Three Perfect Days: Tahiti
Story by Justin Goldman | Photography by Natasha Lee | Hemispheres, October 2018
It's been 250 years since European sailors first landed on Tahiti, and to this day the very name conjures indelible images in the world's collective imagination: coconut-laden palm trees, fine-grained white sand, jagged green mountains, impossibly clear turquoise water, and the ornately tattooed people who mastered the high seas long before the colonial powers arrived. This island and its inhabitants led Captain Bligh's crew to mutiny and inspired Paul Gauguin to paint his luminous masterworks, and Tahiti is only the beginning, a gateway to French Polynesia's 118 islands and atolls, which sprawl across a span of the South Pacific the size of Europe. You'll need a lot more than three days to explore all of these far-flung archipelagos, but after a hop across Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, you'll be ready to strike out like the wayfinders of yore. Just follow the stars.
Bora Bora's main island, seen from the chapel at the Four Seasons
Day 1: Eating up the culture (and the delicious market fare) in Tahiti
I'm in a car and the sky is still pitch black, the road into the Tahitian capital of Papeete illuminated only by French lampposts that share the median with palm trees. Even when you consider the six hours I turned back the clock traveling from New York, 5:30 a.m. is a bear, but I'm up at this godforsaken hour because I've been told that I can't miss the Marché de Papeete—and on Sunday, it starts early.
"It seems as if the entire population of Tahiti is here, and that they're all greeting each other individually."
Driving past the still sleeping port, I wonder if anyone is actually awake, but when I step out of the car and into the market, it's into a burst of color and activity. There's already a long line of customers waiting to buy roast pork at a butcher counter. Fruit stands burst with mangos, sweet potatoes, bird's-eye chilis, rambutans. Beds of ice are flush with thick tuna and swordfish steaks, multicolored lagoon fish, oysters, crab, shrimp. The crowd of shoppers in the red-trimmed warehouse space moves, well, sometimes. It seems as if the entire population of Tahiti (183,480) is here this morning, and that these famously amiable people are all taking the time to greet each other individually.
I could get full just looking at the market's offerings, but I decide to sit down for breakfast a couple of blocks from the marché, at Café Roti. There's a line here, too, for the café's firi firi, a coconut doughnut twisted into a figure eight. I grab a table in the humble back room, where I munch on that piping hot treat, along with an order of the national dish, poisson cru, a sort of South Pacific take on ceviche—citrus-marinated tuna, carrots, and cucumber in coconut milk—which I chase with a cup of coffee mixed with fresh coconut milk. (Why have I never thought to make that before?)
Shopping at the colorful Marché de Papeete
Back in the car, I drive the road that traces the west (or leeward) side of the island. The coastline is magnificent, all palm trees and placid blue water dotted with canoes and sailboats. After a brief stop to snap a photo of the Grotte de Maraa, a deep cavern full of freshwater framed by hanging ferns that was once explored by Jacques Cousteau, I continue to the small town of Papara. Tahiti is sometimes pigeonholed as a transit hub for the other islands, but it's also a hub for Polynesian culture, and I've come here to get an education at the 'Arioi Experience, a center that runs workshops for tourists and local children.
In the vaulted entryway, I'm greeted by a half-dozen women in black dresses. One bangs a rhythm on a drum, another blows a call through a conch shell, another places a lei around my neck. As we walk, one of the women, director of operations Laura Théron, explains the center's name. “The 'Arioi are a caste from the ancient times," she says. “They were dancers, they would know the legends, they were very good sailors. And any person from any caste could become an 'Arioi if they were skilled."
A traditional ma'a Tahiti feast at the 'Arioi Experience
In the center's performance space, Tekura Amaru, who led the greeting earlier, teaches me how to play a few pehe, or rhythms, on the toere, a three-foot drum made from a hollowed-out log. Ta, ta, tara tata, ta ta tara, tara ta ta. Then, Tara tara ti, ta ta ta. I suck at this, but the young woman who's performing a Polynesian dance along with the music is able to overcome my rhythmic deficiencies.
