Depart Papeete, TahitiMorning departure.
Tuamotu Archipelago / FakaravaFakarava is the largest atoll in the Tuamotu. There is snorkeling and scuba diving for people of all levels. You can swim and snorkel in the translucent lagoon to watch the colorful ballet of tropical lagoon fish. The entire morning will be spent on shore. Lunch will be served on board while you set sail for the Marquesas.
At Sea on the AranuiYou can relax with a book on one of the sun decks, swim in the small pool or enjoy the immense South Pacific. Balmy evenings mean reading in lounge/library or chatting with an authority on Marquesan culture or archaeology. You’ll probably spend many evenings socializing on the upstairs deck/bar with your fellow adventurers from around the world. The spirited Polynesian crew treat you like welcomed guests and proudly introduce you to their rich culture. Almost every night, they sing and strum hypnotic Polynesian rhythms on their ukuleles and will teach you to move your hips to hypnotic beat of the tamure.
The Marquesas Archipelago / Ua PouFrom the deck, you’ll see the soaring mountain spires of Ua Pou. Whenever the Aranui stops, villages greet it. As the muscular crew unloads supplies - from cements to sugar - and loads sacks of copra ( dried coconut meat ), you’ll explore the tiny town of Hakahau with its church with a hand-carved wooden dais. You can meet some talented woodcarvers and hike up a hill for a breathtaking view of the distant cloud-covered mountains. At Rosalie’s Restaurant, you’ll taste your first Marquesan lunch: breadfruit, a marquesan staple, along with curried goat, barbecued rock lobster, poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and soaked in coconut milk ), taro and sweet red bananas.
Nuku HivaSail into Taiohae’s spectacular bay, a giant volcanic amphitheater dominated by towering cliffs streaked with waterfalls. As the Aranui unloads, you can explore Taiohae, the tiny Administrative capital of the Marquesas. Taiohae Bay is where a 23-year-old sailor, Herman Melville and a buddy jumped a whaling ship in 1842. Follow their escape route by jeep along steep, winding dirt mountain roads to the village of Hatiheu to visit an archeological site. Have lunch at Yvonne’s Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in the Marquesas, where the specialty is pig baked in an underground oven. You’ll meet the owner-chef, Yvonne, who also happens to be the town’s energetic mayor. After lunch, travel to the valley of Taipivai. The area is dotted with stone tiki gods and sacred ritual sites (me’ae) and immense stone platforms (paepae) where the Taipi built their houses. Enigmatic petroglyphs of birds, sacred turtles and fish are carved on huge boulders. The Aranui’s whaleboats will sail down the river to return you to the Aranui, which is anchored in the bay.
Hiva Oa (Atuona)You will have plenty of time to explore Atuona, the second largest village in Marquesas. This is where Paul Gauguin lived and did some of his best work. You can visit the colonial store where Gauguin shopped and go into a replica of the Impressionist’s infamous “House of Pleasure.” As you walk up the hill to the cemetery, you’ll have sweeping views of the harbor. Beneath a huge frangipani tree is a tombstone with the simple words: Paul Gauguin 1903. Nearby is the grave of another famous European who also was seduced by Hiva Oa: Belgian singer-composer Jacques Brel, who died in 1978. You’ll also enjoy another lavish Marquesan lunch at Hoa Nui Restaurant.
This is the most lush and remote island of the Marquesan. It’s also a center of Marquesan crafts. As our guides lead you through the village of Omoa, you’ll see women hammering mulberry, banyan or breadfruit bark on logs. They dry it and then paint ancient Marquesan designs on their famous tapa cloth. Fatu Hiva is also well-known for its hand-painted pareus (sarongs) and monoi, a perfumed coconut oil scented with tiare blossoms and sandalwood. Skilled woodcarvers will invite you into their home/studios.
The Aranui sails to the other inhabited village. Hanavave is on the Bay of the Virgins, which is one of the world’s most beautiful bays. Some athletic passengers may choose to make the trip by foot. On this unforgettable ten mile hike you’ll have unforgettable views of towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls.
Hiva Oa (Puamau)Travel by foot or by jeep to the most important archeological sites for tikis (ancient, human-like religious sculptures) other than Easter Island. Trained guides will show you these mysterious jungle ruins of Puamau and tell the stories of these haunting statues of an ancient civilization.
Tahuatu (Vaitahu)On this leaf-shaped island, the air is thick with fragrant scent of tiare, frangipani and history. In the tiny village of Vaitahu, Spanish explorers landed in 1595 and opened fire on a crowd of the curious islanders, killing about 200. Tahuata also is the site of the first French settlement in the Marquesas in 1842. The huge church built by the Vatican, is decorated with beautiful Marquesan carvings. Picnic in the Valley of Hapatoni and swim and snorkel at a nearby beach.
Ua HukaVisit a museum with exquisite replicas of Marquesan art. Some Aranui passengers will explore the island by four-wheel drive; others will ride the Marquesan horses. For three hours, explore the mountain landscape with heart-stopping views of the Pacific. The wild horses (brought from Chile in 1856) thrive here, outnumbering the islands 476 residents. Have a Marquesan lunch at local restaurant and have plenty of time to visit studios of woodcarvers. Visit the arboretum and the garden of fruits and flower. Back on the Aranui, it’s Polynesian night with dancing and buffet dinner on the deck.
Nuku HivaThe Aranui will dock in Nuku Hiva at Taiohae in the morning. You may take the Le Truck back to the town center and spend free time there. At noon, the ship will sail to Ua Pou, returning to your first stop in the Marquesas, Hakahau. This is your last chance to buy Marquesan crafts.
At SeaEnjoy sun bathing on the deck, sipping exotic drinks while watching the crystal blue waters en route to Rangiroa.
Tuamotu Archipelago / RangiroaOn lovely Rangiroa, the largest atoll in the world, picnic on coral beach. Aranui passengers can swim and snorkel in a translucent lagoon. Excellent snorkeling and scuba diving are available for people of all levels. “Rangi” is an underwater jewel box with stunning colors of corals and clouds of tropical fishes. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase black pearls from local black pearl farmers. These rare black pearls are French Polynesia’s main economic resource.
Papeete, Tahiti / DisembarkDisembark this morning for your continued journey home.