Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia

To be honest I had never heard of Rurutu until a few weeks ago when I started researching this trip to French Polynesia. I had never been to the Austral island group either. Rurutu excited me because it seemed raw and natural and for me it was brand new. Those two words are pretty much the two best words to describe Rurutu; raw and natural. Here’s why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Beach

This beach is a great example of why I loved Rurutu

I flew into Rurutu on an Air Tahiti prop plane from Papeete. I landed during a massive storm. My bag got drenched, my umbrella broke walking from the plane to the terminal and there was no cell phone service and very poor Wi-Fi. Yet I still loved Rurutu!

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Le Manotel

Feeling floral at Le Manotel Guesthouse on arrival on Rurutu

After landing the rain stopped and I was greeted by the owners of Le Manotel, a lovely guesthouse with a handful of bungalows. The grounds were very floral and colorful and smelled fantastic. It was backed by a mountain and fronted by the ocean. It was tranquil and a great base to explore Rurutu.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, view

A lookout point in the north of Rurutu during my driving tour

After dropping my stuff off the owner took me on a driving tour of the north and west of the island. I was surprised how green everything was and although the weather was still cloudy, it felt bright and colorful.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Mitterand's Cave, cave

The entrance to Mitterand’s Cave on Rurutu

The highlight of this part of the tour was probably Mitterrand’s Cave. It was named after the former French President as he visited a few decades ago. The cave was fantastic and fun to check out. Rurutu is famous for caves and turns out this would be the first of many I would see.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Mitterand's Cave, cave

Look out from inside of Mitterand’s Cave

Meals at Le Manotel were always good and I never left hungry. For breakfast they gave you an entire baguette, like you’d buy on the streets of Paris, so you were never hungry. Dinner was a la carte and each night was very good. They also had a good bar and of course cold beer!

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Le Manotel, dinner

One of my dinners at Le Manotel on Rurutu

My second day would be the reason why I loved Rurutu. I got a private guide named Reti to take me on a really rough hike called the Lost Track. It was basically along the coast, starting and ending on different beaches with a lot of climbing, caving and cliffhanging in between.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Mouth of the Monster, cave

Inside the mouth of the monster cave on Rurutu

Most of you know I love to climb and hike so this meshed perfectly with things I love. The views on the hike were spectacular of the many caves and the ocean below. There were several difficult areas of the climb that would not be suitable for everyone so just be aware of your limitations. Plus be sure to bring both water shoes or flip flops plus hiking shoes or sneakers. Trust me on that one!

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Mouth of the Monster, cave

The Mouth of the Monster

After the hike I met up with a few French people staying at Le Manotel and the owner took us for a tour of the south of Rurutu. The south was much more beautiful than the north and I really enjoyed the tour. I didn’t even mind the whole thing was in French. My French sucks, but it’s enough to understand and get by.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, Mouth of the Monster, cave

The Mouth of the Monster hike ends here

On my third day I was pumped to do an excursion to swim with the whales. Massive humpbacks come to French Polynesia and specifically Rurutu each year to breed after they’ve fed for months in the waters around Antarctica. From the moment I landed I could see these massive sea creatures playing around in the ocean.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, dinghy, humpback whales

You can see the whale tail after a dive

I had seen photos but had never swum with these guys myself. So I was pumped. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t really cooperate although in my photos it may look nice out but that’s when I snapped the photos. It was rainy, the wind was howling and that created really choppy water and huge swells. This made the small dinghy very uncomfortable.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, dinghy, humpack whales

Dinghy for the swimming with the humpback whales excursion

As you may recall I don’t like boats in bad weather; hence why I chose not to go on my expedition earlier this year. It was rough but we were still hopeful. Unfortunately the only 2 whales we saw were mating at the time and the guide said that was a bad idea to mess with mating whales. Seemed like a logical thing to me, I mean don’t poke the bear!

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, dinghy, humpback whales

It was pretty cold out there especially after getting back in the boat

So we drove around for 3 hours until on the way back to port we saw the same two whales that had apparently finished mating. So they allowed us to swim with them, which was really cool.

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, dinghy, humpack whales

We finally got up close to a humpback whales just before we jumped in!

Snorkeling in really choppy ocean water is not fun. I was a little anxious being in the water with these massive creatures and to be constantly swallowing salt water didn’t help things. But I did get to see them and that was a real thrill for sure!

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, dinghy, humpback whales

A humpback whale diving back into the water up close

The swim didn’t last too long as they cut out pretty quickly and we headed back into port as it was getting late and had a flight that afternoon. Sadly, I didn’t have the proper equipment to take good underwater whale photos!

Why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia, Rurutu, Austral Islands, dinghy, humpback whales

My guides leading the way on Rurutu

Swimming with the whales is pretty special and something that you should definitely do on Rurutu. Just hope for better weather than I had. That said, it’s still one of the many reasons why I loved Rurutu, French Polynesia!

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Tahiti Tourism for my trip to Rurutu. Everything here was written by me based on my experience and has not been influenced in any way.

Comments

  1. Never heard of it but sounds and looks amazing!

  2. I’ve only been to Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. That probably sounds boring to you after reading this!

  3. Always wanted to swim with the whales. I was thinking of Tonga having never heard of Rurutu. What do you recommend?

  4. I haven’t been to Rurutu but I have done the shakes in Tonga. It was one of the great travel experiences of my life. If you go back there sometime you should do it.

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