Happy in French Polynesia, Taha'a Island
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
I decided that this was the perfect time to go ahead and hit up one of my dream vacation's location. I have wanted to visit Bora Bora for as long as I can remember. There was always something about the pictures of the beautiful, crisp waters that intrigued me. The thought of being on an exotic island and feeling its breeze has always captured my spirit. I’ve always felt like that is where I belong. I didn't want to overwhelm myself with the task of planning my entire vacation. I figured the best route was to hire a travel agent. Goway Travel is the company I chose. I’d been in communication with Idyllic Island specialist, Emma, for over two and a half years, and I figured it was best I act upon my many years' worth of inquiries for travel. I didn't want my inquiries and her time and responses to go to waste.
Yes. Covid is still a major concern. However, many people have been held up into their quarters for long enough. The world slowly opening back up, and it's not really going to be 100 percent like it used to be. People are starting to travel again. This is partly why I felt it was a good time to get back into what I’ve grown to love...solo travel ventures. I’m so happy to think back on when I started my solo travel journey back in 2018. Since then, I’ve grown so much as a solo-traveler. I've learned a number of helpful tips and lots of information about investment opportunities. I have met awesome people, for the most part. Many people, I've met, have been impressed with my courage to travel by myself. I look at it as a liberating thing to do. I feel free and alive when I travel solo. It's one of my happy factors.
I’ve been to Costa Rica, where I started my ventures and went horseback riding on the beach for the first time. I have been to Curacao and went on Catamaran sailing tour. Cozumel, Mexico was wonderful. I had a wonderful time sailing in a private yacht. Jamaica's Nine Mile tour and catamaran/snorkeling excursion were so much fun. San Antonio was an adventure all in itself. I went on the riverwalk boat tour there. Belize's (one of my favorites) Thatch Caye excursion was so beautiful.
My main booking source has been Expedia, even though I am also an Occidental Vacation Club member (steer clear of them). I barely use it. It's a big waste of money. I find better deals using Expedia. I save a little money with the rewards that build up on the site and also my rewards with my Delta American Express and Citi American Airlines membership cards.
Not being able to travel in 2020 and the early part of 2021 put a slight damper on my psyche. Starting my travels back up, in my dream area, was the way to go. I’ve invested in better photography tech (GoPro HERO8) and a less expensive laptop (Acer Chromebook; leaving my MacBook and iPad Pro at home) to record and track my adventures. Believe me, I still have my iPhones to boot. I use those as quicker backups. I use waterproof pouches to protect them during my water ventures. I rarely leave important and expensive items on the transportation that I take. Remember, safety and awareness are musts during solo-traveling. Check out the pouches I use to case my phones, my passport, and my wallet. No complaints about them so far.
Not so easy, smooth process
The process has not been easy. However, it’s very doable. I’ve had to take a number of steps for this entire process. After contacting the travel agent, I started my research into what was needed on my end to keep the process going as smooth as possible. I’m the type of person who prefers to be prepared. I searched the site tahititourisme.com for entry guidance. The site gets updated often, which is a good thing. There are lists of steps that should be taken if you plan on entering into the country. After looking over the list of tasks, I moved to order COVID home tests kits, which should be purchased prior to leaving the U.S. I located a testing facility, through PassportHealthUsa.com, to schedule the needed RT-PCR test, which is necessary for arrival into Tahiti, let alone, boarding the plane. The test costs $195. The authorized home tests are to be ordered on eMed.com or optum.com. I ordered the 3-pack ($99 +tax) for travel Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test on Optum. The kits arrived quickly. You’ll have to order these and keep them with you to be used for re-entry into the U.S. You will need to download the Navica app while you are in the U.S. as this is the method authorized for testing in front of a professional, while on video. If you do not want to go through that hassle, you can always pre-schedule a test at a designated location, in the host country. It’s easier to view any website(s) the country may have in place. I downloaded the airline app. I don’t really recall flying United. Well, maybe once. I can hardly remember. Either way, I didn’t initially have the app on my device. I was able to upload items needed for verification before check-in. The longest part of it was the wait for the COVID testing results.
