Sunday, May 8, 2011


Exploring Tahiti is not just about seeing beautiful landscapes. There is much more to a trip to paradise than just bringing back beautiful pictures. The beauty of Tahiti and her island also lies in her legends, tales from far away times passed from generation to generation recounting the history of the creation of our islands.

Knowing the legends behind Tahiti's must-see sites will enhance your experience to make it magical, almost a voyage into the past of our islands.

The three waterfalls of Fa'auruma'i in Ti'arei, on the north-east of Tahiti, are one of the must-see sites of the island. The lush green vegetation of the valley against the black basalt rock walls create a breathtaking atmosphere and a total immersion into nature.

A completely different experience from the tropical beaches and blue lagoons, the stroll to the waterfalls is an adventure and swimming in the refreshing pools is a unique experience. When you reach the waterfalls and look at the water gushing from the rocks, ponder on the legend of Fa'uai and Ivi and the story of the birth of the three waterfalls. Some would say a tragedy, I would say a beautiful love story. Every time I  visit the cascades, I listen and try to hear Fa'uai's enchanting voice singing and I wonder if I, too, will encounter the spirit of the valley.

Beautiful vahine at the three cascades - Photo by Greg Nagel

The legend of the three waterfalls:

A very very long time ago a young girl called Fa'uai lived in the district of Ti'arei, on the island of Tahiti. She was the most beautiful girl in the district: her long raven hair cascaded down her back, her supple hips undulated with each step she took and her eyes were as clear as a spring. Her laugh chimed like thousands of water drops and her singing elated hearts. When she danced, she was as light and graceful as a bird. But what she loved above all was to go up and down the valleys and rivers. She knew every single corner, where to find the most beautiful flowers and ferns to make magnificent and fragrant head crowns. She also knew the power of plants which could cure and were to find them.

Fa'uai was 17 years old and she was the daughter of the great chief Marura'i. He was cruel and punished by death whoever disobeyed his orders. Nobody dared going against his will and even his daughter feared him.

He loved her more than anything. He had such love for her that he wouldn't let any man approach or talk to her. She was taboo. Extremely jealous, Marura'i had her under constant surveillance and his two best warriors escorted her on all of her strolls.

One day, Fa'uai and her friends went in the valley to pick flowers and ferns in preparation of a great feast. On the path, they encountered a handsome young man, Tua, a playful and fiery boy. He didn't know about the taboo on Fa'uai, he dashed towards Fa'uai with a mischievous laugh and snatched the fern head crown she was holding in her hand and ran off. 

Fa'uai and her friends remained petrified. Without hesitation, the two bodyguards went after him, caught him and killed him

Back at the village, Fa'uai was affected by the event and felt responsible for Fa'uai 's death. She went to stay with her mother who was ill. As her mother's illness got worse, Fa'uai went back into the valley with her friends to gather medicinal plants to cure her.  

In the valley, they encountered another boy called Ivi. He was very skinny and was actually looking for medicinal plants to treat himself. Fa'uai wanted to help him. She told her friends to go into the bushes and scream to attract the guards.

When the guards had left, she joined Ivi, who became even paler. Fa'uai told him she wanted to help him find the plants to help him get better. Ivi was scared because he knew of the tabu and didn't want to get killed like Tua. She convinced him to follow her and they edged their way between the bushes into the forest. 

When the guards realized that they had been tricked and that Fa'uai had disappeared, they started looking for her. Ivi was exhausted and became frightened by the idea that they were being pursued. He told Fa'uai to leave him alone to die and go back to the guards. The princess refused and told him she would remain with him, and that if he died, she would die with him. She wanted to stay by his side come what may.

Hearing these words, Ivi decided to reveal his secret to Fa'uai and told her that he was the spirit of the valley and metamorphosed into a handsome young man. But the guards had gotten closer and were about to catch them.

Ivi told Fa'uai that they were going to be together forever imprisoned in the waterfalls. Suddenly, they heard a deafening noise. Two enormous masses of water were pouring down on the walls of the mountain, entirely covering Ivi and Fa'uai. When the guards arrived, they discovered two magnificent waterfalls, clear water running down the cliff and collected in two beautiful pools. I The two waterfalls were named Haamaremare rahi e Haamaremare iti. It is said that since that day, Ivi and Fa'uai live happily, hidden behind the waterfalls.

The three waterfalls

On their way back, the guards were also covered a third waterfall which is called Vaimahuta.

Since then, the valley is called Fa'auruma'i.

Legend translated by the author of the blog

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