Six of the best day trip tours in French Polynesia

1. WALK TO A WATERFALL

Many visitors to Moorea – Bora Bora on a grand and less touristy scale and just a short ferry ride from the main island of Tahiti – tend to overlook its verdant mountainous interior in favour of the allures of its stunning lagoon and beaches. Moorea VIP Tours, however, reveals another side of the island with an energetic walk deep into jungle-like hills to visit a spectacular, 40-metre-high waterfall with a swimmable pool, set below towering saw-tooth peaks. Yvette, your enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, interprets the abundant flora encountered along the way and the tour concludes with a feast of tropical fruit. See mooreaviptours.com

2. PADDLE THE FAAROA RIVER

HM8B4B Faaroa river between vegetation with a rainbow in the background, Society islands, French Polynesia. 
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Photo: Alamy

When the world thinks of French Polynesia it tends to think of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. In reality, however, French Polynesia is comprised of no fewer than 118 islands and atolls. Surprisingly, there's only one navigable river through which a kayak, let alone a boat, can pass in all of these isles. The short waterway is the Faaroa River, located on the sacred island of Raiatea, from which Polynesian migration around the Pacific was launched. The mountains that tower above you as you paddle along the river are its source. A guide from Faaroa Tours will accompany you down the waterway which is flanked by gnarly but beautiful tropical foliage, and help you steer clear of protruding coconut palms that can drop their depth charge-like fruit at any time. See tahititourisme.com;  aiatea-activites.com

3. EXPLORE TAHA'A

A 15-minute boat ride across the lagoon from the much larger Raiatea is the tranquil and flower-shaped island of Taha'a. Terainui Tours, a local outfit, operates an action-packed yet relaxing full-day guided tour by van and boat of the laid-back, sparsely-populated island. The morning part of the tour includes visits to a rum distillery, a pearl farm and a vanilla plantation. In the afternoon, lunch and swim on a motu (a small island), feed frenzied sharks in the middle of the lagoon and snorkel a coral reef. You can enjoy superb panoramas of a distant Bora Bora from many vantage points on gorgeous Taha'a. See tahititourisme.com

4. BOARD A GLASS-BOTTOM BOAT

RFT7RN Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) cruising the shallow waters of Moorea, Society Islands, French Polynesia, South Pacific, Pacific 
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Photo: Alamy

Captain Taina, a charming former Miss Moorea (and, what's more, a third place-getting Miss Tahiti) operates languid small-group lagoon tours around Moorea in her own glass-bottomed vessel. Her varied itineraries include full-day guided excursions swimming among various species of sea turtles and communing with sting rays and sharks, a somewhat disconcerting local practice in these heavenly parts. Finish your eventful sun-kissed day with a traditional, and terrific, French Polynesian lunch on a shaded motu before heading back to the main island. See glass-bottom-boat-moorea.com

5. SAVOUR PAPEETE STREET ART


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It's hard to believe a paradise like French Polynesia would need some polishing but Papeete, its rather drab and serviceable capital has in recent years been revitalised, in part, by the addition of some superb street art on the sides of its grey constructions. It's not difficult to locate the imposing works yourself as you wander around the compact city centre, but downloading the self-guided walking tour, designed by Ono'U, the Tahiti Festival of Graffiti, will make it easier and more pleasurable. See tahitifestivalgraffiti.com

6. JOIN THE CORAL GARDENERS

In the tiny lagoon-side village of Maharepa on Moorea, a group of passionate young eco-warriors, many of them surfers, has established a fledgling organisation devoted to rehabilitating the island's bleaching-beset coral reef. You can do your small bit to combat the effects of climate change in the South Pacific by adopting a piece of transplanted coral, drawn from fragments of found living coral, for about $40. Then head out onto the reef itself for an eco-tour of the underwater fruits of the Coral Gardeners' ambitious efforts. See coralgardeners.org

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Anthony Dennis was a guest of Tahiti Tourism, Air Tahiti Nui and Viking Cruises. Viking Sun's 245-day Ultimate World Cruise departs in August from London. Its itinerary includes visits to French Polynesian destinations including Bora Bora. See tahititourisme.com; airtahitinui.com; vikingcruises.com.au

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