James Hustler: the island of Maupiti

Videographer James Hustler has only had one proper job, and that was pushing trolleys at Waitrose when he was a teenager. Since then, he’s barely stopped travelling. And he’s been everywhere – Asia, Europe, Africa, Australasia, all over the Caribbean – where he’s made many incredible films of many incredible things, from the northern lights to the Great Barrier Reef. He told us about his best under-the-radar find, a glorious little island 200 miles north-west of Tahiti. 

Everyone’s heard of Bora Bora, which is one of the fanciest places you can go for your honeymoon. But hardly anyone seems to have heard of Maupiti, the tiny island next door. This hidden gem, home to a thriving local community, might even outshine Bora Bora in unspoiled beauty.

To get there you fly from Tahiti or Bora Bora on a small plane, which lands on a very small runway that has been built out into the lagoon. The local community has resisted the rise of mainstream hotels, preserving the island’s charm and traditional way of life. Accommodations are available in family-run guest houses or “pensions”, providing a true home-away-from-home experience. Forget about high-end luxuries; here, you’ll enjoy the warmth of genuine hospitality. These pensions might not have a web presence, but reaching out via WhatsApp and using a pinch of French will get you booked.

It’s worth the effort because Maupiti is a glorious place, with an absolutely pristine blue lagoon and a single central peak that’s thick with trees. The island teems with life and the waters are brimming with fish, making it a snorkelling paradise.

A stroll along the single, 10k island road reveals an amazing abundance of fresh flower and fruit trees. The smell, especially in the summer months, is intoxicating. Essential supplies are imported on the monthly boat, but mostly the islanders eat the traditional dish of the islands: poisson cru, made with raw fish, coconut milk and garlic. This simple yet delicious dish often involves fish freshly caught from the surrounding waters.

The main island is surrounded by reef islets called motu, which create a lagoon that, at one point, is a couple of hundred metres wide and only a foot-and-a-half deep – meaning you can walk across it, pretending you are Robinson Crusoe for the day. It really is just a perfect little paradise.

See more of James’s work at jameshustler.com

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