Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa Opens September 1 On Easter Island

Easter IslandEaster Island is getting a new, 75-room luxury boutique hotel, located just a five-minute walk from the only town of Hanga Roa.

The Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa officially opens on September 1, with a soft opening August 31, for which guests will receive 30 percent off nightly and package stays if they book now.

The Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa is being deemed an integral tourism property based on sustainability, located in the most remote inhabited island in the world, 2,181 miles from mainland Chile.

Each detail of the hotel’s architectural design and functionality is on the cutting edge of green technology due to the ecologically and culturally sensitive environs. Energy-saving measures, water filtration and reuse systems, waste recycling programs and the use of organic and locally sourced food products at the property’s two restaurants are some of the green methods used by the hotel.

The Hangaroa’s 500-square-foot Kainga double rooms and 800-square-foot Ma’Unga suites are made of volcanic rock, clay and wood, including washbasins and freestanding tubs. The hotel’s lounge spaces, reading room and lobby are designed to resemble a traditional casa bote, a traditional Rapa Nui house that appears as an upside-down canoe. Manavai Spa utilizes holistic as well as high-tech treatments that incorporate ancestral techniques of the Rapa Nui.

The Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa philosophy is to bring the community into the project. More than 75 percent of the hotel’s staff members are local and ethnic Rapa Nui, and the Hangaroa has developed a series of educational and professional training programs that also seek to maintain and conjoin the Rapa Nui’s beliefs, rites and traditions. The Hangaroa will also donate funds to local educational programs and environmental causes every year.

As part of the Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa’s desire to give back to the local community, the hotel subcontracts acclaimed local tour company Mahinatur to provide cultural experiences for guests, such as visits to the Rano Raraku quarry, the Ahu Tongariki with 15 standing moais and the Rano Kau volcanic crater.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Ndecam]

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Fishing in the French Polynesian waters

Fakarava Atoll, the Tuamotus, French Polynesia – Maru’s 16-foot, plywood fishing boat, steered by one metal rod coming straight out of the floorboards in his left hand and accelerated by another rod held tightly in his right hand, hugs the eastern edge of Passe Garuae. One of only two passes accessing the atoll’s thirty-six-by-twenty-one mile lagoon, twice day big water rushes either in or out and navigation requires years of experience.

As we try to edge our way out onto the South Pacific for a day of fishing, currents at the heart of the pass are running out at about seven knots, creating what appear to be standing riptides. If we were anywhere near the center, we’d most likely be cart wheeled by the fast-moving water and big waves.

Maru, a 46-year-old native of Fakarava – the Tuamotus’ second-largest atoll – has driven boats through here thousands of time, so far without incident. I’m hoping his luck stays.

Despite a population of about 700 on this remote atoll 150 miles north and east of Tahiti, there are surprisingly few people making a living off fishing. It’s not because there aren’t fish, but because the big industry here – black pearls-has become more lucrative and in some respects easier. Though the boom in the growing of black pearls has weakened the industry a bit in recent years by flooding the market – every Polynesian with access to the ocean wants in on the business – it doesn’t require risking life and limb on the open ocean everyday.

Maru tells me he prefers this life than the more intensive routine of seeding oysters and monitoring them for more than a year and a half, hoping they’ll produce pearls. His days are routine, leaving from the docks of Fakarava’s one town around six and returning by two or three in the afternoon. His catch provides the bulk of the fresh fish for the atoll’s residents. This day he’ll take a dozen big mahi-mahi, spearing them from his boat while simultaneously steering and accelerating. He surveys for signs of a small school – watching for the big fish to break the surface – and then chases them down, tiring them. It requires a skill-set few Westerners can imagine: Steering, accelerating, scouting and spearing, all with only two hands.He is a man of few words, especially when intent on the catch. But after he pulls in his last fish of the morning he admits that he feels “more alive” when he’s out on the sea. Today the ocean is nearly glassy-calm, though there are days when it is not quite so paradise-like. Gray skies and big winds do visit this corner of French Polynesia, though he admits they are rare.

Fishing for jacks or sharks inside the big lagoon is an option, but for the big, wild fish – bonito, yellow-fin tuna, mahi-mahi, barracuda or paru, a large red perch – the ocean is the place.

My real curiosity with Maru is if there are plenty of fish here in this part of the Pacific or if numbers are decreasing. Since he fishes six days a week, he’s the best source on the atoll and assures me there are plenty of fish in his ocean and that he catches as much as he wants, on any day.

