A solo man in honeymooner heaven

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. The neighbours are at it again, rattling the ornaments on my dresser. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. At this time of night the rhythmic banging on the adjoining wall can only be one thing.

They're honeymooners, so it's understandable. They're in Tahiti, too, a romantic place of swaying palms and a gentle sun, so it makes even more sense.

But, sheesh. Spare the single travellers for at least one night.

Trouble is, this is just the beginning. Next day I board a flight to Tikehau, one of the outer islands of French Polynesia, and catch the music being piped through the plane's stereo system. As we taxi to the runway, the chorus kicks in: "I only have eyes for you." You've gotta be kidding me.

Solo travel is a blast but it's a lot more of a blast when you're not surrounded by honeymooners, canoodling and staring quizzically at "That Single Guy".

Tropical islands like this are undoubtedly beautiful – so beautiful that they're best shared. After all, a long walk on the beach is improved immeasurably by having someone to walk next to you. And there's something wholly disheartening about drinking a fruity cocktail by yourself.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right: honeymooner heaven. The island of Moorea, just a short boat ride from Tahiti, is basically shaped like a heart, so you can take that as fair warning.

At the ferry terminal I'm greeted by a typically enormous Polynesian guy who swings my backpack onto his shoulder like it's a girl's handbag and looks around behind me.

"How many more?" he asks.

"Um . . . none."

He looks shocked. "Just you? By yourself?"

I nod and he shrugs, tosses my bag into the back of the van and jumps into the driver's seat. As he guns the engine and pulls out onto the road, he fixes me with a look in the rear-view mirror.

"No wife?" he asks.

I sigh. "No wife."

He shrugs again and off we go.

After a few hours on the island I can see why he was so surprised. Like some sort of Noah's Ark of romance, everyone on Moorea travels in twos (for similar reproductive purposes, I imagine).

You don't need a visa to get on the island but you can almost picture the Romance Police checking everyone's ring fingers as they disembark: "OK, married, good, keep going, yes, ring, through you go . . . Wait a minute . . . No wife?"

When they're not making the walls shake in their luxury resorts, the honeymooners invade the local activities. I'm on a quad-biking trip through the island's volcanic centre and the rot sets in while we're signing indemnity forms.

"Just put your passenger's name in the space here please," says the guide, Manu, pointing at the sheet of paper.

"Ah . . . I don't have a passenger."

"No passenger?" Manu purses his lips. "OK."

Off we go, six new husbands driving their six new wives – and me, trundling along at the back. The empty seat behind me is a silent reminder of the unwritten rule being broken.

Soon, Manu has stopped everyone to explain the Polynesian custom of wearing a flower behind your left ear to show people that you're spoken for. "But if a girl was single," Manu continues, "and she saw a single man – maybe you, Ben, because you are on your own – then she would wear the flower in her right ear."

"Thanks, Manu."

We're about to set off again, except the Italians on the bike in front of me are trying to kiss wearing their helmets, resulting in minimal lip contact and an awkward clashing of plastic visors. As everyone looks on with aw-isn't-that-sweet gazes, the two manage to manoeuvre their heads into the right position to suck a little face. Groan.

What's up next? Jam tasting! Manu takes us to a little factory where tasting plates are handed out. "And remember," Manu says, "it's one plate per couple." Eventually his eyes rest on me. "Oh, Ben, you can have one for yourself."

We motor along on our merry way, the couples all pausing for the occasional snog (the French husband amuses me by earning a punch in the shoulder for taking a river at speed and soaking his beloved) and me flying solo at the back.

Eventually, as the day slowly winds down, I find a practical use for my status as That Single Guy. At a lookout with a view all the way back to Tahiti the Italian newlyweds cautiously approach me.

"Excuse-a me," the guy says politely, proffering his camera. "Could you make a photo of us please?"

Read Ben Groundwater's column on Sundays in the Sun-Herald