Do you remember that TV ad for Imperial Leather soap in the 70's featuring a family on their private jet? The elegant wife glances up from the glossy magazine she's reading in her airborne bathtub to say wistfully to her husband, "Tahiti looks nice." His subsequent instruction to the pilot,"Simon, Tahiti," instantly put the island archipelago on the wish list of a generation of travellers seeking an exotic holiday.
With the remake of this ad last year (I prefer the original, what about you?), Tahiti retains her lustrous allure as a decadent tropical holiday, conjuring up sun-kissed days and balmy star-filled nights. While Tahiti has always attracted starry eyed romantics thanks to those insanely gorgeous images of dreamy overwater bungalows showing canoodling couples on daybeds and in hammocks it's become increasing popular for 'girl's getaways'. Australian visitor numbers increased 26 per cent last year, mostly lured by picturesque beaches, a tropical climate year round and endless blue lagoons.
As it turns out, nice barely cuts it to describe Tahiti's charms. There are a gazillion adjectives that better depict the islands that lay scattered across the South Pacific Ocean like pearls stitched into a bejewelled purse. It's no surprise that mutineers on the HMS Bounty took matters into their own hands, returning to Tahiti having enjoyed her charms whilst botanist Joseph Banks flitted around collecting breadfruit samples for use in the African slave trade. Others have been similarly seduced. Creatives such as Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick), Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Kidnapped and Treasure Island), artist Paul Gaugin and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl found their way to Tahiti, some never leaving.
It's easy to understand why. A beguiling melting pot of French and Polynesian cultures, Tahiti is one of the few places in the South Pacific that you would travel to purely for the food. Think French sophistication meets tropical island seafood, toss an abundance of fresh fruit into the mix and Tahiti becomes foodie heaven for the health conscious. Admittedly, it's pretty easy to find crusty baguettes, exquisite aged brie and French wines too for those decadent days when industrious dieting gives way to indulgence. Holidays are all about rewarding ourselves and bending the rules a little bit, right?
The national flower of Tahiti is the Tiare, which looks and smells similar to our own gardenia. This sweet aroma permeates everything. It's in the air, on everyone's skin (men and women), behind their ears, wafting from washing hung in the sun as well as perfuming many beauty products. As I slip into a robe at Maneva Spa on the island of Moorea, my senses are tantalised with tiare blooms and vanilla pods. Drifting into a relaxed stupor on the massage table as my therapist massages this deliciously scented oil into weary muscles, she sends me into oblivion with a hot oil head massage.
Recalling stories about Paul Gaugin falling head over heels for Tahitian people and their enchanting manner, I resolve to return to Tahiti as soon as I can, best friend in tow.
Though without a private jet at our disposal, we'll have to rely on Air Tahiti Nui instead. It's no great hardship. Yes indeed, Tahiti is rather nice.
To explore your Tahitian dream, these are a great place to start ::
Have you Tahitied with a Tiare in your hair?
Fiona Harper is a freelance travel writer specialising in travel boating and lifestyle genres. When not on the road checking out divine holiday destinations, she can usually be found bunkered down in a tropical location working on her next writing project.