My arms are surprisingly sore by the time we're done. That means I've earned lunch, right? We head outside to a sunny garden and sit for a ma'a Tahiti, a classic feast of steamed bananas and taro root grown in the garden here, coconut bread marinated in coconut milk, mango, and a turmeric-laced traditional variant on poisson cru that forgoes the vegetables. Before we dig in, I learn a new word: Manuia! (Cheers!
Just a few minutes north of the center, near the community of Paea, I stop to meet Tahiarii Pariente, a cultural ambassador in a sarong and surf hoodie and a kukui-nut necklace. He's offered me another history lesson, starting at the Marae Taata. This ancient meeting ground was used for both religious and social gatherings, and was the place where King Pomare declared himself the ruler of Tahiti in 1788. It was partly destroyed, along with many others throughout the islands, after Pomare II converted to Christianity in 1819. “Christianization took away the dancing, the tattoos, the essence of Polynesian lifestyle," Tahiarii says. “My generation is trying to recreate this lost identity."
One such effort was the 2011 rebuilding of this marae, now a preserved historical site made up of three basketball court–size spaces enclosed by waist-high walls of tightly packed rocks, each with a raised altar in the middle. “I'm very proud, because I was carrying these stones for three months," Tahiarii recalls. “It's the biggest Tetris I ever played."
Tahiarii Pariente explains the construction of the Marae Taata
As we drive back through Papeete, we chat about the Polynesian cultural renaissance, and how it has become a global phenomenon. “We exported surfing," Tahiarii says. “It's a billion-dollar industry today. We have outrigger canoes on the Thames. Every soccer player in the world has Polynesian tattoos. People ask us to bleed them so they can have our mark on them. What kind of reverse colonization is that?" He doesn't even mention Moana.
"People ask us to bleed them so they can have out mark. What kind of reverse colonization is that?"
Dinner at the roulottes in Place Vaiete
On the other side of town, we stop at Pointe Venus, a peninsula that juts out into Matavai Bay (one of the first sites of contact between Tahitians and European explorers). We walk out onto the black-sand beach to watch canoes racing across the water, and Tahiarii offers to take me out in his own outrigger canoe. (He's a trained navigator.) I'd love to, but I'm famished, so I partake of a more modern tradition: dining at the roulottes, or food trucks, that park at Place Vaiete, by the Papeete harbor. Tonight, there are about a dozen trucks, serving everything from poisson cru to crepes to pizza to Thai. I opt for the latter, at the appropriately named Tuk Tuk, ordering crunchy spring rolls and a heaping plate of pho lat na rum mit (egg noodles with chicken, beef, and shrimp), which I eat at a plastic table near a trio of musicians playing Tahitian songs on guitar and ukulele.
The only thing more full than my spirit now is my belly, so I'm ready to call it a day. It's a 15-minute drive over to the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa, where I take a seat on my balcony and sip a Hinano, Tahiti's favorite beer, while soaking in the moonlight through the palms. Good night, moon.
Day 2: Snorkeling with sharks and sipping pineapple wine in Moorea
I'm back at Place Vaiete for the sunrise, but only briefly. By the time it's fully light out, I'm on the 30-minute ferry ride to Moorea, a 52-square-mile island with a population of about 16,000. When I debark on the other side, I grab a cab, and about half an hour later I arrive at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa.
Blacktip sharks and stingrays in the Moorea lagoon
I scarf a quick breakfast—a couple of mini chocolate croissants and some pineapple juice—because I'm due on the dock, where I'm meeting Max and Johanna, my guides with Temoana Tours, who greet me and three other passengers with gardenia leis. As Max steers us through the lagoon, past overwater bungalows and through coral outcroppings, Johanna details the mountains onshore: 3,960-foot Tohivea, which is visible from Papeete; knife-edged Mouaroa, which appears on a French Polynesian coin; Rotui, which separates the island's two great bays, Opunohu and Cook's; Mouaputa, which has a peephole carved near the top that's the subject of a nifty legend in which the demigod Pai pierced the rock wall with a magical spear to stop a heist by the god of thieves, Hiro.
