We booked to go to Tahiti when we booked London. I had a status credit offer and Qantas had a sale. Tahiti is a bucket list destination for us and given we decided 2018 = no boring bits, we jumped on the sale. TW already had annual leave for another holiday we had planned but cancelled. Points tickets, one way, to South Africa. We cancelled because it was over Easter and made it awkward to have my birthday or our anniversary off and while those days are only 4 days apart they are both on weekdays so we thought we would change the dates and go somewhere on those more important dates. Well, the flight sale landed on the same dates as we had before, so the plan went out the window. New justification, we got married on Easter Sunday and we are away for Easter Sunday so we have 2 anniversaries every year that Easter is not on the 16th of April and at least our first “first anniversary” is spent in Tahiti, more specifically it will be in an overwater bungalow on Tikehau. Date wise, it is the date we change from Tikehau to Bora Bora #bestofbothworlds. Our trip will be 5 nights Tikehau, 4 nights Bora Bora, 1 night Moorea and 2 nights Tahiti – one at the start and one at the end of the trip for flight purposes.
This is one trip TW was excited about before we got to the airport. He had a mini freak out the night before our flight. Nothing was ready, he didn’t feel prepared, he wasn’t packed, the house wasn’t cleaned and in his freak out he sat and watched tv for 2 hours to “calm down”. In reality, he had packed the night before but we couldn’t find the tripod I wanted. I don’t know why I lose this one so much but I can never find it when I want it and when I get back from trips I always find it. I make a mental note of where that is and laugh at how it was in an obvious spot and then promptly scrunch up that mental note, set it on fire, throw the bin our and burn down the tip. I have no clue where it might be. I am looking forward to getting home and finding it and getting annoyed at how obvious the spot was and my mental note taking abilities. Anywho, I have two so I packed the other while TW sat in his cranky state.
Qantas offered us a paid upgrade – start at $200 plus points per person and increase your bid to increase your chances. I laughed. What a waste of points and money. The day before, right on 25 hours, we decided we would put in for an upgrade but a classic points upgrade. It is just the flight to Auckland as Qantas doesn’t fly all the way to Papeete. 20,000 points each, a huge amount of points considering the classic award flight cost in business to Auckland but we are connecting on to Papeete so breaking the flights down to separate tickets wasn’t too appealing and this way we spend no cash. The upgrade was awarded. I checked it was the better business class. We have the plane with flatbeds, not the seats in business. Yes, it is a morning flight and only 3 hours but we have the points and Tahiti – yay. Plus it is a pseudo anniversary trip – not sure if anyone else will count Easter Sunday as our anniversary and we kind of just made it up ourselves to make the dates fit with the celebration we wanted but hey, we can so why not.
Ok, we wake up at 6 am. Get ready and leave by 7 am. Uber to the airport, check in at business. The day is 27th of March and we have just found out the airport has been refitted. No problems, business check-in is still the same place. Immigration is easy with the e-gates. Customs/security is easy apart from people in front of me. Despite being in the express lane the line coordinator for the regular lane gave in to a family of non-travellers and allowed them to use one of the express lanes, the one I had been directed to. Yes, the 3 of them too over half an hour to put their bags on the belt and go through, with all their failed attempts to empty their pockets and follow directions. TW was ahead of them and they were between us. Usually, TW picks the slow lane, this time he was through and waiting for me. We were told where to line up, not a ‘pick your own’ but a ‘go to this line’ kind of day. It worked for TW only I was stuck and he still had to wait. I laughed, he got annoyed. Unscathed by the process and more surprisingly, neither of us bomb tested, we were on our way to the lounge.
Breakfast time in the business class lounge is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. It wasn’t too bad. Bacon, eggs, sausages, hash browns, pastries, toast, pancakes, coffee, juice, special frittatas – brought around by staff, not available at the buffet, yogurt, fruit, boiled eggs. Soft drink and all your alcohol were available as always. The business lounge is ok, it was very busy. Quiet, which was a nice change from the afternoon when I find it is full of families and the hum of the lounge is a decent bit louder. The best thing about the lounge is that we can wake up and not worry about anything. Wake up late – ok shower in the lounge. Wake up hungry, you know you have a decent amount of options in the lounge. Wake up cranky, well, that’s on you.
Our flight is delayed, an hour or so, but still time make our connection in Auckland, so we are not too concerned, eventually its time to board and we head to our seats 1E & 1F upfront. I plan to watch the end of Coco as I had watched it part way through on another flight but I decide just to watch it from the beginning as the headphones and screen are better in business class. TW watches his own movie, mine was better, sometimes we watch the same thing this was not one of those times. We sit back and relax, we are settled well before take off and after all of the safety and take off announcements there are no more interruptions until the lunch service.
