When I first traveled to Tahiti, I was very young—maybe six or seven—so my memories from that trip, unfortunately, are hazy at best. When I returned to Tahiti this summer, though, I was lucky enough to stay with close family friends who took care of me and showed me the true nature of Tahiti’s culture. I was able to intimately observe the nuances of local life, listening to the island’s unique dialect of French spoken around me in cafes and watching as people’s daily routines unfolded around me. Most stores in the the downtown district closed at 5PM, which allowed workers to go home and enjoy time with their loved ones. I was struck by how incredibly peaceful the atmosphere was in Tahiti—residents appeared to be stress free, going about their day without infringing upon the privacy and space of others.

Over the course of the next few weeks, my caretaker took me around the island of Tahiti to see the world-renowned beaches and landscapes—heaven on earth. The water was crystal clear at every beach we went to, and the astounding black sand beaches were a surrealistic paradise. In all my travels, I can say no other location on earth could compare to the majestic sights that I experienced.

Water sports are a major part of Tahiti’s culture and tourism, so I knew I had to partake—during my stay, I was able to go snorkeling, scuba diving, wake boarding, and wind surfing. With such clear and warm water, these activities are a must when visiting Tahiti—and for the true adventure-seeker out there, you can even swim with sharks and stingrays!

One of the most memorable destinations during my trip was to the island of Moorea. Upon arriving, I was greeted by mountains and hills that cut sharply into the sky like knives. The water was a swirling multiform of color, ranging from light green to dark blue, and the weather was perfect—vast blue skies of clean, refreshing air. While visiting Moorea, I stayed in an over-water bungalow. The view was perfect, especially during the sunrise, and the food was incredibly authentic. What more could a traveler ask for?

ocean view tahiti vanichi

Unfortunately, like all good things in life, my stay in Tahiti had to come to an end, and I hopped on a plane back to Los Angeles with memories that would last a lifetime. Perhaps the most enriching thing I learned from traveling to Tahiti was how to appreciate different ways of living. Among the people of Tahiti, there was no overt show of competition or ego. Materialism was kept to a minimum, and there was a lax attitude with most people. I aspire to travel back to Tahiti in the near future to continue my voyage of experiencing its beautiful landscapes and genuine people.

Travel + Photo Essay by Joseph NGABO

tahiti sunrise vanichi now