"A school of flying fish skitters right in front of us, and a pod of skipper dolphins comes dashing up to the boat, almost close enough to touch."
In search of humpback whales, Max steers the boat along a stretch of coastline that appeared in the 1962 Marlon Brando film Mutiny on the Bounty (the actor later built a retreat on Tetiaroa) and past a huge yacht with a helipad. Johanna casually mentions that genetic testing has shown that some Polynesians are descended from the ancient people of Taiwan, and one of my fellow tourists, a young Asian-American woman, practically squeals. “I'm Taiwanese! I listen to the Moana soundtrack nonstop! This explains everything!" She pauses and, after a moment, calmly adds, “I'm having a moment right now."
Soon, we're through the reef break and skimming along the ocean. No whales, but a school of flying fish skitters right in front of us, and a pod of skipper dolphins comes dashing up to the boat, a couple of them peeling off to swim alongside for a few moments, almost close enough to touch.
Leaping into the Moorea lagoon
Back inside the reef, we pull up in a patch of lagoon that's crowded with boats, Jet Skis, and divers. I look down through the turquoise water and see swarms of blacktip sharks and stingrays. Johanna hands me a set of goggles. “The sharks will just swim away if you get close," she says, “but you can touch the rays. They're like puppies." I jump into the bath-warm water, coming nearly within arm's length of the quicksilver sharks, even closer to the magical rays flapping their aquatic wings. I'm hesitant to reach out my hand until Max, right behind me, gently swings a big, docile ray around so I can carefully brush the skin with my fingertips. It's astonishingly soft, like velvet
Back on the boat, we zip over to a motu (a small reef islet), where Johanna's husband, a burly Tahitian named Teva, is grilling lobsters and tuna steaks over a fire. We sit at a plastic table planted in the lagoon, our feet dangling in the water as we gobble up all the grilled fare, along with a pile of rice, a side of poisson cru, and a bottle of rosé.
I'm so exhausted and stupefied by the awesomeness of the morning that I can barely put the words together to thank Max and Johanna when they drop me back at the InterContinental. But I'm curious how the island looks from up on those mountains, so I hire a taxi to take me to Belvédêre Lookout.
Opunohu Bay, Mount Rotui, and Cook's Bay, seen from the Belvédêre Lookout
As we circumnavigate Opunohu on the rim road, we see a helicopter landing on the yacht from earlier. “That's Tom Cruise's yacht," says my driver, a perpetually bemused Polynesian named, coincidentally, Tom. I refuse to fact-check him on this.
Just past the bay, we take a right through flat farmland, past cows and horses and pineapple fields. (Fun fact: the Tahitian word for pineapple is painapo; Captain James Cook brought the fruit here from Brazil.) Then we begin to climb, mountains all around us, past bamboo groves, the road growing steeper, winding tighter, until we reach the lookout. There are about a million other tourists up here, all taking in the view of the bays and Mount Rotui. Next to me, a photographer climbs onto her friend's shoulders to get a better angle. I half expect a dragon or a pterodactyl or some Polynesian god to come soaring into her shot.
A fire dancer at the InterContinental Moorea
Tom returns me to the InterContinental, where I crack a Hinano and lounge on the deck of my overwater bungalow. Suddenly, a spotted eagle ray, glowing beautiful and alien, glides through the water right below me. I jump in to get a closer look, but in just a few seconds the creature is gone.
After a shower and a change of clothes, I lazily catch a shuttle across the road to Holy Steak House. Sitting next to the wine cabinet, I spot a bottle of Manutea Brut D'Ananas. Pineapple sparkling wine? Yes, please! I polish off a couple of glasses—god, it's sweet—along with a perfect medium-rare New Zealand sirloin fillet and a grilled lobster.
I feel as if I don't even have the juice left to make it to my bed, but as I cross the resort, I'm drawn by a hint of music on the breeze. Past the pool, I find a dozen grass-skirted dancers, some twirling torches, on a white-sand beach in front of a Polynesian band. I know what you're thinking: Fire dancers? What a cliché! And you're not wrong. But the hypnotic effect of the spinning flame (and the revolutions of those hips) leads me to the conclusion that paradise being cliché doesn't make it any less paradisiacal.
