Heiva is both a celebration of Polynesian culture and a competitive festival during which thousands of performers and athletes from each inhabited island of the French Territory vie for “best of” status in dancing, singing, drumming, and traditional sports (like rowing).
It was a delight to be cruising with the M/S Paul Gauguin in July during the annual Heiva festival, and each island showcased their best and brightest adults and children. While anchored near Papetoai Pier on Moorea—just a thirty minute sail from our final destination, Papeete, Tahiti—the “Moorea Mamas” boarded the Paul Gauguin with armloads of flowers and island greenery to make flower crowns and leis for a mini-Heiva on the ship.
Later that night, the Paul Gauguin made the short trip to the quai d’honneur at Papeete, and Captain Toni and staff bid the eclipse chasers a formal farewell at the final cocktail party. Later, the outstanding performance by O Tahiti E—Polynesia’s premier folkloric dance troupe—might have been the cultural highlight of the trip.
Controversy: which one is Bali Hai: Bora Bora or Moorea? Both claim to be Michener’s special island, floatin’ in the sunshine, her head stickin’ out from a low-flying cloud. I believe Bora Bora is the island Michener had in mind when he wrote Tales of the South Pacific, but the hokey backdrop used in the movie South Pacific definitely looks like Moorea.