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Tahiti - Tonga - Fiji

In the wake of the Polynesians

  • 24
  • 1905
    nautical miles
  • cost €2280,- p.p.
    4/6 person cabin
  • cost €3000,- p.p.
    2 person cabin

It must be this very specific voyage that will give sailors the true Pacific feeling, hopping from one island to the other, exploring the region like the Polynesians did around the second half of the first millennium AD. It was here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that the Polynesian navigations opened up the last unsettled frontiers of the Pacific. Seeking for new small islands, preferably with few or no inhabitants, it was them who established cultures that remained the most isolated and peculiar in the world.

While the Polynesians built up their picture of the Pacific by exploring directly into the wind, in order to find their way home with the Southeastern trade winds, we will start the other way around. From Tahiti, the wind will gently lead us to the range of islands in front of us, such as the Southern Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji. It is the wind that will decide which islands we will encounter before we arrive in our next stop Fiji.

Tahiti’s paradise

When you read about Tahiti there is one most consistent word used, in the first European recordings as well as the stories told today, Paradise. It is not hard to see why. It is maybe the most complete way to describe these wonderful islands in the South Pacific. The lush rain forests, the white beaches, the countless waterfalls, the untouched mountains covered in rain forest. The people and their warm welcoming customs, their traditional dances and crafts. The colour of the water, the colour of the fish in the reefs, the song of the birds, the lakes and lagoons. All of Tahiti is paradise, and it will be yours to explore.

After a sail of more then 2300 nautical miles you will arrive at Tahiti. These islands form a group of 118 islands. The biggest Island is simply called Tahiti and is home to the capital city of Papeete. Papeete, meaning 'water basket', was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh water. Now, Papeete, is where most of the island’s population resides near the shore, leaving the interior of the island feeling almost untouched and ancient with its majestic peaks, mystical valleys, crystal clear streams, thundering waterfalls and endless rain forest. You can find black sand beaches on the East coast, white sand beaches on the West coast but either black or white, these beaches are breathtakingly striking with the palm trees and the azure colored seas rolling gently onto them. Beneath this pallets of blue and green water, tropical-coloured fish of many different shapes and sizes can be seen in the coral gardens that thrive in the warm temperatures, these coral reefs are home to some 800 different fish species. You may spot a giant manta ray glide past, enjoy the curious play of the many dolphins and ancients sea turtles can be seen in these waters. Every year, from August to October, these waters also welcome many humpback whales coming to mate and give birth in the deep and safe bays before returning to the South pole. You might be able to see these wales by themselves or with their young offspring around Tahiti by the time Bark EUROPA drops her anchor.

The interior of the Island is a heaven for birds, with so many fruit trees, flowers, over a thousand different plant species and many streams and rivers, lots of migrating birds take rest on the Islands. Many of them will nest and raise their young in the safe and sheltered uninhabited islets of the islands. Among others you can see Blue- footed boobies, frigates, salanganes, hunting martins, pacific swallow, Tahiti kingfisher and small herons. While walking under a cover of many banana, coconut and breadfruit trees, you may find yourself surrounded by butterflies and bumble bees, some gecko's in different colours can be spotted in between the tropical tiare flower bushes, the proud emblem of Tahiti. The first Tahitians arrived from Western Polynesia sometime around 1000 CE, after a long migration from South East Asia or Indonesia, via the Fijian, Samoan and Tongan Archipelagos.

A lot of history is alive today and many stories can be told about these incredible people. The stories can be illustrated with traditional dance, craft, war and navigation manuscripts and traditional fishing customs and dishes. There where many different tribes on the islands over the years and many exchanged trade and customs in peace and war times. From the 17th century on wards the islands where sighted and visited by European explorers. Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, serving the Spanish Crown in an expedition to Terra Australis, was perhaps the first European to set eyes on the island of Tahiti. He sighted an inhabited island on 10 February 1606.The first European to have visited Tahiti according to existing records was Captain Samuel Wallis, who was circumnavigating the globe in HMS Dolphin, sighting the island on 18 June 1767, and eventually harbouring in Matavai Bay. On 2 April 1768, it was the turn of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, aboard Boudeuse and Etoile on the first French circumnavigation. In July 1768, Captain James Cook was commissioned by the Royal Society and on orders from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, a phenomenon that would be visible from Tahiti on 3 June 1769. He arrived in Tahiti's Matavai Bay, commanding HMS Endeavour on 12 April 1769. There are many stories to be told about these European visitors, you can visit museums, historic sites and read about the fascinating maritime history of these islands.

Authentic Tonga

After 1480 nautical miles of sailing, we will reach the Kingdom of Tonga, also known as the Friendly Islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The kingdom consists of about 170 islands that are divided into four main island groups. Tongatapu in the south, Ha’apai in the centre, Vavaú in the north and ‘Eua in the east.

