A deep dive into Tahiti: 40 years of Aranui cruising the Pacific

Tahiti - Aranui
Tahiti - Aranui

As cruise line Aranui celebrates 40 years of travelling around remote parts of Polynesia, it partners with applauded film maker Guido Pezzimenti to capture the raw beauty of this pocket of the Pacific Ocean

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported back in time to the Jurassic era when you arrive at the Marquesas Islands, six drops of land in the Pacific Ocean comprising part of the larger Tahitian archipelago. The Marquesas are as remote as they are ravishing, all black-sand beaches, tangled jungle, pounding surf and jagged volcanic mountain peaks bursting through soft cloud. This is one of the world’s last travel frontiers, a place where the air seems cleaner, the colours brighter, the wilderness, well, wilder. Few get the chance to step ashore and meet the French-speaking locals. Unless you’re lucky enough to be aboard Aranui 5.

Tahuata, Photo by Lionel Gouverneur

Aranui has been traversing Tahiti for 40 years, providing a vital link between the far-flung Marquesas, Tuamotu and Society islands. When it launched four decades ago (and for many years after), the company was the only way adventurous travellers could cruise to French Polynesia’s isolated northern archipelago. The sole ship in the company’s fleet today, Aranui 5 is both a cargo and passenger vessel, connecting local communities with the world and arriving with essential supplies.

Aranui’s community spirit

As a company, Aranui is committed to sustainable tourism in this part of the Pacific. While Aranui 5 brings travellers to the islands – supporting locals economically – it is also conscious of the environmental footprint, plus social and cultural impact, it has on these fragile ecosystems.

Which is one of the reasons why the ship’s crew is largely Polynesian – who better to introduce you to Tahiti than those who were born and raised here? And many of those employed by Aranui have been with the company for more than 30 years, ensuring that knowledge of the archipelago is preserved and passed down to both guests and other members of the communities in destinations visited.

Bird Dance Ua Pou, Photo by Roberto Serrini

Over the last four decades, the small but regular flow of travellers to the islands has become a case-study in sustainable tourism. Many businesses have been born and continue to thrive because of the ship’s presence, with locals showcasing traditional arts such as intricate bone and stone carvings, hand-crafted jewellery, weaving and performance. It’s a win-win – travellers enjoy an immersive experience, while cultures are being preserved.

If you still need inspiration to visit, watch as Australian-based filmmaker Guido Pezzimenti captures the beauty of the islands you’ll visit on a cruise with Aranui.

Life on board Aranui 5

When you’re visiting such a dramatic part of the Pacific, the real diversions are outside your window. Which is not to say that there aren’t creature comforts on board Aranui 5. In addition to cargo, the ship has space for 230 passengers – it’s all the romance of hopping a freighter to the South Pacific, but with comfortable cruise-line cabins (which range from deluxe suites with balconies to dorm-style accommodation), dining and amenities. There are plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces for passengers to soak up the spectacular vistas. Come mealtime, you can sip French wine while enjoying the flavours of the archipelago.

Aranui 5, Photo by James Morgan

When you tear your eyes away from the scenery, Aranui 5 offers everything from Tahitian dance and music to craft classes. A highlight are the on-board lectures, delivered by specialists with knowledge on the region’s geography, cultural history, flora and fauna. When you step ashore, excursions range from bus, walking and cycling tours to intensive hikes and performances in local villages.

Future sailings

Aranui’s life-changing voyages from Papeete to the Marquesas Islands continue this year and beyond. In addition, from 2025 the cruise line will expand cargo cruising to a new corner of French Polynesia, with plans to put the Austral Islands – the southernmost archipelago in French Polynesia – on the map. Like in current ports, Aranui is committed to working with the remote communities to develop their economy and tourism in a slow, sustainable way, all the while opening up the beautiful islands for a privileged few to see.

Fatu Hiva Hikers, Photo by Roberto Serrini

Make no mistake – Aranui 5 offers a cruise like few others in the world. This is not just a voyage over the high seas; it’s a glimpse into the lifeline of these remote islands and a deep dive into the fascinating, ancient culture of the people who inhabit them.

Set sail on the adventure of a lifetime with Aranui – book your 2024/2025 journey around the archipelago of Tahiti today!

Share this article