Day 3: Taking in the beauty of Bora Bora from the sky and the sea
I'm up early one more time, to catch the first flight out of Moorea's tiny airport. The plane is in the air for just 50 minutes, passing over several islands (Raiatea, Tahaa) that are so stunning I can't believe we're not landing on them. Those aren't Bora Bora?
Overwater bungalows on a motu, seen from a Tahiti Air Charter seaplane
But then I see our destination. This island has captured the imaginations of travelers perhaps more than any other in the Pacific. To even call it an island isn't quite right. There's a central landmass, and on it the undulant peak of Mount Otemanu, which soars spectacularly to 2,385 feet, but this has become the planet's premier honeymoon destination for its motus (and the overwater bungalows they house), which circle the main island, and for the lagoon water, which switches from brilliant turquoise to indigo and back again, depending on the depth and the presence of coral, shades swirling around each other as if mixed on some crazed artist's palette. If only Gauguin could have seen it from these heights.
A beachside hammock at the Four Seasons
Bora Bora's airport is on one of those motus, but while the other passengers from my flight head down to the boat dock to be ferried to their hotels, I'm intent on ascending once more. I meet Tahiti Air Charter captain Stéphane Rozain in the airport lobby, and he leads me and a few other tourists back out onto the runway, to his eight-seat Cessna 208 seaplane. Soon we're doing laps above the motus, before zipping out to nearby Tupai, known as the “heart-shaped island" because it appears as if some love-smitten goddess absentmindedly sketched a curlicue heart of white sand and palm trees around a shimmering teal lagoon. It seems impossible that French Polynesia keeps topping itself, but Tupai is the most jaw-dropping thing I've seen yet.
The flight is over in just half an hour, and while I'm momentarily aggrieved at having to set my feet on the ground, in just a few minutes I'm on a boat motoring across the lagoon to the Four Seasons Resort. I've decided to treat myself, first to eggs Benedict and mango juice at the hotel's open-air breakfast restaurant, then to a massage.
You expect a certain level of opulence in Bora Bora, at the Four Seasons, but even so, my treatment room at the spa is extravagant. It's in a private overwater building, and as I lie down I find myself looking through a window in the floor at tropical fish cruising through the coral in the lagoon below. The aquarium ceases to exist—along with everything else in the world—the moment the masseuse digs into the knots in my back.
Mushroom risotto at Restaurant St. James
Unkinked, I stop in my bungalow to change clothes (and maybe, just maybe, jump in the lagoon). Then I hop a water taxi over to the main island for lunch at Restaurant St. James. The menu offers locally tinged French fare, and I order the Polynesian Fusion appetizer, which features four preparations of ahi tuna (including, yes, poisson cru), and a rich and creamy mushroom risotto. As my waitress drops off the check, she points out a sea turtle floating in the water, no more than 15 yards from us.
I walk off lunch with a short stroll to the center of Vaitape, the biggest town (population 4,927) on the island, stopping to buy some black pearls—French Polynesia's signature jewel and largest export—from a roadside vendor. At the dock, I join a crew of scuba novices for an introductory lesson with TOPdive. I've never done a scuba dive before and am mildly terrified, and the guides definitely pick up on this. After fitting us with (extremely tight) wetsuits and giving an explanation of the basic gear and techniques, one of the instructors, a Belgian named Nicolas, turns to a newbie and tells her: “OK, we throw you in for two minutes to check for tiger sharks, and then the rest of us will follow."
In the water, it takes me a few minutes to get used to the breathing—exhale when you want to sink, inhale when you want to rise—but once I do, I find myself utterly enchanted. Bright fish dart among the coral, some swimming straight at me, only to veer off just before I can touch them. I skirt a tremendous rock wall, then dive to the bottom to touch the sand and shells on the floor. I'm only 15 or 20 feet below the surface, and yet I'm in a completely different universe.