In Business class the choice and quality is a decent step up from economy, I don’t remember the full list of options, but do remember that there was a starter of Bacon and Bean Soup and also a Main of Bacon and Bean Soup. TW joked and said he will get bacon and bean soup for starter and main – He didn’t. Overall the flight to Auckland was smooth and uneventful – exactly how you want a flight to be.
Making our connection seemed tight, and the distance between where we disembarked to the gate to leave for Tahiti seemed to be miles, though after eventually making it through international transfers, TW’s carry on bag was searched and bomb tested this time. We are going through the bomb testing when another transfer person arrives. Our screening is almost complete and his bag is selected for screening. My bags weren’t so it wasn’t a case of everyone gets screened, every other person or flagged – I don’t know. This person makes a huge fuss. Huge fuss. In doing so he confuses the staff and slows his whole process down. He is saying that his flight is about to leave and he is going to miss the plane and they need to be quick. Hurry, hurry. One way to make yourself look guilty is to say something like that. We were also a little concerned about missing the flight, not because we wouldn’t be taken care of, it was booked as one ticket so we would be fine but we wouldn’t be able to get to Tahiti in time for our next flight and we didn’t want to miss the first day of our holiday.
We said nothing and let the guys get on with their job, this guy has caused a kerfuffle and everything takes a lot longer for him, no matter how much he says the process needs to be quick. On the screens throughout the terminal and in the transfer area it said “go to gate” this means you still have a long time before boarding, boarding doesn’t take 2 minutes, usually it would take at least 20 minutes. The gave us a little peace of mind, we were rushing but we weren’t panicking like this other guy. We made it to gate six and find out the flight is actually delayed, it will begin boarding in about 20 minutes. There isn’t enough time for us to go to the lounge so we wait at the gate. Time flies, our row is in the first set to be called. Everyone decides to try and board but the gate staff only let those on who are in the called rows, the other people are told to wait but they wait where they were and cause a huge issue as the people behind them don’t know to board. There are at least 5 couples who are told to wait before we get to the front of the line. No big deal but it is just nicer when people listen to and follow instructions. Although, it is hard to know what languages people were speaking and the announcements were in English and French.
We have not flown with Air Tahiti Nui before so didn’t know what to expect and for this leg, we were in economy. We had the window and aisle seat, the plane was an A340- and had 2-4-2 configuration in economy. Tw prefers the aisle and MT likes the window so the configuration suited us. Towards the back of the plane where the tail tapers in it changes to 2-3-2 so there are fewer people in the middle row if this is more suitable for your travelling party just know there are sets of 3 and sets of 4.
On our London trip, I watched 3 billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri which is on this flight so I tell TW to watch it and we watch together. It is an interesting movie, no happy ending, nothing big or fancy. Just a terrible crime, which you don’t see, and the unapologetic and in no way romanticised life after. I enjoyed the way the story was told and if something could go wrong, like in real life, it generally did. The film had been edited for the audience on this flight where on Qantas it had not. A lot of the movie is lost without the swearing, half the story is told through those words and it was amusing for me the number of crud buckets the town had. This flight wasn’t that long but it felt like it was taking forever. There was bad turbulence for long stretches and the pilots did a great job in trying to avoid the worst of it but we still hit fairly bad turbulence though we were set to fly through severe. TW and I were getting very tired even though the day hadn’t really been very long and economy after business was a bit of an effort.
Dinner service was actually pleasant, although ill-timed with turbulence and I do believe some people prompts brought meals back up. We both had the beef and it was a stroganoff type beef with a very well made pasta, possibly fettucini.
Our flight lands into Papeete just before midnight, it is after midnight before we get through immigration and collect our bags. We booked an Airbnb as close to the airport as possible so we didn’t have far to travel. Our host had included airport transfers and was standing with a smile and a sign with TW’s name waiting for us just after baggage collection. It was super easy and for a night, where it really was a night only, served us well.
Breakfast was included with our Airbnb, it started at 6 am through until 10 am but our flight was 11 am so we decided to go to the airport at 9. We didn’t want to miss the flight. Our host had suggested 10 am but our luggage might have needed to be repacked for weights so we went at 9 am. We woke up about 8 am and got ready. Had breakfast, which was french bread and condiments. We had plain bread, no butter or spreads. Coffee, tea, and water were also available but we just had the bread. It was really nice bread.
At the airport, it took all of 2 minutes to check in and now we had 2 hours to wait for boarding. Well, our host had been right but it was better to be there early and bored than late and stressed. We sit about and do a whole lot of nothing, trying to find a seat under the best fan. Flights to Bora Bora and Huahine come and go and eventually it is our turn.
Tikehau! How we have waited for this name to be called. It is called first in French and everyone stands up to board so while everyone else has just arrived and we have been waiting for an eternity, we are back of the line. Air Tahiti (different airline from Air Tahiti Nui) has a free seating plan. We board from the back and everyone seems to sit in the first seats they come across. TW says it seems to make sense to sit at the front first and fill backward for speed. That isn’t what happens though so we board and it isn’t long before we take off.
