There’s a good reason why Mutiny on the Bounty actor Marlon Brando stepped foot on Tetiʻaroa in French Polynesia and decided never to leave. With rainforested peaks and coral-fringed lagoons, the archipelago is drawing superyachts away from the Mediterranean and Caribbean milk run to explore its gin-clear, biodiverse waters. And here’s why.
First up is the remote location in the heart of the Pacific Ocean—an eight-hour flight from both America’s west coast and Australia’s east. It offers the type of “accessible only by boat” fun that a growing demographic of owners and charter guests are looking for. Explorer yachts Arctic P and Suri were a regular sight last season, and sailing yacht Farfalla is among those basing themselves in the region this summer.
A private charter aboard the 157-foot Hanse Explorer in November allows guests to experience the Society islands firsthand. It’s one of only two yachts where EYOS expedition staff form part of every charter, guiding guests away from tourist frequented islands, such as Bora Bora, and toward yacht-hopping must-sees such as Huahine, Moorea, Raiatea, and Taha’a.
Hanse has an 8,000 nautical-mile range and professional diving center making it well-suited to venturing off track in the tropics. It ensures the choppy 10-hour overnight cruise from Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, to Taha’a, where the wild vanilla orchid grows, is a comfortable experience.
The 118 islands of Tahiti are the first hub for superyachts in the South Pacific, spanning a territory as wide as the United States. Conservation efforts by the government and local communities, including temporary fishing bans, mean the area remains home to the largest marine sanctuary in the world. Protected species include whales, sea turtles, rays, and more than 20 species of shark.
The recent uptick in the number of humpbacks that migrate from Antarctica’s frigid waters to Tahiti’s nutrient-rich breeding grounds has made swimming with whales the number one activity for charter guests. It’s heavily regulated, and boats require a whale-watching permit. Hanse partners with Tahiti Dive Management, whose 33-foot chase boat can be chartered alongside a superyacht and comes equipped with a permit and expert guides. Guests can expect to find themselves in the water with a 40-foot mother and her one-ton baby playing near the surface within fingertip reach. No amount of dreaming compares to the life-affirming reality of a humpback breaching, tail slapping and barrel rolling up close.
Fins, a snorkel, and an aptitude for adventure are all that’s needed for swimming with humpbacks, but below the waves more world-class diving opportunities await. The Opunohu canyons and Ceran Pass are two hot spots filled with blacktip sharks, sea turtles, and barracuda. Deep-sea fishing charters also prove popular, with mahi mahi and colossal marlin thriving off the coast of Huahine island.
The many “motus”—small uninhabited isles lined with lush palm trees—create the perfect beach barbecue setup. For something more strenuous, Mo’orea’s Mount Tohivea offers a challenging hike shaded by a canopy of buttress trees and strangler figs.
And then it’s just a short 10-nautical-mile cruise from the dramatic shoe-shaped cove of Cook’s Bay on Mo’orea back to Tahiti’s surf and international airport, making it the ideal start and end to a two-week itinerary. With yachts settling in for the entire summer season, the opportunity to push deep into the heart of Polynesian wilderness has never been more accessible.