I flew out of Dulles International Airport. Check-in was smooth. I had to check in at a kiosk, and the assisting agent was courteous. An agent had to verify my ETIS approval. I have TSA pre-check and Global Entry, which is a big time saver during re-entry to the U.S. The TSA scan was quick. I walked right through. It helps to be extra nice to the agents. After a bit of navigation, I was able to locate my departure gate. I noticed that my boarding group was one of the last groups, which was odd being as though I purchased "priority boarding" to avoid such thing. United had no problem taking money, I see. Oh well. To ease my mind a bit more, I approached the gate agent for assistance. She was very kind and courteous to me. She ensured that I download the app and add my credit card information to it for flight purchases. She assured me that she wouldn't take my carry-on bag when called to board. I thanked her. It's something I've dealt with for years. I do not like to check my bag at all. I like to have my personal items in my sight or control at all times.
I also decided to upgrade my SFO to PPT ticket so that I can have more comfort and better priority. I will definitely be sure to apply for a United Airlines credit card so that future trips can be more accommodating for me. I was able to board the plane and find my seat fairly quick. I did view the map multiple times. I suppose that helped with navigation. Then I was faced with what I was wondering the entire time. Would my "carry-on" fit into the overhead bin? I lifted it and placed it in the bin, fingers crossed. Oh my goodness! It fit. I was so excited. My TravelPro 21" Spinner carry-on (21"x 14" x 9"; overall 23.5"x 14.5"x 9") actually fit. I'm just floating on the fact that my bag just got by with the fit. Check the airline's website for the overhead bin dimensions.
My seat was 39D. As you can see, the location wasn't that bad. My Goway booking agent originally had me seated in a different location. I decided to change my seat after looking at other bloggers' photos and reviews. I chose the seat directly in front of the lavatory. It actually wasn't a bad location to be. I wasn't too concerned with a window seat due to my destination for connection. I could always visit San Francisco on another trip. I wasn't too concerned with getting a view when landing. My main concern was getting a window seat for landing in Tahiti, which is why I upgraded my cabin for that leg of the trip. I know I didn't have to upgrade, because I had a good seat on my economy reservation. However, I enjoy being comfortable. I have not flown this far since I was in the military. I wanted to treat myself to the things and luxuries I enjoy. A First Class upgrade was going to cost me $1299. That's right. You didn't see a typo. That is the correct price for the upgrade. I decided to purchase a Premium Plus ticket, which cost $637 for the upgrade. It was worth it to purchase. The section listed two seats. I chose the window seat. Oh. Don't mind the tray table. I had just used the wipe to clean it before I snapped the pic.
Well, I made it on the second leg of my trip. I flew from San Francisco Int'l to PPT. I must say that i am so glad I chose to upgrade my ticket to United Premium Plus. As you can see from the pics, it was a good choice. The seats are a nice size, and the video screen is about the size of a regular tablet.
On another note, I feel as though I was slighted on service. I should have received better service from the crew members that were tending to our cabin. When walking to collect trash, I had to reach over the person next to me in order for the attendant to realize I had trash to dispose of. They made me feel as though I was bothering them on a few occasions. While being served the hot lunch, it felt like the tray was given to me in a diminishing way, while I viewed others receive their trays in a more careful manner, and their trays were placed nicely in front of them.
I paid over $600 for an upgrade and still received mediocre service. I felt skipped over and disregarded throughout the 8-hour flight. I watched attendants respond to and anticipate the needs of every other passenger in the Premium Plus cabin. I watched people get EXTRA snacks and drinks, without having to ask (the attendants asked them, not me). Not one time did an attendant ask me if I wanted anything or if I was doing okay, other than the designated eating times initially noted. Luckily, my excitement for the trip trumped any uneasy feelings I may have experienced.
Papeete (PPT) Airport
I arrived at Papeete airport in Tahiti. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a live band and a great deal of humidity. I enjoyed every moment of it. I made my way to the COVID testing area, after disembarkation and going through immigration points. Testing was easy. After I was complete, I was free to exit the airport. I was able to locate my transportation company, who greeted me with a lei.
Due to the flight's evening arrival, I had to stay overnight at the Manava Suite, on Tahiti island. My stay was in the garden room. The stay wasn't bad. It was quite relaxing after I figured out that the lighting/electrical works after placing the room key in the designated slot., Around 2:30 am, a rooster started its calls and didn't end until around 6:00 am. It didn't bother me much, because my body was still on eastern standard time, which is six hours ahead. I got dressed and headed to the dining area for breakfast. Masks are worn in every public place, in French Polynesia. Breakfast was okay. There wasn't a huge selection to choose from. I wasn't going to be there long, so it didn't matter.
