The Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva ~ Our Favorite Marquesan Island (So Far)

June 2022

As I mentioned in the last blog post about the Marquesas, our final stop was my favorite one. The last island we visited was Fatu Hiva, which is the most southern island of the Marquesas. Fatu Hiva island is dotted with rock spires ascending from the hillsides into the air.

A drone’s eye view of Baie Hanavave.

The Marquesan name for the anchorage is Baie Hanavave. Originally the natives referred to the area as the Bay of Penises. However, when missionaries arrived, they immediately changed the name to the Bay of Virgins. In a nod of recognition to the original and current name, we referred to the anchorage as the Bay of Virgin Penises.

Looking down on the anchorage from one of our hikes.

This arch shaped bay has rocky edges under the water and the center portion offers the only really good holding for anchors. When the anchorage is very crowded, there can be a problem with boats dragging and slamming into other boats. For that reason, even though a big festival was happening in early July, we chose not to stay and be among the boats in the Bay of Virgins. (Sadly, friends who were anchored there for the festival witnessed several boats drag anchor and their boat was hit by a dragging boat. Thankfully they were able to repair the hole in the bow of their boat and all is well!)

Frank, Mary Grace and Amelia heading out for a hike.

Frank, Amelia and I were very interested in a few hikes we had heard about, so we quickly began our treks. The first was to a waterfall. As usual, finding the beginning of the hike is the most difficult part. Following directions that go something like this, “turn at the first obvious left turn, then when you see two boulders turn left again and look for the fallen trunk” is not tremendously helpful or accurate. Needless to say, our first path was incorrect but we saw some interesting things on our detour.

We finally found the waterfall which had a pretty and chilly fresh water pool. After oohing and aahing at the beauty, we cooled off in the water. It’s amazing how much less floatation one has in fresh water compared to the ocean!

On our walk home we tried to find a person who sells eggs. My rusty French was not terribly helpful, but we ran into a Frenchman who spoke English and he helped us communicate. Unfortunately we never did manage to buy eggs, but that Frenchman, Jean-Luc of s/v Free Spirit, is now a friend and we have shared many anchorages with him since this first meeting.

Another excellent walk was to the white painted cross high on the hillside.

Do you see that tiny white cross way up on the hill?

Thankfully this walk was all on a paved road because there were parts that were really steep! But the views were lovely.

On these remote islands, there are rarely restaurants, but residents will offer lunch or dinner in their homes. The very moment we settled anchor in the bay, a local man named Christian came out to Ticket to Ride in his boat and invited us to have dinner at his home. We agreed to the cost of 2500 xpf (about $22 per person) and settled on an evening. The dinner was served by Christian’s wife and consisted of poisson cru, fried fish, sashimi, chicken, and a cucumber salad. The couple joined us at the table and we managed to communicate fairly well in a combination of French and English. The food itself was excellent and probably one of the best meals off of the boat that we have eaten since arriving in French Polynesia. Plus we were sent away with enough leftovers to make several meals.

In true cruiser fashion we invited a few friends over to share our leftovers the next evening and to celebrate Amelia’s actual birthdate.

One very calm morning we hopped in Day Tripper and dinghied about three miles to the main town of Baie Omoa. The goal was to see the town and find a little connectivity. The town was tiny but we did find a little place that offered food, drinks and wifi. Do not get the impression that we sat in a little French café drinking wine and eating fancy French pastries. This was a small place in a dirt field that offered coffee, french fries, water and a few odds and ends. The internet was slow but the french fries were a nice treat and we managed to accomplish what we needed. Very island like and little resemblance to France.

We had heard there was a bakery in Baie Omoa, but after searching the village, a local woman told us it was closed for the day.

One of the recesses we tucked into on the way back from Baie Omoa.

Still, the trip was worthwhile and on the way back to TTR, Frank dinghied into the various crevices and openings on the tall, rocky shoreline. We hopped in the water a couple of times to check out the underwater life and to cool off. The water was very deep and clear right up to the shore so there wasn’t a place to anchor the dinghy.

