Sustainability and EcoTourism in The Islands of Tahiti
Travel Sustainably in The Islands of Tahiti
The Islands of Tahiti are well known for being an untouched island paradise with vibrant marine life, stunningly clear water, and a warm local population that welcomes travelers with a fragrant tiare lei and a genuine smile. These are the true treasures of The Islands of Tahiti.
These are among the many attributes that make The Islands of Tahiti one of the most enchanting and sought-after bucket list destinations for honeymoons and vacations.
Many efforts are underway to promote sustainable travel and slow tourism to preserve this wonderful destination for future travelers and the local community. You can be a part of this positive change through your travel choices.
Cultural Sustainability Practices and EcoTourism in The Islands of Tahiti
You may think environmental protection is a modern concept, but in The Islands of Tahiti, people have been living in harmony with their environment for thousands of years.
Mana is the spirit of the islands; it is the force that links the land, ocean, wildlife, and people into a sacred bond. Balance with the environment and respect for the Mana spirit ensured ancient Polynesians protected their way of life through several practices. One example is the ancestral practice of Rahui, which imposes temporary bans on the harvesting or fishing of certain marine or terrestrial species to ensure their preservation and renewal. Rahui is still practiced today, notably in the islands of Rapa and Maiao and in the district of Teahupoo in Tahiti. It has a positive effect on marine conservation in French Polynesia.
The Islands of Tahiti are also home to the largest marine sanctuary in the world. Stretching over an area of three million square miles, it is a haven for various protected species, including whales, sea turtles, rays, and more than 20 shark species that have been protected since 2006 and are essential to the balance of marine biodiversity. The Islands of Tahiti are home to an abundance of wildlife, and encounters with them lead to unforgettable memories!
Since 1996, French Polynesia has forbidden any technique other than line fishing, and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is reserved for the Polynesian fishing fleet. No fishing license has been sold outside French Polynesia, and industrial fishing is strictly banned.
What You Can Do to Travel More Sustainably
Some of the most damaging environmental impacts affecting The Islands of Tahiti were brought by travelers hundreds of years ago. Invasive species such as black rats, miconia, and mosquitoes were brought by explorers, traders, and missionaries. The results were devastating to both endemic bird species due to predation by the black rat and to humans exposed to mosquitoes, which brought life-threatening diseases.
Your travel choices can have a long-term impact on the environment in these islands which exist in delicate harmony. Consider adding one of the experiences below to your trip to enrich your visit and promote slow and sustainable travel:
- Visit Te Fare Natura EcoMuseum in Moorea: A unique museum offering exhibits on biodiversity and botanical gardens.
- Plant a Coral in Moorea or Bora Bora : Research whether your resort offers a coral planting program and join in. Or Adopt a Coral from Coral Gardeners to commemorate your trip.
- Visit a Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Moorea: Te Mana o Te Moana has conducted significant work to rescue and rehabilitate threatened species of sea turtles.
- Visit a Cultural Center or UNESCO Heritage Site: Explore a cultural center such as the ‘Arioi Center and the Tamaeva Cultural Center to receive an immersion in the ancient practices of the Mā’ohi people, the seafaring ancestors of modern Polynesians. You can visit the marae (temple) of Taputapuatea, the center of the Polynesian Triangle, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the island of Raiatea, or visit the Maeva Archeological site on the island of Huahine, among many others, to discover the rich culture and wonder at the advanced sailing techniques of ancient Polynesians.
- Choose Only Accredited Suppliers to Swim with Whales: If you are planning on swimming with whales, be sure to pick an accredited supplier. They will ensure you have a magical experience observing whales while protecting this sensitive species who come to the islands to birth and nurture their young.
- Bring Your Own or Buy a Locally Made Bag: Single-use plastic bags are banned in The Islands of Tahiti. So be sure to bring one for your purchases or even better, plan to buy a locally-crafted, sustainably-made bag to enjoy as a memento of your travels.
Limits To Enhance the Visitor Experience
The Islands of Tahiti implement a principled approach to visitation that ensures the local population benefits from tourism and the environment can sustain the number of travelers. One way to enhance the visitor experience while protecting the marine environment is by limiting the size of cruise ships that can port in some islands. For example, only cruise ships with less than 1,200 passengers can visit Bora Bora, and locally-based vessels with fewer than 700 passengers take precedence. This limitation protects the fragile marine environment and provides the highest quality visitor experience.
Throughout The Islands of Tahiti, cruise ships with a capacity of over 3,500 passengers are permitted only to make technical stops.
The preferred cruise lines make a year-round home in The Islands of Tahiti and provide the most benefit to the local population. One of these cruise lines is the luxury line Paul Gauguin Cruises, which also works in partnership with the Te Mana O Te Moana association, a foundation for marine education and conservation, to help its passengers appreciate the uniqueness of the rich marine wildlife.
Windstar Cruises and Aranui Cruises, the oldest operated cruise line in The Islands of Tahiti, adhere to MARPOL regulations that govern environmental sustainability at sea. Additionally, Aranui is owned and crewed largely by Polynesians. The authentic culture and traditions of the Aranui voyages reflect the Polynesian way of life and create an immersive experience on board as they travel to some of the most remote and untouched islands in the world.
Enjoy Your Trip with Responsible Providers
Many travel operators in The Islands of Tahiti adopt measures within their organization to promote sustainability. Nani Travels is a travel agency specializing in sustainable tourism. Following their guidelines will make your stay responsible and inclusive, whether on a personalized expedition or an organized tour. The Greentripper program of carbon footprint compensation offsets your impact on the environment, and the donation of part of the company’s profits to local associations means that your visit participates in the development of the local community. Nani has just launched the first edition of its Tama program, an original approach for local and visiting children to participate together in various cultural, educational, and recreational activities designed to promote Polynesian traditions and culture.
Do’s and Don’ts for Your Visit
- Wear only mineral-based, coral-friendly sunscreen when in the water. Toxic sunscreens made with chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate can bleach corals. A good indicator of a reef-safe sunscreen is that the top ingredients are zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
- Purchase “Made in Fenua” products as souvenirs. The Islands of Tahiti are home to many wonderful artisans and craftspeople. You can preserve vital cultural production by purchasing only local products as souvenirs.
- Speak Tahitian! Tahitian is spoken throughout The Islands of Tahiti, and you can help preserve this beautiful language by learning a few words. Learn Tahitian.
- Touch stingrays! Passively enjoy the stingrays that approach you and don’t handle them. Human touch can impact protective elements in their skin and make them vulnerable to disease. Please don’t feed any marine life as this habituates them to humans.
- Take or touch corals! Admire them where they are. They provide habitat for other marine life.
- Go Plastic Free! Don’t bring disposable packaging, and avoid purchasing disposable plastics during your visit. Plastic is very harmful to the ocean environment.
By considering sustainability, your visit will help ensure that The Islands of Tahiti remain a treasure for future generations to enjoy.