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The Hawaiki Nui Va’a Canoe Race



It is touted as the world’s most spectacular, prestigious canoe race. Welcome to French Polynesia’s Hawaiki Nui Va’a. The open-sea event set to unfold between Nov. 7 and Nov. 9 links four islands – Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a and Bora Bora – in a feel-good homage to tradition.

Hawaiki Nui Va’a resembles a giant island party with a competitive edge. Over 100 canoe teams participate, coming from places including Tahiti, New Caledonia, Hawaii and France. Entrants row 130 km over three-day-long stages: the first from Huahine to Raiatea, the second from Raiatea to Tahaa and the last from Tahaa to paradise island, Bora Bora, with its overwater bungalows and turquoise lagoons.

Some spectators at the intense event cheer the teams from fishing boats, outboard motors and official boats. Other spectators gather at the finish line to greet the winners with leis, amid the roar of singing and drums.

The backdrop is the mountainous, volcanic Leeward Islands of French Polynesia down Tahiti way. Teeming with sea life, the region is every bit as richly exotic as you might think – saturated in shades of aquamarine.

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