INK: James Samuela's Moorea Tattoo, mooreatattoo.com
Tahitians didn't just help invent the tattoo, they also invented the word. The traditional Tahitian tattoo is created using a comb with three to 20 needles
carved from shell, bone, or shark's teeth that is tapped with a wooden stick to drive the needle and the ink into the skin. The sound created by the process (“tat tat”) inspired the Tahitian word tautau. James Samuela is one of the few remaining tattooists still practicing traditional Tahitian methods. At his shop on the island of Moorea, a seven-minute fl ight or 30-minute ferry ride from Tahiti, Samuela fabricates his own instruments from a tree branch, fi ber string, and wild boar tusks acquired from a local hunter. Although he was born in Tahiti, Samuela studied art in Paris before returning to his homeland to learn Polynesian tattoo methods. “The most important point is that I learned the basics from them, like symbolism and the ancestral traditional technique,” says Samuela. “However, the way I tattoo today is the result of developing my own technique. The technique I developed to carve the tools allows me to be more creative in my work. I think I've created a better and sharper tool.” And once Samuela is fi nished pounding in your ink, he'll even give you the handmade comb as a souvenir.
STAY: Te Nunoa Bungalow, $250 per night, mooreabungalow.com
Tattoo Travel Tip No. 109: Try to stay near the shop you're visiting. That way, you won't wind up lost in a back alley and miss your appointment while searching for someone who speaks enough English to give you directions. Tattooist James Samuela and his wife, a Tahitian travel agent, opened Te Nunoa, a private rental bungalow located next to their Moorea Tattoo shop on the island of Moorea. The bungalow includes private access to the beach, a barbecue, kayaks, and bicycles. Visit Samuela for some fresh ink and you'll only be a few steps from a hot shower and some painkillers when he's fi nished.
SEE: Marine Life Tour, $50 to $300, truetahitivacation.com
The waters around Moorea are loaded with marine life, including several species of shark, and the island is considered the best in French Polynesia for whale watching. Several companies offer boat trips for about $50 that will let you observe sharks, stingrays, and even whales (during humpback whale season from July to October). If you want to get closer, sign up for a snorkeling excursion where you'll feed stingrays ($75) or visit the Moorea Dolphin Center and swim with dolphins (about $300). Don't like water? Register for an ATV ride around Opunohu Bay and up to Belvedere Lookout, a peak offering a 360-degree view of the island.
DRINK: Tahitian Feast at the Tiki Village, about $130 per person, truetahitivacation.com
Playing with rum, fire, and knives usually ends in a trip to the emergency room, but Tahitians are pros at mixing all three. The Tiki Village on Moorea is a recreation of a thatch-roofed Polynesian village built on the edge of the Lagoon of Haapiti. The Village plays host to nightly Tahitian feasts, complete with performers who carve Tiki idols, make leis, and demonstrate traditional Polynesian dances and music. Fish, chicken, and pork are cooked in an underground oven while you down rum punch and prepare for the fi nale–a performance by Tahitian fi re and knife dancers.
Inkrat Tattoo : http://www.inkrattattoo.com/
James Samuela's Moorea Tattoo : http://www.mooreatattoo.com/
Tattoo Peter : http://www.tattoopeter.nl/
Hotel Arena : http://www.hotelarena.nl/
Bulldog Coffeeshop : http://www.bulldog.nl/