My transportation arrived early, and we headed back to Papeete airport so I could be on my way to Taha'a. My journey called me to take a small flight, on Air Tahiti Nui, from PPT to Raiatea island, with one stop in Bora Bora for drop-off and pickup. After arriving at the Raiatea airport, I was greeted by a guide, with a lei, and escorted to the boat awaiting my arrival for departure to Taha'a.
Boat Ride to Le Taha'a Resort and Spa
The boat ride was about 35-40 minutes. The scenery was beautiful. Arrival on Taha'a island was nothing short of amazing. The trip was worth all of the Covid tests and prerequisites. The people are beautiful. Even though I was the only solo person, I felt comfortable and accepted. There was a small band that welcomed us upon our arrival. The beat of the drum felt like home. Once we got escorted off the boat, our luggage was carted off by the porters on cycles. We were lead to the check-in desk. It was just a bit of a lengthy, yet beautiful walk down the dock to the resort's lobby area. We had to sign some paperwork and also place a credit card on file. Anything purchased on the island (i.e., food, activities, etc.) gets billed to your room number. So be sure to have a nice hefty credit card limit or bank account accrual in case you go crazy at the bars. That method was actually better than having to pull out a credit card all of the time.
Once I made it to my over-water bungalow, I had to take a breath and take the scenery and feeling all in. I couldn't believe that I made it to one of my dream destinations, French Polynesia. Oh my goodness. I felt like a queen. My view was spectacular. You can see it in the photos. The photos also don't do justice. Book your trip ASAP.
After settling in a bit, I decided I was going to get my money's worth during this. I threw on one of my beautiful bikinis, and I headed to pool, which also is connected to a bar. Can you say win-win?
Got to the pool and immediately made friends with the bartender. Had to break the awkward ice and just get in the pool After all, I was the only black American there. Let alone, a solo-traveler. Everyone there was coupled up, as this island gears towards couples. I did receive a few stares, but I'm use to that. Folks are either curious, ignorant, or just clueless. Once I mention my military background, it becomes sort of a conversation spark. Patriotism is always going to be the factor that allows for different backgrounds to discuss a common ground. After drinks and conversation, I went back to my bungalow to enjoy the scenery and soak in the moment. As you can see in the photos, the views were absolutely breathtaking. It was the perfect reflection moment. I'll let you know that the most costly purchase was the photo shoot (45750 XPF), roughly $460 USD. It was worth it, in my opinion. The photographer, Patrick Lefebvre, met me at my bungalow. I was asked to sign the payment receipt before we proceeded to go on the shooting journey. The shoot went well. Folks were complimenting my dress as they passed by. Patrick made sure that no other persons were in my shots. He was very strategic in his shots. Glad I did it. You can take a look at a few down below. Enjoy.
I booked the Mahana Moe Moea and the guided Coral Garden tours. I contacted the resort's activities office prior to arriving to the area. That helped a great deal. I was given the list of costs and the chance to confirm which ones I was going to actually participate in. I'm upset that I forgot my GoPro when I went to tour the Coral Garden. I would've gotten some beautiful pictures of the coral and life in the water. The Mahana Moe Moea tour entailed many things. We visited a pearl farm, vanilla plantation, rum distillery, lunch on a "motu", swam with stingrays and black tip sharks, and another coral garden. The excursions were wonderful.
Polynesian Buffet and Entertainment at Le Hawaiki Nui
Tuesday evening, I decided to get dressed up a bit and head to the Polynesian buffet that was to take place. The spread was so beautiful. I got to the resort's main restaurant early, so I had to wait in the lobby until the staff finished setting up the tables. I met two women, who were older. They were drinking and having a good time. I remember seeing them at the pool's bar. They were spunky and fun to chat with.
A staff member approached me to inform me that I am able to be seated at a table. I'd been in the restaurant a few times before at that point. So, the staff knew which table would suit me. I didn't know what to expect for the dinner or the entertainment. I was escorted to the buffet to start. Basically, I was the first person to help myself to the entire spread. It felt good to be the person to start it. There was so much food, I was overwhelmed. I got my food and sat back at my table. Remember, I was the only single guest on the resort. Didn't bother me. I like being the center of attention. I was dressed and felt so sexy. Got many compliments on my dress. I know I was a showstopper when I stepped out of my bungalow and walked down that walkway with the wind blowing so right.
