Hapatoni and the culture of welcome

A little girl dances during a celebration.

We first visited the community of Hapatoni, on the island of Tahuata, aboard a ship called the National Geographic Orion. The village has a population of about 100 people, and many people of all ages took part in welcoming our vessel. This place made an immediate impression on me, and I resolved to return later in the month with my teammates Eric Guth and Matt Mastrantuono.


A man and woman smile during a celebration while people sing and dance behind them.
Photo by Eric Guth

Teii, at left, would be our guide when we returned. When Eric took this photo, I hoped we would see all of these people again … and we did!


A rocky beach at sunset with mountains in the background.
Photo by Eric Guth

Hapatoni is in a gorgeous location. This bay is usually calm, and there are many young sharks that shelter in its waters.


A small and colourful house, pictured in the daytime and in the middle of a dense forest.
Photo by Eric Guth

Part of what makes the community so beautiful is the people who live here. The Blue House became our home away from home, and as the days went on, more and more people would come by to meet us and visit with family and friends.


Multiple pairs of flip flop sandals are placed outside the entrance of a home.
Photo by Eric Guth

The pile of shoes outside the front porch kept growing …


A group of smiling youth sit on moss covered rocks in the forest.
Photo by Eric Guth

… and so did the crew we spent our time with.


A local family plays guitar, ukulele and sings in the inside of their home.
Photo by Eric Guth

Nights were filled with music (above) and during the day many people took time to show us the details of their home town, and even to give me a crash course in flower harvesting for the purpose of making flower crowns (below).


A child and his older sibling prepare food in their backyard, with large mountains in the background.
Photo by Eric Guth

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