Moorea is that island of Polynesia where couples from all over the world come on their honeymoon. Not far from Tahiti, it has volcanic topography like the other islands of the Society. It recalls the shape of a fork because of the two deep bays that are located on the north coast: Cook and Opunohu Bay. In recent days we have come to look for a shelter from Maramù – the impetuous wind that comes every now and then from the southern quadrants and agitates the sea for a few days – and we have anchored in this second bay.
We explored the island on foot and by bicycle along the coastal road that encircles it, but also by going through the only two tracks that traverse the interior, until we reach a belvedere from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the majestic mountain peaks that stand out in front of the ocean.
Moorea thrives on tourism: its reef-protected lagoons are famous for turquoise water and the interior is a real garden of fruit trees, tropical plants and flowers.
For this reason, several luxury resorts have been built over the years with classic bungalows on stilts protruding out into the lagoons. I assume that under normal conditions the island is quite crowded, with full hotels and all kinds of water activities that are offered to tourists: diving, snorkelling, surfing, kite surfing, parasailing, water skiing, foiling surf, canoeing, SUP, dolphin, whale and shark watching. In short, in Moorea you can do anything, even a discipline called skydive, which consists of jumping out of an airplane with a parachute and then diving directly into the sea.
But in this period all the large accommodation facilities are closed, international flights are blocked and most of the shops catering for the tourists are waiting to reopen. The restaurants that are open can be counted on one hand, and only a few small family-run B&Bs are operating, hosting only local tourists from Tahiti.
The impression one gets when travelling around the island is to have gone back in time. I think it must have been more or less the same in the ‘70s, before the explosion of mass tourism brought here by charter flights. These were the reflections I had yesterday with my friends Paolo and Cecilia Casoni, while with Ariel’s tender we went to explore the reef passage to reach an islet on the north-east tip.
I am increasingly aware of the unique opportunity that we are experiencing with this tour of the world on a sailing boat: that of being able to see these islands free from the massive tourist presence to which they are normally accustomed. I think of the couples who come here fresh from a wedding to spend one of the best moments of their lives. And I don’t know why, but it makes me sad to think that as soon as you arrive here, in this paradise, they will be offered to go and see the whales or jump with a parachute. Why you would want to jump into the sea from a plane, I cannot understand. This reflection can extend to different levels and I imagine that the pandemic has highlighted a number of issues related to mass tourism and the way our travelling has had an impact on the planet. In short, think about it: one buys an internet package holiday to Moorea, where you will arrive after two or three flights; you stay in a bungalow built on a wonderful reef (regardless of the environmental impact, of course); eat lobster grown in marine cages, tuna and other food products from New Zealand; drink French wine; and perhaps also try the local fruit. Then you will dive into the sea to go play with the fish, explore the marine world and maybe jump from the plane and record it all with the GoPro. But will all these experiences really make you happy? I do not know. I cannot judge. All of us have had holidays like this in more or less exotic places. But perhaps the time has come to ask ourselves if those were the best moments of our lives. If those were the experiences that left a mark on us. And maybe we should ask ourselves why we are looking for this type of experience. What are we looking for? Happiness? I don’t know where the home of happiness lies. I just know it doesn’t exist if it’s not shared with others. And I also know that there is no happiness in itself, without a goal, without a goal to be achieved, without a search. I too often wonder why I am making this trip around the world. What am I looking for? What am I running away from? Yet every time we haul the anchor and unfurl the sails, all these questions vanish. They stay on the land. At sea I feel free, I can’t say whether happy, but for sure sailing is one of the activities that makes me feel more alive and in contact with nature.