Tonga is the only remaining constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific and is known by its pristine sandy beaches, fascinating coral reefs and rich Polynesian culture. Unspoiled by big resorts or modern houses, Tonga remains as authentic as possible. Life here ticks at its own pace and the Tongan rituals and art forms are still very much alive.

The first settlers in Tonga arrived somewhere around 3000 years ago, when the Polynesians started to explore the Pacific waters south east from Southeast Asia. The first Europeans that arrived in (Northern) Tonga were the Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire in 1616, in their search for a new route to The East. They were followed by the next Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1643 and James Cook in 1773. Shortly after, European missionaries came to the island.

In 1845 the scattered islands became united as the Kingdom of Tonga, and 30 years later officially became a constitutional monarchy and British Protectorate. In 1970 Tonga joined the Commonwealth of Nations and regained full control of domestic and foreign affairs, holding its unique position as the only monarchy in Polynesia.

Not only settlers, explorers or tourists come to visit Tonga’s shores. After a long journey from the krill laden depths of Antarctica, the humpback whales come to the reef-protected waters of Tonga to give birth to their young and feed them. With some luck we will see many of these beautiful creatures slowly making their way through Pacific waters.

Abundant Fiji

Sailing further, Fiji will be the end of this voyage, best known of all stops so far. With its myriad greens in the landscapes, the yellows of the palm trees, the orange colours of the ripe mangos and papayas and blue and greens of the sea, Fiji is a colourful destination. Below the surface an even colourful pallet presents itself, with thriving corals and tropical fish all around.

Fiji is an archipelago of more than 300 islands and more than 500 islets, stretching the Fijians territory about 18.300 square kilometers. The two major islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, accounting for more than 80% of the population.

The first settlers of Fiji are known to be the Austronesian people who reached Fiji about 3500 to 1000 BC, followed by the Melanesian people around 1000 BC. It is believed that with the great Lapita migration into the Pacific, the Polynesians settled in Fiji as well, which is clearly shown from archeological evidence, showing a strong connection to the Polynesian culture.

Fiji’s history is one of mobility, and while exploring the region with large elegant watercrafts with rigged sails, a unique Fijian culture developed. The watercraft was called a drua, which was originally from Micronesia, spreading to Fiji and from there to Tonga and Samoa.

The first known contact with Europeans is dated in 1643, when Abel Tasman explored Vanua Levu and Taveuni. British explorers followed in the late 18th century. After a period as an independent kingdom, the British established the colony of Fiji in 1874, which went on until 1970, when Fiji gained its independence again as the Dominion of Fiji.

Fiji, the islands of pristine turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and jungle rivers has a very tight-knit society, mostly village based, but at the same time Fijians are very friendly and welcoming to visitors.

On the tropical islands of Fiji more than 800 unique plant species and animals can be found, such as the orange fruit dove, the Fiji petrel or the Gau Iguana, a native lizard.

Being 'voyage crew' on bark EUROPA

Onboard Bark EUROPA we call our guests 'voyage crew'. This means that EUROPA's permanent crew will train you to be a sailor. Unlike going on a cruise, on Bark EUROPA you will be going on a hands-on, active sailing adventure. You will be divided into three watches; Red watch, White watch and Blue watch, named after the colours of the Dutch flag. You will be 'on watch' for four hours after which you have eight hours of free time.

During your four hours on watch there will be different tasks that will be divided between the members of your watch. There will always be two people on helm duty. You will together, maintain a steady course on the helm. The crew will explain how to steer the ship and what to look out for. During the watch there will also be two people on look-out duty at all times. On the bow of the ship, you will stand look-out. You spot ships, buoys, debris, and icebergs in the water then communicate this to the officer on watch. The rest of the watch members will be on deck duty.

The permanent crew will give you sail training and you will assist in all sail handling. The captains and officers of Bark Europa are easy to talk to and like to get involved in your sail training. They will explain traditional- as well as modern ways of navigation. They will organize and run you through safety drills and procedures. During your eight hours 'off watch', there is time to rest and enjoy the scenery. You can read a book in the library or in the deckhouse. The bar will be open for a drink and a snack.

The crew will be giving lectures on various subjects, from traditional sailors skills and knowledge to science and astronomy. During your time off watch, you can still assist the permanent crew and the voyage crew 'on watch' with sail handling and maintenance jobs. The galley team sometimes asks for a hand peeling potatoes or apples on deck so they can make yet another of their famous pies. In the deckhouse, there will be people playing games, reading books, listening to music, writing diaries and emails.

Your off watch time is for you to fill in, you may do as little or as much as you would like. These hours are also for you to catch up on your sleep. When you are setting sails, reading or working away on deck, in the galley they are always busy preparing meals to keep everyone well fed. Multiple course meals will be served three times a day with coffee and tea times in between. In the evenings the crew prepares team challenges and pub quizzes to enjoy together with your watch mates.

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