Trust me – no one will find you on Vahine Island’s private resort. It’s the tiny escape you need where you won’t have, or want, a television or telephone. What you will experience is an extremely pristine natural ocean setting and gourmet French meals in a casual, castaway setting. (Sure you can check email if you really must, but, did you come all the way to French Polynesia to do that?)
Aim south of Hawaii from Los Angeles and fly – for just over seven hours – to Papetee, on the island of Tahiti and hop another little flight to Raiatea. It’s all boat from there – the little mooring is literally steps from the landing strip. I suggest you stop for a sip of suds to take with you for the 30-minute ride in the sun aboard a small boat to Vahine Island, where the only structures on the tiny, sandy atoll (too small to even need vehicles) are four over-water bungalows, a few cottages, palm trees and an open-air, intimate waterside dining room. Welcome to being “lost.”
The welcome is as warm as the winds – a charming, young French couple, Laure Elizere and Chef Terence Trouyet, wave from the tiny dock and greet guests in the beach bar – there is no lobby. The boat gliding away seems to take any stress with it – your sunset view from dinner, now unimpeded, is a crystal clear lagoon (which Elizere describes as ‘Vahine’s natural swimming pool’) and the green mountains of Taha’a’s vanilla island in the near distance – from which Trouyet, who is cooking for a maximum of 18 guests each night – secures the natural ingredients for the astonishing, three course, prix fixe gastronomy he serves. Smoked marlin and eggplant caviar with fresh goat cheese; crusted mahi mahi with Provencal ratatouille with baby squid tempura; and home made coconut sorbet is one evening’s example. Beautiful presentations of duck breast; red tuna tataki with seaweed salad; and Baked Alaska are also in the weekly repertoire of Trouyet, who specializes in risotto. He previously served as sous chef to Michelin-starred Chef Philippe Jego in the south of France.
“My dishes first must please with the eyes,” says Trouyet, who realizes his creations compete with the eye-popping, sensory- stimulating surroundings which make guests feel like they are living in work of art – whether they’re swimming, snorkeling or sleeping in a hammock. Kayaking and paddle-boarding is also available, and while the three over-water bungalows in the lagoon are unique experiences, the Polynesian-themed beach bungalows, 40 paces away on the windward side of the tiny island, which can be virtually open-air with private porches, are equally exciting and yet restful.
The resort island is entirely casual and cashless for convenience – even shoeless! Advice: bring books…and snacks.
The overall sensation of solitude at Vahine Island is that you’re given a chance to experience the peace, tranquility and beauty of what we can only hope heaven will be.
Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at InviteYourself@aol.com His talk show can be heard weekday mornings in Lansing on 92.1 FM