- Surface area: 2.6 sq km (1 sq mile)
- Circumference : about 12 km (7.5 miles)
- Population : 20 inhabitants
- Distance from Maupiti Island to Mopelia : 190 km (120 miles)
The only way to access Maupelia is by boat. Either sailboat of motor boat. There’s no airstrip, no helipad, no ferry crossing, no shops, no hotels, no home stays and just a couple of weather worn 4×4 cars. We thought Maupiti was remote, Maupelia is well and truly off the map!
There are only a few families living on Maupelia and their relatives live on the neighboring island of Maupiti, so it’s a friendly gesture to ask in Maupiti what their families might need taken across if you are heading that way by boat.
Maupelia is 120 nautical miles from Maupiti and a destination not be missed when leaving French Polynesia and heading west. Sailing as we do at between 5 and 9 nautical miles per hour, it usually takes us 24 hours to get there.
The pass is very narrow, so it’s necessary to have the current with you when entering and leaving and good bright daylight to see the coral well. The passage is so tight that it made us hold our breath and pray whilst the hull bangs loudly on each wave and we rush through with the current to be safely spat out the other side. The calm and the colors of the lagoon make this trip well worth the adrenaline rush of arriving.
We have spent a fantastic Christmas with ‘Arc en Ciel’, Guillaume’s Parents and brothers and their families here and each time we visit we have been treated as family and shown a generosity of kindness that is abundant in Polynesia where there is a special mix of slow and relaxed Island living and gastronomic seafood cuisine.
Time passes slowly here away from the hustle and bussell of the modern world. There is always plenty to do and learn some new skills taking us closer to nature, such as fishing Varo and shellfish, techniques for hunting the enormous coconut crabs and weaving our own plates and baskets.
The atoll is a peaceful breeding ground for sea birds and turtles and the sea is a natural nursery for sharks, who are completely fearless make spear fishing a hazardous operation.
In 2017, when leaving Polynesia we transported a precious cargo of five Polynesian ladies with us from Maupiti to Maupelia. We asked around to see what we could take with us to help provision the families in Maupelia but never imagined ‘Arc en Ciel’ ferrying across such a cargo.
We arrived at the dock with our little dingy to collect our new crew mates and discovered with wide eyes that they weren’t planning on traveling light! Four 4×4 cars turned up piled high with boxes, bunches of bananas, sacks of flour and sugar. Bags and boxes filled every free space above and below deck, and even then we couldn’t take all their luggage with us. Juliette watched the ladies coming aboard and began to be passed from arm to arm.
Soon we were setting sail and ‘Arc en Ciel’ heaved her way out of the pass of Maupiti and into the deep blue pacific ocean her line of floating no longer floating but sunken below the waves. Polynesian beauties were lying prostrate inside and out, enthusiastic seagoing excitement soon turned to a queasy silence as weight of the boat rolled on the waves.
The Polynesians might be a sea faring nation and were once experts at celestial navigation. However, these ladies were not fans of the slow speed and the motion the cata. As we slowly advanced to our destination moaning and joking and laughing, I was worrying that our motors wouldn’t have the strength to get us in and hoped and prayed that we would get there in time to have the current with us.
However, we made it safe and sound to the music of infectious laughter. We were greeted with a lobster dinner brought to the boat and didn’t have to cook for our entire stay on the Island.
Treated as royalty with the luxury of simplicity. We could have easily stayed here much longer but our passage west had just begun, however as we left although excited to be heading out on new adventures we were sad to be saying goodbye once again to Polynesia and the friends we leave behind there and we couldn’t help wondering if weren’t leaving too soon.
- Night time missions to hunt for coconut crab.
- Catching lobsters by hand at night.
- Watch the turtles lay their eggs at night.
- Collecting shells to make necklaces.
- Barbecuing the day’s catch of fresh fish…if the sharks don’t pinch it off you!
- Feasting to ukulele music, singing, drumming and playing the spoons around a campfire on the beach.