"I'm only 15 or 20 feet below the surface, and yet I'm in a completely different universe."
When I surface at the stern of the boat, Nicolas reaches down and pulls me onboard. I tell him I can see how people get addicted to this. “Yeah," he replies. “I went to the hospital and tried to get a cure, but they had nothing for me."
Mount Otemanu, seen from the Four Seasons
Another first-timer climbs onto the boat behind me and screams, “I'm a merman!"
As amazing as I find the underwater world, I'm not quite ready to trade my feet for fins. So the TOPdive guys drop me off at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, a resort that climbs from a white-sand beach to the top of a hill on the leeward edge of an otherwise uninhabited motu. I hustle up to the top, where I have a glass of Champagne while I watch the setting sun turn the edge of the earth orange. Once the sun is down, I head back down to the resort's flagship restaurant, Iriatai. A light breeze blows across the now black lagoon and through the palms and lightly brushes my face as I enjoy an egg parfait with asparagus foam and Parmesan, and an incredible confit of mahi mahi in lemongrass-coconut sauce. I also knock back a Laga Choco Ananas cocktail, made with chocolate-infused Lagavulin Scotch, pineapple, chocolate bitters, and brown sugar.
Waiting for my water taxi on the hotel dock, I scan the skies. The moonlight glints off the lagoon, and the stars seem to burst from the heavens. After a minute, I find the constellation I'm looking for. As I start singing to myself, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way," I hear the hum and swish of an approaching boat. But I'm not going anywhere. Not yet.
Canada's largest city spreads out along the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, and it's a dynamic, multicultural and inclusive experience like almost no other place on earth. Not only is Toronto a thriving living city,it's also become one of the world's truly must-visit destinations. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest places to live, Toronto is the cultural center of the country and home to the biggest events, the most pro sports and the greatest concentration of theaters and restaurants.
Recent decades have seen regular multi-million-dollar upgrades to the city's public spaces, with a slew of great museums, iconic architecture and the redevelopment of the now glittering lakefront adding to the city's appeal.
Add in an ever-growing number of world-class hotels, upbeat nightlife that runs from dusk until dawn and a vibrant and diverse culinary scene influenced by the eclectic makeup of the city's people. Bright and bustling, cosmopolitan and cultured, unpredictable and energetic, Toronto has become one of the greatest cities on earth.
What you see and where you go will depend on the length of your stay. A week is good, longer is better. But even a long weekend will give you a taste of 'The Six' — one of the city's many nicknames, reworked recently as 'The 6ix' by one of its most famous sons, Drake.
However long you stay, you can't hope to see it all. So, consider what follows a starting point for your first visit…
City Hall, Toronto
The checklist sites
No visit to The Six can be considered complete without ticking off several of Toronto's true heavyweight sights. All of the following are in or within easy reach of the city's compact, walk-able and very vibrant center.
The CN Tower is unmissable in every sense, a vast freestanding spire that looks down upon the city and takes its place as one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Modern World'. Head up for the city's best 360-degree views, or get your heart racing on the EdgeWalk — a journey around the circumference of the tower's main pod, 116 stories high and tethered by a harness.
Back on solid ground, Ripley's Aquarium is almost right next door to the CN Tower and is home to 16,000 aquatic animals and the Dangerous Lagoon. A moving sidewalk that whisks you through a long tunnel surrounded by sharks and stingrays is guaranteed to make your heart race all over again.
Also close to the CN Tower is the Rogers Center, home to Canada's only baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Visit on game day for the full experience, or take the stadium tour to go behind the scenes and through closed doors.
In a city of so many museums and galleries, the Royal Ontario Museum stands out. Not just because it's home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects and natural history specimens, but as much because it hosts exciting Friday night events that include dance, drink and top DJs.
Two other must ticks include the Art Gallery of Ontario, which houses 95,000 works of art and is free for visitors under 25, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, which taps into Canada's national obsession in stunning depth.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Casa Loma is a must-visit Gothic castle in the heart of the city. North America's only castle is filled with artworks and treasures from Canada and beyond, but its big pull is the network of hidden tunnels to explore as they stretch out beneath the city.