Practice for the Heiva Festival

The next day Amelia and I went to shore to watch the locals practicing for the Heiva Festival which would be in a few weeks. While we were watching the practice, the woman from Baie Omoa who told us the bakery was closed, recognized us. In her arms this amazing woman held a bag of a dozen baguettes and she gave them all to us! She said she had brought the baguettes for the sailors and asked us to share them with all the boats in the anchorage. How amazingly fun and generous is that?!

Fresh, delicious baguettes!

Amelia and I had a great time driving the dinghy from boat to boat to deliver unexpected baguettes! Needless to say, we were well received!

Looking toward the anchorage with the Aru Nui anchored in the deep water.

Here in French Polynesia there is ship called the Aru Nui that is half passenger ship and half delivery ship. We had seen it several times, but while in the Bay of Virgin Penises, we had a chance to learn more about what the passengers did off of the boat. Passengers were brought to shore and the local artists performed for them and sold local goods.

We went to shore to see what was on display and enjoyed a presentation about some local traditions, including the importance of uru or breadfruit. I had not seen uru prior to arriving in French Polynesia, but it is an important plant here and in Hawaii. Stay tuned for a blog post all about uru, the folklore surrounding it and how to prepare uru for a sweet or savory dish.

Like the other Marquesas islands, Fatu Hiva has excellent soil and plants grow abundantly. Residents all have fruit trees in their yards and most have gardens. We were able to exchange or buy fresh produce that was plucked from trees right before our eyes!

Amelia, Frank and Mary Grace balancing pamplemousse fresh off the tree.

Certainly it is difficult to express why Fatu Hiva was my favorite island considering there are similarities between all of them. I think that when traveling in a country where communication is limited by language differences, I rely on intuition and the “feeling” of each place. Because we cannot speak easily with the locals, we have to read the body language and the feelings or energy of the people and the land. This very individual and etherial criteria combined with the beauty of Fatu Hiva, the array of walks available, the verdant and dramatic landscape and the fun we had with other people, tipped my favor toward Fatu Hiva and specifically Baie Hanavave.

A low light image from the anchorage – the white dots on the hillside are goats.

After a few more days of hiking and interacting with other cruisers and islanders, we were ready to sail to the Tuamotus and get our first glimpse of those famed turquoise waters. So when a weather window presented itself, we pointed our bows south toward the atoll of Amanu.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read about our time in the Marquesas. We truly enjoyed this island group and found the people to be warm and welcoming. We know there is much more to explore in the Marquesas and we may head back that way sometime in 2023. Wishing you good health and fun adventures!

7 thoughts on “The Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva ~ Our Favorite Marquesan Island (So Far)

  1. What an adventure! Are you guys considering getting Starlink? Just curious if you’ve heard from other cruisers if it is working in the South Pacific yet as well as it does in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Cheers!


    1. Hi Kirk,
      We would definitely consider Starlink. We would have to buy it on a return trip to the US as I imagine shipping it to FP would be a challenge.
      Last week we had our first encounter with cruisers who actually have Starlink and are using it successfully here in French Polynesia.
      If you want to keep up with its use, I have heard there is a FB page called Starlink on Boats, or something similar to that.
      Kind Regards,
      Mary Grace


  2. What a spectacular visit! Uru is Ulu in Hawaiian. The “crown lei” is known as a Haku (crown) Lei in Hawaiian so I would guess it would be Haku Rea in in Polynesia? Starlink has been a game changer for us on Malolo. It’s wonderful for doing FaceTime with family, Zoom for business and Instagram Live. My girlfriend (Kelly Hu) had nearly 200,000 people on Insta live session which is a bit mind boggling at sea. It does change the feeling of peace and serenity, tho.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was aware of ulu/uru. Thanks for the crown info!! Glad you are happy w Starlink. I can imagine it would make a big difference in how it feels to be “out there.” No more feelings of complete isolation. I cannot imagine 200k people anywhere much less on Starlink!


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