The biggest pressure here is not what the locals take from the sea though; it is the pressure of illegal fishing by big boats from China, Japan, Europe and even South America. A 200-mile EEZ protects all of French Polynesia’s 130 islands and the territory has agreements with some fishing fleets to allow quotas on yellow-fin tuna catches. But last year a Spanish trawler with motor trouble was towed into the Marquesan island of Nuka Hiva, loaded with illegally caught fish. A Venezuelan boat was fined $635,000 and its captain jailed for a month recently for taking at least 80 tons of tuna over a few weeks in the same waters.

The beautiful, seemingly trouble-free waters that surround us this day are emblematic of a global ocean dilemma. While there are plenty of international and local laws on the books to protect against poaching and illegal fishing, enforcement is very difficult. The 130 islands of Polynesia cover just 1,622 square miles of land but the territory includes nearly 1 million square miles of ocean. With a small Navy, supported by tax-dollars from France, surveying all that blue is a difficult task.

To Maru, such concerns seem to come from another world. His focus is pretty narrow, mostly on tomorrow, maybe the end of the week. He says he rarely sees signs of international fishermen – though they are out there, all around – and brags that on any given day he can fill his bright-red boat with big, colorful fish. The trickier challenge for him is that the market is not what it used to be.

“It used to be that everything I caught was sold in Fakarava,” he says, after successfully navigating against still-outgoing currents in the pass and into the lagoon. “Now, because we get so much food flown in or by cargo boat from Tahiti, there are less people buying.” He often ends up freezing part of his catch and selling it to bigger boats heading back to Tahiti.

“It’s easier when I sell everything to my neighbors,” he says. “But wherever the fish sell, I’m happy.”

10 Tips for getting a tattoo in Tahiti

Tahiti is one of the world’s top tattoo destinations and for a good reason: the Tahitians kinda sorta invented the whole tattoo thing, even giving us the word which derives from the Tahitian tatau, “to strike”.

Once upon a time in Tahiti, tattoos were made by taking a comb with teeth of sharpened wood or bone, dipping the tips into natural black ink and tapping it into the epidermis: tap, tap, tap. Then along came the tattoo gun, followed by Spring Break, bad Chinese charcter tats, and tramp stamps.

But Tahiti ain’t Cancun–tattoos have a long history and mean something here, which is why enthusiasts travel all this way for the real thing. If you are among such travelers, here are ten common-sensical things to think about before getting drawn upon:

Don’t rush
Please, please, do not do the following: come to Tahiti, notice a few cool tribal designs and think to yourself, “You know, I gotta get me one of them before my plane leaves in two days!” A tattoo is forever and ever, amen. Take time to learn and make an informed decision. A lot of enthusiasts take a ‘”recce” trip to Tahiti just to plan out their second trip in which they actually get the tat.

Do your homework
Read all about the history of Tahitian tattoos, the meaning of each design, and the range of artists out there. There are plenty of online sites and picture-laden books that can give you a better understanding of the particulars while a preliminary visit can give you a much clearer understanding of what you’re getting into.Ask
If you see a Tahitian on the beach with really cool ink, ask them where they got it. The really good, traditional work is often done by a family friend, and you might just get an introduction. These are small islands so the more you observe and ask, the more chance you have of learning who the most talented artists are.

Show & Tell
Visit prospective artists and ask that they show you photos of their previous work. It seems obvious, but not everyone is as smart as you. If in doubt about any of the work you see, move on. Despite all the talented artists in Tahiti, there are still a few impostors out there.

Go to the market
Papeete’s market is a wild visual destination in and of itself. While wandering among the piles of mangoes and goggle-eyed fish, visit the tattoo artists who hang around on the upper levels on Sundays. They cater to a local, Tahitian clientele and tend to do magnificent work.

Custom build
If in doubt, get a custom-designed tattoo, made just for you. Most Tahitian tattoo shops will have books that are loaded with traditional designs, however most Tahitian artists are actual artists who can draw up a beautiful tat just the way you want it. That’s part of what makes the experience so cool.

Reject realism
If you travel to Tahiti to get a tattoo of turquoise dolphins doing somersaults across your back, well then, you’re a moron. Likewise, there are tattoo artists who will gladly take your money to attempt a scrawling of Bart Simpson skateboarding across your thigh, but none of them know who Bart Simpson is. When in Tahiti, stick to to Tahitian designs and stick to black.

Tap it
For the full-on Tahitian experience, skip the comforts of the tattoo gun and get your design tapped into you skin the traditional way–with a boar’s tusk comb. This takes longer and costs a lot more (one or two helpers need to hold your skin taught while the artists punctures you about four thousand times), but it’s as close as you’re gonna get to the experience of the early explorers who first visited. Moorea Tattoo still offers this method, as do a few other artists.

