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11/29

TRVL Journal: Tahiti's Unparalleled Natural Beauty with Morgan Maassen

After seeing footage from Morgan Maassen’s most recent adventure in Tahiti, a place that only ever existed as our desktop screensaver, we’re ready to pack our bags immediately. Morgan’s keen ability to creatively capture some of our planet’s most stunning hidden gems (both in and out of the water) is a gift that continues to fuel our insatiable travel bug, again and again. But his latest excursion to this French Polynesian wonderland just took our wanderlust to the next level.

 

As a photographer and filmmaker, I crave finding myself in moments that take my breath away, the instant I want to capture and preserve in my artwork. However, there is a level higher, a level that shakes me to the core. These instances come rarely and overpower my dedication to the camera button, but I am never angry – they are the split-seconds that make me feel so alive and in awe. The island of Tahiti is one that constantly sees myself putting the camera down, as I take in its magnificent display of beauty. 

Laying in the middle of the island nation of French Polynesia, Tahiti has no point of comparison. From the crystalline sea to the jagged mountains, everything is so vibrant and teaming with life. The jagged mountains tower over rainbow-colored reefs. The lush jungle sings with exotic birds, wild horses and boundless rainwater. The wave quality is world-renowned, the crown jewel being the most extreme yet perfect Teahupo’o. Humpback whales laze about while resting on their migratory journey, breaching and feeding just a stone’s throw from the waves. The locals, strong yet kindred Polynesians, share their culture through endless avenues of seafaring, art, outdoorsmanship, and cuisine. Every aspect of the natural and human world works together in unison, so well that it’s hard not to use the word ‘perfect’ to describe even the most average day.

Nothing short of an anthology is needed to describe the wonders of Tahiti, the daily situations where you find yourself admiring inconceivable amounts of beauty. Whether it’s a day spent hiking a jungle ridgeline or a millisecond watching a whale breach, I relish every second I spend there. And as I spend more time exploring and documenting my favorite place, I’ve noticed that it has always been where I’ve collected these apex moments of my life.

 

 

Girl Climbing Rock
Guy climbing rock

Every trip to Tahiti begins with an immediate visit to Teahupo’o. The mountains here truly represent the power of the land, while the ocean is as clear as can be. The idyllic water is always tranquil near-shore, but beyond the reef barrier lies the world-famous wave of the same name, where the most jaw-dropping surfing is regularly performed

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

The magnificent wave of Teahupo’o. The water is so clear, the wave so perfectly shaped… it brings a tear to your eye when you watch it rumble down the reef. Above and below, there is no place I would rather spend my time. I’ve dedicated my life’s work to capturing & paying respect to the power and precision of this wave. Equally as beautiful as the surf itself is the community of surfers who call it home, locals who push the sport endlessly, and welcome visitors from all corners of the planet with kindness and respect.

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

My favorite view – looking back at the wave as the surfer threads through the flawless barrel. These waves are far above my personal skill-level, so I relegate myself to the underwater world, where my swimming prowess and love for cameras helps me navigate the strong current and sharp reef.

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

If not in or on the ocean, you can find me in the jungle. I love the symphony of plants and wildlife trying to create the densest environment possible. I’m drawn to the way light struggles to perforate through the canopy, the way animals both hide and thrive in the layers of flora and foliage. This is where I create some of my favorite work, getting lost on long hikes amongst the greenery.

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

The lagoons of Tahiti shelter the immediate beaches and coastline from the stronger surf, providing a gentle buffer for people to swim and sail in without incurring the entire might of the Pacific Ocean. Mornings are the best, as the clouds shimmer off the water’s surface, often flat as can be before the afternoon trade winds pick up.

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

Beyond incredible waves, the brim of the lagoon heralds the most spectacular wildlife, namely the Humpback Whales. My encounters with them have ranged from seeing them breach meters away surfing and sailing, to having them swim up to me to investigate me and my conspicuous camera. They are equal parts massive and gentle, and I promise you, every moment spent seeing them makes your heart stop. I contest that I would have countless photographs and video of them after more than a handful of encounters, but so many instances saw my heart in my throat as I took in their magnificence, and they swim off before I could – or wanted to – hit record.

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

Heavenly moments amongst the chaos of the jungle. I don’t know if I can use words, or photos, to describe such a surreal place.

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

Sublime moments are everywhere, always. I’d argue the lagoon in Moorea is the most surreal place I’ve ever visited, with its kaleidoscopic light rays and infinite views of the sandy abyss. 

Female Fitness Instructor Wearing Vuori Black Jogger Sweatpants

As if his stunning glimpse into the almost unearthly beauty of this magical island wasn’t enough to inspire you to book your flight, Morgan’s also dropped in a few of his top Tahiti must-sees for you to start planning your next adventure.

Favorite Hikes & Views 

  • Fenua Aihere: the native land on the southeast side of the island, it is only accessible by boat but has the best hiking & snorkeling 

  • Blue Lake of Papenoo: amazing waterfall and dazzling blue lake in the middle of the island

  • Trois Pinus hike, Mo'orea: an intermediate hike on Moorea that gives the most spectacular mountain and ocean views

 

Favorite Beaches & Surf Spots 

  • Teahupo'o: the world famous wave. whether 1 meter or 10, it is a must see for its crystal clear water and incredible surf performance

  • Mo'orea lagoon: the most beautiful place in the world. a sand bottom infinity pool with crystalline water. 

  • Taravao: Tahiti Iti Diving Center will take you to snorkel, dive, and respectfully experience the migrating humpback whales

 

Urban Destinations & Eats

Tahiti is very untraditional as a vacation destination in the sense that there are so few hotels and restaurants. Unless you are staying at a big-brand hotel's resort property, you are often beholden to staying in charming homestays, and eating at tiny, family-run lunch spots. I truly recommend the homestay experience, as the families welcome you as their own and help you engage their slice of paradise through hiking, swimming, and exploring their unique part of the island.

  • A Hi'o To Mou'a B&B: the ultimate homestay. The Levy family lives at the base of the Teahupo'o mountains, and share hiking, the sea, and incredible cuisine with you like no other. 

  • Heeuri Explorer: the best hiking guide of Tahiti and Mo'orea, Hitinui can help arrange boats to the Fenua Aihere, lead you up any trail/hike, arrange camping expeditions, and knows every detail about every bit of fauna, flora, and polynesian history.

  • Maeva: the most charming waterfront restaurant. traditional tahitian cuisine with a touch of french influence