Ahe is an atoll in the Tuatomus. It has a 16 km long lagoon studded with patate corals- just under the surface small collections of coral. One French yacht, after sailing around the world, went aground on a patate coral here and it and its owners never left.
We stayed at Cocoperle Lodge, a French/Polynesian run eco resort that a local French friend told us is the secret get away for French expats. The airport is so small, there is no building, no security and the workers all wear bathing suits. There is a small hut adjacent to the airport that has coconut shells hung for walls where the locals gather to discuss pearl prices as that is the economy of the atoll. While waiting to go back to Tahiti and sitting in the hut, we were greeted by everyone who entered with bisous and hand shakes and we all were included in the seating arrangement so no one was excluded in the French and Polynesian conversation, including the obvious outsiders! There are no roads and everyone is greeting everyone as they walk to the dock.
Ahe is quiet. The eco resort was a pleasant ten minute boat ride from the airport. We were greeted by the owner and two friendly dogs. The resort uses solar energy (as does most of the atoll after the hurricane struck it in 1982). All the food was from the lagoon and the atoll, and for someone who does not like fish very much, I found the meals amazing. We had wine and watched a beautiful long sunset, swam at night, snorkeled at the pass, in and around a patate coral, and at the resort which felt like our private beach. My favorite sighting was 3 octopi, ranging from about 6 inches to about 13 inches. One was swimming so I could see all his tentacles. One was large and on some coral and we could see him from the dock. When we snorkeled up to him he did the requisite amazing color changes before sliding into his hole. We also saw leopard rays and some other new exciting fish and one spiny sea cucumber! Our guide, Leon, was fishing and while wearing his camouflaged wet suit he was hard to see and spent quite a long time under water just waiting. Amazing!
Our bungalow was on the beach and had a beautiful new bathroom with coral for a floor (it didn’t hurt with bare feet). The restaurant area which was also open air, was beautifully decorated with shells and local flora. It reminded me of what I picture shell cottage to look like (for all of you Harry Potter fans). We had our doors open the entire time and everything we did was open air. I needed insect repellant, but Bruce did not, partially as they were all eating me, although I was not miserable with the bugs as I have been in Americas north east! We had mosquito netting around the bed and a fan. We are quite spoiled and found it hard to sleep the first night due to heat- it was probably only 75 degrees!
Cocoperle Lodge used to be a pearl farm and still has remnants of the farm on the property. They have a few oysters for pearls that they farm and let me choose an oyster and gave me the pearl from inside. It was a beautiful large black pearl with green and blue iridescence.
It sounded to us like a lot of people like to come here to fish. You are invited to fish with the owners to get the dinner or go out and do deep sea fishing. We don’t care for fishing so we didn’t take them up on these options.
There is an indigenous forest on the atoll where the birds congregate and as you walk through it it smells of guano. There were noddis, stern houpées, frigate birds, tropic birds and boobies. In Sept- Oct the sea turtles lay their eggs on the ocean side of the lagoon. This part of the atoll looks like a moon scape and the natives call it the dead zone because it is not lush like the lagoon side. The land part of the atoll is only about 400- 500 meters wide.
This weekend was quite different from the 5 star resorts- in part because there was no diving on the atoll, but it was a nice visit and we felt like we were introduced into some of the local culture. Thoroughly enjoyable!
Info for people staying there- they give no amenities, so you need to bring your own soap, shampoo, etc. There is no water boiler, so don’t bring coffee- we usually bring a little expresso maker but not here, and the wine, etc, is very reasonably priced, so enjoy what they have (it was also very good!). We brought our own bottle of wine and lugged it home again. We had demi pension and the lunch we bought was very reasonably priced. The breakfast was not an orgy- just local fresh fruit and bakery items- perfect!
Last note- don’t forget the insect repellent!