Start saving now
A decent, singular tattoo in Tahiti costs upwards of 30,000 Polynesian Francs (about US$450). Start multiplying that number if you want to cover more than a shoulder or calf. In that same vein, make sure you’re not getting overcharged because you’re a white man. Even on a good day, Tahiti is super expensive.

Grin and bear it
But does it hurt? Yes it does–and in Tahiti, that’s kind of the point.

Tahiti Graffiti

You don’t expect rampant urban culture in the sultry South Pacific, but it’s there. That’s because like it or not, Papeete is a relatively big city that’s home to about half the population of French Polynesia, or about 130,000 people. Also, the city will never run out of reinforced concrete walls and frustrated youth.

Tourists are funny about graffiti-we like it in places like Berlin or in Banksy’s latest coffee table book but tend to get uppity if it’s the backdrop to our tropical honeymoon. But judge not. Graffiti is a fairly honest art form-the subjects and sayings that get sprayed across the blank walls of any city says a lot about the place. In Papeete you’ll find a mix of adolescent tagging to bigger displays of initials and elaborate paintings with Polynesian motifs. Word on the street is that the Polynesian graffiti renaissance is on.

Some come one, come all! Pack up your stencils and spray cans, Tahiti’s open for coloring . . . except that it’s not. Anyone caught “vandalizing” anything bigger than a broken cinder block gets an automatic 4,000 Euro fine. Last year, 35 aspiring artists were charged en masse.

Better to enjoy the artwork of the risk-takers by day. A walk through the downtown backstreets of Papeete reveals the signs of many busy artists, as does the skate park and surrounding areas in the suburb of Faaa. But venture out into other islands and you’ll find good and bad art scribbled everywhere. Even the abandoned swimming pools of Moorea are fair game for les graffitistes.

To get connected with the Tahitian street art scene, visit the island’s Kreativ Concept Association, which is an innocent collective of “fresco and mural enthusiasts.” They also happen to sell spray paint, stencils, and T-shirts that read “Graffiti is not a crime.”
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Tahitian truck treats: the finest fare in town

Long before “fusion” pulled its hit and run on the foodie fashion world, Tahiti was mixing foreign flavors into her own pot and getting goose bumps all over. Their verdict: Chinese plus French plus Polynesian equals a little bit weird and a whole lot of yummy.

Thankfully, this cross-cultural cuisine isn’t catering to the Condé Nast crowd since the very best Tahitian eats are served from the side of a truck. Come eventide in Papeete, “Les Roulottes” roll on down to the harbor and park themselves in several neat little rows on La Place Vaiete. Collapsible, stackable plastic tables and stools quickly turns every white, open-sided van into a late-night café that smells like grilled meat and melted sugar.

The mood is convivial, decadent, blithe. Hundreds and hundreds of people gather without anyone feeling crowded-packs of friends, families with young children, a few unassuming tourists-everyone chows down together in peace in the shadow of six-story private yachts. In a city with London prices, a full meal costs a lowly 1,500 Polynesian Francs-about $20 US.

Order what you will, but to be absolutely local, go with the giant plastic plates of steak frites. Parisian by birth, the Tahitian version comes as a cooked-to-order piece of beef the size of a laptop, heaped on top of pile of hot blonde fries. The giant glob of herbed garlic butter is an essential condiment, as is the bowl of spicy sweet hot barbecue sauce. Dig in after shouts of Tamaa Maitai (“Bon Appetit”) and then come back the following night to try the same with bona fide Roquefort sauce.For lighter fare, try the Polynesian poisson cru: raw pink tuna, chopped into cubes, marinated in coconut milk and lemon juice, then tossed with onion, carrot, peppers. Calling it Tahitian ceviche comes up short-this version is both light and meaty with sharp tangy flavors. The tuna sashimi is equally awesome-fresh, pink fish laid out like stained glass and served with a bowl of special sauce that could only be invented by Chinese people feeding Polynesians with a developed French palate. And… if you’ve still got room after all that, finish with one of the hundred-or-so variety of crepes (Nutella always guarantees the goods) or the local ice cream concoctions.

Tahitian truck cuisine is found across the vast spread of French Polynesia but probably varies a bit from island to island. My favorite find thus far was a Lo Mein sandwich-one half of a soft French baguette split down the middle and stuffed with chicken chow mein, cabbage, chopped noodles, and dribbled with soy sauce. That’s one small step for carb-loading and one giant leap for comfort food.

So, ignore all that CDC and State Department advice about not eating street food. This is France, so that veal turning on a spit out in the street is EU regulated and the raw fish is practically still swimming. Yes, Les Roulottes is all about feeding the masses out of trucks-but these masses are discerning…and French.