OMG! The entertainment was on fire, literally. The Polynesian evening was wonderful. Tavita did an amazing job with his fire dance. The Polynesian band and dancers were amazing. The buffet spread was simply amazing. I didn't get too many photos of the entire buffet, because I did not want to linger around the food area. I did mange to get a shot of one of the sections. I'm content with that. I'm also content with the fact that my dress was amazingly beautiful. I felt like queen.
In a nutshell, I had an amazing time during my visit to French Polynesia. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. I would. I do. This place is a great way to unwind and just enjoy beauty and tranquility.
Check out time is 11am. I woke up early so I could soak in some of the surrounding beauty one more time, before my departure. I was dreading returning back to the states. I had started packing the night before, which made it easier and faster to pack the next morning. The front desk staff sends a porter to pick up luggage once guests are ready to check out. Check out went well. The staff member asked for a credit card to close out all charges made on the island. I waited in the lobby until the 1pm boat was ready to transport us all to Raiatea airport.
Arrival at Raiatea airport went smoothly. Check-in went well. Other than a rude couple and some female cutting the entire line to be in the front, it wasn't bad. There was a little wait for the plane. Return flight entailed making a stop in, you guessed it, Bora Bora. It was great to see the island once again. The flight to Papeete airport also went well. However, I received a notice that the initially long layover was going to be pushed back for another two and a half hours.
I kept myself occupied with music, posting on social media, and noting instances about my trip. I have to let you know that it was pretty toasty in the airport, as it opens to outside, meaning there are no walls. Any form of hot air is what people are exposed to. No one could check in until the staff airline staff arrived at the airport. The agents are only available during limited times.
The good thing is that I did not have to wait in the testing line. That was a relief. Once the windows opened, crowds of people lined up. I'm glad I got in line when I did, because it was chaotic. At first, the priority guests had about two agents assisting that line, while the economy line had one agent assisting with ticketing and check-in. My wait, in line, was about an hour and a half to two hours. It may have been more. Luckily, I carry a fan everywhere that I go. That little thing helps to keep any frustration, that could stem from being overheated, at bay.
My chance came to check in at the counter. I made the decision to upgrade, once again, from Economy to Business First Class. I wanted to ensure my priority boarding group was a good one and my comfort levels were met. I did not want to be uncomfortable on an eight hour flight after that long layover in that hot airport. The $1299 upgrade was worth it. I'm glad I decided to do so. Even though I'm short, leg room is needed. I like to stretch my legs and wiggle my toes as much as I can during my flights. Once I got through security, I made my way through the airport seating, took an elevator to the second floor, and proceeded to a door where I rang the doorbell for entry. I was immediately relieved to see comfortable lounge seating as well as all the beverages and food I could drink and eat. We still had about another four hours of wait time before boarding was to happen.
The First Class layout, on United airlines, reminds me of cubicle spaces. The personal movie monitors were about the size of an iPad Pro. About 30 minutes into the flight, the flight attendants prepared our meals and served us. The food was so-so. Once I finished my meal and used the lavatory, I watched a little television but was ready to call it a wrap. I was so tired. At that point, it was after midnight. I was able to transform my seat into a bed, which was more comfortable than my legs staying cramped. I only slept for about five hours, on and off. I don't really sleep well in unfamiliar atmospheres.
We arrived at SFO and headed to customs to get cleared for re-entry into the states. Global entry does help with a quicker process, but I had a little trouble with the positioning of the camera to take my photo for the receipt. I moved to four different kiosks until I was able to get a photo. The customs agent accepted my receipt, and off to TSA pre-check I went. The beauty of not checking bags yields a straight walk to lines. I don't have to remove clothing, shoes, or laptops from my bag. TSA check went rather fast. I made it to my departure gate and waited about an hour and a half for boarding. I didn't care about upgrading my cabin from economy, as this was the final leg of flights to get back to the DMV area. However, I did pay the extra fee for priority boarding so that I wouldn't have to face the possibility of having to check my bag, if lack of space on the plane was a factor.
The five hour flight to Dulles airport went rather smoothly. I was able to maneuver through the airport, find the exit, and book a ride share.
Happy Factor Wrap-up
This trip was s great way to spark my travel ventures back up. Covid-19 has put a dent in a lot of our travel plans, over the last two years. Now that countries are opening back up, with restrictions and health requirements in place, safe measures can be implemented into any plans you may have. Just use common sense, and be alert to what is going on around you. Seeing and feeling the beautiful Polynesian environments definitely was my happy factor. Until next time, keep yourselves safe.