Buggy on Down to Moorea, French Polynesia

by Chris Hodgson

Chris is all smiles in his ride in Moorea
Chris is all smiles in his ride in Moorea

Moorea is part of the Society Island that makes up part of French Polynesia. This small island is only 51 square miles and shaped like an isosceles triangle.

There are two cut outs in one of its side that form Cook’s Bay.  The other bay is Opunohu bay. The main fact about this bay is that it doesn’t lend itself to any jokes or puns!!!

The population of Moorea is just under 15,000, while the island’s economy was once based on copra, coffee and vanilla, it now thrives on the pineapple industry.

Our cruise ship, Sapphire Princess anchored off shore at just past 7am and a tender took the passengers to a small pier in Opunohu bay.

The public transport in Moorea is referred to as Le Truck. There is no apparent fixed timetable or designated bus stops. Similar to the Caribbean, when you want the bus to stop, you just shout, “Driver stop!” and pay the driver as you alight the bus. Due to a tight schedule and unreliability, we decided to explore the island by hiring the more (in one sense) reliable, “Le ‘Buggy’ Bugster.” This is a 500cc 60’s style buggy. We could have gone for the smaller 250cc version but as I observed, it would be like driving a lawn mower around the island! We hired this for 2 hours and off we went.

It’s difficult to get lost, as the coast road is butterfly shaped as well!! However, we did find it impossible to circumnavigate the island in the 2 hours it would take according to the hire company. We were advised to bring “Le Bugster” back with a full tank of fuel. This is normal practise when hiring a car anyway.

My wife, Roisin, drove and I suggested we turn right and follow the coast road. However, what I didn’t know at the time was the only open petrol station on a Sunday was in the opposite direction!!

We drove a steady 60kph for about 40 minutes passing dramatically jagged mountains, through lush green canopies of trees, past turquoise lagoons and glistening white sandy beaches. One can immediately see why this idyllic island was the inspiration for many movies.

Moorea is completely different from Maui, our last port of call on our Hawaii cruise and Tahiti & South Pacific cruise in that it appears to be a greener and more fertile island. This is due to the above average rainfall they have. We experienced this first hand during our Sunday jaunt in the buggy. This interesting phenomenon is that you know that rain, the fine stuff that wets you all the way through? Well, the reason people say that is because we have discovered another kind of fine rain that DOESN’T wet you all the way through. This is probably due to the heat or humidity on the island or something.

The temperature is mid 80s but there is still a stiff, albeit warm wind blowing when travelling at this speed. When we eventually stopped to admire this tropical paradise we were completely dry. Windswept — but dry!

Due to trying to find a petrol station that was open on Sunday, we returned to the hire company 10 minutes late. Nothing!! My wife handed back the keys and I settled the paperwork and off we went. So, we were 10 minutes late. That’s 30 minutes early in Polynesian time!!!!

Sapphire Princess weighed anchor and set sail east for the short journey of 23 nautical miles to explore the other islands of French Polynesia.

On catching the tender back to the ship, my wife noticed that we were on the same one as some of the entertainers. The previous evening we had watched a showcase that contained a female vocalist, an impressionist, a comedian and an illusionist. Three of them were on the tender but the illusionist was missing. “Perhaps he’s there but you just can’t see him!!” my wife suggested!  But I thought to myself, maybe he just wanted to stay a while longer on the beautiful island of Moorea.