10 Days In The Austral Islands

March 20, 2021

Part 2: Three Days In Tubuai

Tubuai is the largest island in the Austral archipelago and its administrative capital. Tubuai lacks “monumental highlights” but there’s plenty to do if you must stop here en route to Raivavae, which is certainly a possibility considering the domestic flight schedule. 

Panoramic view of Tubuai - Austral Islands - French Polynesia

Day 5: Arrival & Island Tour

Use the first day in Tubuai to tour the island with a guide and learn about the interesting history of the island. Your hosts will pick you up from the airport and will, most likely, be able to take you on a half-day guide island tour. 

I recommend staying at the Wipa Lodge, located halfway between the airport and the quay. The newly-built lodge is operated by Wilson Doom and his wife Gisele, but don’t let their last name scare you. Bungalows are very spacious and there’s a pretty beach just across the road with a small shack for viewing the sunsets. Delicious communal meals are served in the main house and Wilson will take care of all your needs while in Tubuai. 

Pension wipa lodge - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Wipa Lodge Tubuai - Austral Islands - French Polynesia - room interior

Sunset - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Another highly recommended pension is Pension Taitaa who can also take you on lagoon tours with their boat. There are a few other options that can be booked online, and Pension Toena as another option. 

The half-day tour is more than enough for seeing Tubuai’s main sites (~3,000 XPF). Your guide may simply circle the island but on our tour, Wilson combined coastal highlights with a few inland. We stopped at the site where Fort George was erected in 1789 by mutineers from the HMS Bounty, visited a few ancient ceremonial sites, and explored Tubuai’s lush interior where much of the produce is exported to the markets in Tahiti

Wilson Doom Wipa Lodge - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Marae Raitoru ancient temple Tubuai - Austral Islands - French Polynesia

agriculture - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Day 6: Mount Taitaa Hike & Beach Time

Hiking to the summit of Mount Taitaa, the highest peak in Tubuai at 422m, is fairly straightforward as the trail is well-marked. Some sections can be a bit challenging but overall this is a moderately easy hike. The views from the summit are unbeatable, with unobstructed panoramas of every corner of the island and its shining lagoon. The summit itself is quite strange, formed by a collection of immense boulders that seem to have piled on top of each other. 

hike to Mount Taitaa - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Mount Taitaa - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

view of tubuai lagoon from Mount Taitaa - - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Back on the coastal road, stop for lunch in one of the village snacks, or buy an ice-cold coconut from a roadside stall. Spend the rest of the afternoon chilling in one of the island’s sandy beaches. The best one is a long strip of golden sand halfway between the Wipa Lodge and the airport. It’s also known as “Bloody Bay”, the site of a massacre that took place when the Bounty mutineers first came in contact with the native population. 

Bloody Bay beach in Tubuai - Austral Islands - French Polynesia

Day 7: Picnic Motu

Tubuai’s immense lagoon is much larger than the island itself so you really should check it out. I spent a full day chilling on one of the motu (islets) at the edge of the lagoon. The tour was booked via Pension Taitaa (~6,500 XPF) and it was one of the most enjoyable days I spent in the Australs, just relaxing on a small strip of coral sand. 

lagoon motu - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

pass between two motu - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

view of tubuai from motu - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

picnic motu - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

hoa - false pass - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Our guides Narii and his brother, James, fired up at the grill as we arrived on the motu. Some of us helped make the food, learning the tricks of the trade-in baking coconut bread, picking fresh shells from the lagoon, and preparing the national dish of French Polynesia, poisson cru

picnic motu - cleaning clams - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

picnic motu - coconut bread - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

picnic motu - grilled fish - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

picnic motu - guide - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

Before and after lunch, we had some time to explore the small islet and even to walk at low tide to its neighbor. 

tubuai lagoon colors - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

snorkeling in tubuai colorful clam - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

The snorkeling was superb, even if the water was slightly colder than the norm in the Society Islands. Tubuai’s lagoon is famous for its large and colorful shells. There were plenty of them growing on coral heads not far from the beach. To cap things off, Narii and James graciously extended the adventure and took us to Motu One, a small sandbar floating at the edge of the lagoon. 

Motu One from the air - tubuai - austral islands - french polynesia

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