Toronto's multi-cultural makeup is visible all across the city but reflected best in its remarkable culinary scene (see Where to eat and drink). The city's 'fresh and local' mantra is perfectly showcased at St. Lawrence Market, one of the world's greatest food experiences. Pay it a visit and grab a peameal bacon sandwich — a Canadian staple invented in Toronto and now considered the city's signature dish.
St. Lawrence Market
Afterwards, walk off the calories by wandering the historic cobblestone and car-free Distillery District. Once a vast whiskey distillery and an important spot during prohibition, historians mention that even Al Capone would visit the Distillery to load alcohol destined for the States . This iconic landmark now distils creativity within the 19th century buildings now home to hip restaurants, bars, independent boutique stores, galleries and theaters. Visit in December for the Toronto Christmas Market.
Finally, don't even think about returning home without having had a picture taken with your head poking through an 'O' of the multicolored, 3D Toronto sign at City Hall — the most Insta-worthy location in a city of so many. You'll need to head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
If you stay long enough, take a ferry and hop across to Toronto Islands, a chain of 15 small islands in Lake Ontario just south of the mainland. They're home to beaches, a theme park and a breathtaking view of the city's skyline and will very happily fill a full day of your stay.
The bucket list
You absolutely cannot leave Toronto without having witnessed the power of the Niagara Falls and its hypnotic mist up close. Trying to visit the Falls from the States is a trip on its own, but it's almost non-optional when you're less than two hours away in Toronto. Take the trip, buy the T-shirt and tick off one of the world's must-see sights.
Explore like a local
Away from the sleek, gleaming towers of downtown lie many of Toronto's less obvious but no less essential attractions. West Queen West is Toronto's hippest neighborhood and artistic heart, a one-mile strip of very chic galleries, stores, restaurants and boutique hotels. Kensington Market is a fantastically chaotic neighborhood and perhaps the best example of the city's famous multiculturalism. It's not a market as the name implies, but a collection of independent shops, vintage boutiques, art spaces, cafés, bars and restaurants from every corner of the globe.
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of the city's quirkiest collections, an unexpectedly fascinating exhibit that retraces the 4,500-year history of footwear. And as you wander the city, you can't fail to notice that Toronto's walls are alive with graffiti. Take a free 90-minute walking tour through the back alleys of Queen Street West and down Graffiti Alley to gain a better understanding of the city's street art scene. If you visit during the sunnier months, escape the hustle by heading just east of the center to High Park, the green heart of the city where forests, walking trails, picnic spots and even a zoo await you. Ideal to unwind after a long day of urban adventures.
When to go With the sun shining, May through October is a great time to visit, but the city is alive through all four seasons. The Spring and Autumn months are ideal as the humidity and visitor numbers are lighter, while Toronto comes alive through the colder months through a wide array of winter celebrations. One of the most spectacular is the Aurora Winter Festival, a six-week celebration that sees the Ontario Place, West Island transformed into four mystical worlds. Whichever season you choose, plan to stay for at least five nights to get a true flavor of the city.
Toronto skyline view
Where to stay To be at the heart of most of the attractions you'll want to see, aim for downtown. One of the best options is the Marriott City Center, not only because it's located right next to the CN Tower but also because it's attached to the iconic Rogers Center where the Toronto Blue Jays play and countless concerts and popular events are held.
Toronto Blue Jay stadium
Opt for a Stadium room and you'll look out onto the field. If you want to experience Toronto's non-stop nightlife, the Entertainment District is the place to be. If you're looking for a luxury experience, discover Canada's first St. Regis hotel in the heart of downtown.
Where to eat and drink Nowhere is Toronto's incredible diversity more evident than in its food scene — taste Toronto and you're tasting the world. The city is brimming with restaurants and cafés serving everything from high-end fine dining to comfort food from an informal neighborhood joint — plus every option imaginable in between.
