crabs are very tasty, and they are large and very heavy so there must be a lot of meat!

Next we went to a traditional river fishtrap built out of rocks which caught the fish in the current. The tradional methods are still used complete with huts over the water where the fisherman stay for a day or two.

Then Joe took us out to a white sand beach and let us explore the shore. This beach had no outer reef so the corals are bashed continuously forming sand. Locals had trucks on this beach gathering sand and coral for construction purposes.

We then were taken down to a lagoon and given a boat ride out to a pearl farm out over the water. We got a brief version of the methods used to process the pearl – since we had already had a thorough presentation at manihi. We perused their pearl jewelry collection and looked at the fish they had trapped in a pool nearby.

Next Joe continued on the round-the-island road and took us to a vanilla farm. The smell in the crop was fantastic! We saw the weird vanilla plants and the “bean” stalks of the vanilla. They had a large drying bin out in the sun and in the building they were measuring and sorting the stalks they sell. We even got to taste some vanilla rum.

Next we stopped at a place where they were making ceremonial spears and polynesian skirts (made from tree bark). Karen and Lara tried on some of the skirts.

The big highlight of the trip was the sight of the sacred eels. These eels that adapted to fresh water and live in a mountain stream near a bridge. The eels are dark, have blue eyes and are from 3 to 6 feet long. For decades kids (and adults, and tourists) have been hand-feeding these eels and they are so adapted to human contact that they don’t mind if you get in and touch their bodies. As long as they get fed, they don’t mind. They even stick their heads out of the water to get some fresh fish food. Their bodies are slimy (as you can expect), but they don’t usually bite anyone (unless you aren’t careful when you hand feed them). They don’t see very well with their blue eyes. But, they can smell the fish and gather quickly when someone approaches.

We stopped at several viewpoints around the beautiful bays and lagoons of Huahine. This island is truly beautiful and we could easily spend a month here and not see everything. Unfortunatley, we only have a couple of days. We were taken to a restaurant for lunch on the southwest side overlooking a beautiful lagoon. Here is a sample panorama I took:

Panorama in Huahini, French Polynesia

We stopped at a farm where they were digging up HUGE sweet potatoes out of the red-colored clay ground. The roots easily 2 feet long in some cases. Joe also showed us a trap they set for catching roosters who might otherwise get to their crops.

The tour continued all the way around the island and was a real treat. We had a great time! Our plan was to spend a day exploring the waters and then leave on Thursday to make our way back to Tahiti. We have to clean up the boat again in preparation for Gerard and Patti who will hopefully actually make it to Tahiti this time assuming there isn’t another strike at the airport!

Here is a map showing our GPS track of the entire tour:

View Huahine Tour in a larger map

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3 Responses to Beautiful Huahine and the Sacred Eels

  1. Hipa Neria says:

    I accidently stumble into your tour of Tahiti while looking into fish farming. Wow! your slide show pictures were just beautiful! They were very clear, colorful and educational. Growing up in Samoa, I remembered seeing much of the coral, the fish and many sea creatures which I took for granted. I older and mature and I can now see the beauty and the plentiful the sea has offered. Thanks for the tour- I really enjoyed watching. Tofa Soifua!

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  3. Kristin says:

    Hi, Thanks for your post- very informative! The slideshow was not working when I checked, but I have 2 questions about your day trip for Huahine. What company did you use for the tour. It really seems awesome and comprehensive for the island. We only have 2 short days here on our tour of French Polynesia, but we would like to do this tour if possible. Also, do you recall when it was over for the day? Thank you!

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