Our flight goes to Tikehau and then Rangiroa. The flight is full but only 1/3 are going to Tikehau, everyone else it seems is heading on to Rangiroa. Those travelling on, stay on the plane and others leave. There is mild confusion among some passengers, announcements are made in three languages but it appears that this does not cover all languages of those on board and additional clarification is required. We are among the first few off the plane and the short walk to the terminal building sees us meet the hotel guide the hands us enough luggage tags for the number of items we checked in on the plane. We tag our bags and they put them on a luggage vehicle and take them to the dock.
We wait for a few minutes and then get in the transfer van. There are two vans, ours fills quickly and we head to the dock. The boat has not arrived yet so we take a tour of the town. It is a small and island-like town. Island, in that it was small and laid back, not bure, hut, big wood built with a thatched roof and airy spaces style houses, cute, small and laid back. Chickens roaming at their will, appearing to be wild and free though I am sure someone owns them and will eventually eat them or at least eats their eggs. A few well kept dogs appearing from an empty yard, an air of contentment and positivity. You know, just that nice feeling you get when you visit an island village. Most buildings were brick or fibro/Hardiplank. It seemed both out of place and fitting. Back to the dock, the boat has arrived but it waiting for another boat to depart so it can dock. The other transfer van arrives. We all board, luggage is put on and we make that final journey to our hotel.
Sitting at the front, TW’s idea, not the best plan. Our boat moves reasonably fast and spray smacks us in the face, specifically targeting the eyes. I close mine and enjoy the rollercoaster ride. I create a rollercoaster in my mind when I feel seasick. TW hastily finds sunglasses and puts them on to keep the spray out of his eyes.
20 minutes or so and we are at the resort dock Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort. We fill out forms, put our card down for incidentals and provide the vouchers for the stay and transfer. Once all of the English speakers have also completed their registration documents we get a quick tour of the hotel and then we are taken to our rooms.
Our room is first, the others are sent ahead to wait and we are walked down to our room. This set of overwater bungalows is in a Y shape, the traditional y where you have a diagonal long line and a small perpendicular line. We are on the small line and even better, we are the tip of it. The other rooms on this little line face 90 degrees away from the boardwalk where ours faces the same direction. With the balconies on the far side of the room away from the boardwalk the other balconies look on to each other whereas ours sees none of those. We can’t see any other rooms, or balconies unless we try. Meaning they can’t see us unless we stand in those spots. This is fantastic. Living in a building of over 500 units, we can not see any other room from our room. We sit in bed and cannot see any buildings on the land or over water. It feels secluded, we leave the front door open because we kind of forget other people are here also. The downside of this room, one that we knew before we arrived, there is no steps down into the water.
Luckily the hotel is very specific in the room, this room has no air conditioning, no direct water access but nor do the other 4 on this arm. We think we have the best room for the money. The funny thing about this hotel is that the rooms on the beach are more expensive. We had to stick to a budget so we took the cheapest room. The cheapest room just happens to be over water. The beach bungalows do have air-conditioning but we have the most amazing, constant breeze. It is so lovely to be inside, look out at the reef and fish and ocean and just have this constant breeze come into the room. We don’t get it at home. We don’t have air-conditioning at home either but we don’t have a wonderful breeze like this to make hot days bearable.
Direct water access would be nice. We will need to walk back over to land and then snorkel from there, most likely we will head to under our bungalow as there is a lot of reef and fish here. It would be nice just to step in and snorkel from our bungalow but it is also nice to holiday within your budget and not worry about money so we made the compromise and the room would be perfect if we didn’t have the ability to snorkel so being able to snorkel from the resort if just a bonus really. At this price point, everything is a bonus.
(The constant rumble of the ocean waves breaking on the reef is quite relaxing)
The growth of some large corals would make it hard to position a ladder to get into the water without damaging something. It would be nice but we are happy with this room and the price of it. If we really wanted stairs, we could have paid extra as the hotel offers many bungalows with direct water acess. The bungalows on the long part of the Y have direct water access and the other set of overwater bungalows (overwater suites) also have it. I enjoyed the novelty of booking the cheapest possible room and being over the water.
We have seen some great things in our little “looking glass” in the middle of our room so overwater is still worthwhile even if you can’t jump straight in to the water and the pricing here is far more reasonable than some of the other islands that are certainly more heavily marketed in French Polynesia. We decided on Tikehau for the pink sand and the pass diving, we did a lot of research and then had to check availability and pricing to put all of the islands together but the pink sand and pass diving were the main draw. TW isn’t sure if he will go on the pass dive. It is a bit scary sounding, I can’t dive so he has to go without me if he does go but the hotel has pink sand all around it so we have that box checked without the need of any great exploration (although there is a debate on how pink the pink sand actually is).