For fine dining, consider Alo, Canis and Edulis. Book a table at Canoe, Lavelle, The One Eighty or 360 at the CN Tower and you're guaranteeing a view as spectacular as the food. Or experience the city's remarkable fusion food at DaiLo (French-Cantonese), El Catrin (Mexican-French) and the unexpected mashup of Rasta Pasta (Jamaican-Italian).
The above suggestions don't even scratch the surface of a food scene to rival any city on earth, with options to suit every taste and any budget.
How to get around Toronto is perfect to explore on foot or via a growing network of cycle routes. For a quicker journey, buy a Presto card to use the TTC, Toronto's subway, streetcar and bus system.
How to get there Fly into Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) with United and you're around 15 miles west of the city center. The most comfortable route in is via the Union Pearson Express, which runs every 15 minutes and gets you downtown in 25 minutes ($13).The TTC is a cheaper option at under $5, but it can take an hour and a half and involves a number of transfers, while a taxi will take around 30 minutes and cost $45.
United flies to Toronto from numerous U.S. cities including our Hub city locations. Book your trip via united.com or by downloading the United app.
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Following the devastating wildfires in Australia and powerful earthquakes that shook Puerto Rico last week, we're taking action to make a global impact through our international partnerships as well as nonprofit organizations Afya Foundation and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency).
Helping Puerto Rico recover from earthquakes
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake, following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake it experienced just days before. The island has been experiencing hundreds of smaller quakes during the past few weeks.
These earthquakes destroyed crucial infrastructure and left 4,000 people sleeping outside or in shelters after losing their homes. We've donated $50,000 to our partner charity organization Airlink and through them, we've helped transport disaster relief experts and medical supplies for residents, as well as tents and blankets for those who have lost their homes. Funding will go towards organizations within Airlink's partner network, which includes Habitat for Humanity, Mercy Corps and Americares, to help with relief efforts and long-term recovery.
Australian wildfire relief efforts
Our efforts to help Australia have inspired others to make their own positive impact. In addition to teaming up with Ellen DeGeneres to donate $250,000 and launching a fundraising campaign with GlobalGiving to benefit those impacted by the devastating wildfires in the country known for its open spaces and wildlife, our cargo team is helping to send more than 600 pounds of medical supplies to treat injured animals in the region.
Helping us send these supplies is the Afya Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to improve global health by collecting surplus medical supplies and delivering them to parts of the world where they are most needed. Through Airlink, the Afya Foundation will send more than $18,000 worth of materials that will be used to treat animals injured in the Australian fires.
These medical supplies will fly to Melbourne (MEL) and delivered to The Rescue Collective. This Australian organization is currently focused on treating the massive population of wildlife, such as koalas, kangaroos, and birds, that have had their habitats destroyed by the recent wildfires. The supplies being sent include wound dressings, gloves, catheters, syringes and other items that are unused but would otherwise be disposed of.
By working together, we can continue to make a global impact and help those affected by natural disasters to rebuild and restore their lives
Australia needs our help as wildfires continue to devastate the continent that's beloved by locals and travelers alike. In times like these, the world gets a little smaller and we all have a responsibility to do what we can.
On Monday, The Ellen DeGeneres Show announced a campaign to raise $5 million to aid in relief efforts. When we heard about Ellen's effort, we immediately reached out to see how we could help.
Today, we're committing $250,000 toward Ellen's campaign so we can offer support now and help with rebuilding. For more on The Ellen DeGeneres Show efforts and to donate yourself, you can visit www.gofundme.com/f/ellenaustraliafund
We're also matching donations made to the Australian Wildfire Relief Fund, created by GlobalGiving's Disaster Recovery Network. This fund will support immediate relief efforts for people impacted by the fires in the form of emergency supplies like food, water and medicine. Funds will also go toward long-term recovery assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. United will match up to $50,000 USD in donations, and MileagePlus® members who donate $50 or more will receive up to 1,000 award miles from United. Donate to GlobalGiving.
Please note: Donations made toward GlobalGiving's fund are only eligible for the MileagePlus miles match.
In addition to helping with fundraising, we're staying in touch with our employees and customers in Australia. Together, we'll help keep Australia a beautiful place to live and visit in the years to come.