Pitcairn Islands Tourism Come Explore... The Legendary Pitcairn Islands

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September 10th, 2017

Ahh .. Pitcairn... If you are bothering to read this, then I’m guessing you have seriously thought about the once in a lifetime trip that is the journey to the almost mythical Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn has a population of around 42 permanent residents and is little more than two miles across. Along with the staggering journey of getting to the Island (it took me over four days!), this really is an adventure of epic proportions.

If you have a healthy holiday budget, a good deal of free time and want to join the very few people that make the journey to Pitcairn each year (more people climb Everest each year), then hopefully the following may help you discern if a journey to Pitcairn is right for you.

Traveling as a tourist in May 2017 and spending eleven days on the island was, for me, a life's ambition accomplished.

A Quick Back Story

The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean that form the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. Of the 4 islands only Pitcairn Island itself is inhabited.

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In 1790, a ship named the HMAV Bounty was sent by Britain to the Pacific Ocean in search of breadfruit plants - of which Pitcairn is plentiful! That mission was never accomplished due to a mutiny, said to have been led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian. If you’ve seen the movie, Mutiny on the Bounty, this is that island! The mutineers, along with their Polynesian consorts, settled on Pitcairn Island and set fire to the Bounty. The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay as it was discovered in 1957 by a National Geographic explorer.

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Today, the islands are inhabited mostly by descendants of these mutineers; with only about 42 permanent residents, Pitcairn is considered to be the least populous national jurisdiction in the world.

Ok, now to my trip...
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Getting There

Planning a trip to Pitcairn is surprisingly easy! Currently the only way to get there is by a cargo boat named the Claymore II. This vessel operates a three monthly run that provides Pitcairn with supplies as well as transferring the odd tourist across as well.

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The only way to get to the cargo boat is by flying to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. It’s a good idea to have a few days in Papeete before taking the four-hour flight to Mangareva, the island in the Gambier group you need to get to in order to catch the Claymore II. There is generally only one flight a week from Papeete to Mangareva. It is on a Tuesday and the boat will be there to meet you as it sails to coincide with the flight. Since the sailings and flights are infrequent, you’re going to want to book a ticket on the Mangareva flight and a berth on the boat before you even think of anything else.

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For the sailing schedule, just go to the Pitcairn Island official website here. From there, choose which month of the year is best for you and you are ready to book. Surprisingly easy, right?

How Long Should You Stay on Pitcairn

Once you’ve figured out the time of year to travel, you’ll want to decide how long you want to stay on the island. There are three options available to tourists:

First, since the freighter sails to Pitcairn, waits offshore for three days and then returns to French Polynesia, you can spend the 3 nights/4 days on Pitcairn and hop back on the boat. If you are going purely to tick Pitcairn off as a place you have been, this is the duration for you.

However, if you want to experience what it is like to live in remarkable isolation, do what I did and stay for eleven days. It will feel like an eternity, but trust me, it is something you won’t regret or forget! Plain and simple, eleven days on a remote rock in the Pacific is life changing. It really is.

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The last short term option is to stay for 18 days and by this time you’re sure to slide into the authentic pace and feel of real island life. And, if you’re ready to seriously let go of life in the fast lane – you can stay for three or even six months. Once the boat has gone, it will not be back and you will not get off that island. If you have ever yearned to know what it’s like to live almost entirely off the grid, then this could well do it for you!

A Bit About The Claymore II

After you land at (Totegegie) Mangareva airport, a ferry will take you from the airstrip to the seaport. Make sure you have a 1000 Tahitian note on you (about 10 USD) to pay for the ferry ride. And believe me, you couldn't swim it or I would have!

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The Claymore II will be waiting for you at the wharf. You can board straight away, but you will arrive in Mangareva around 2PM and the Claymore leaves around 4PM. So take the time to have a quick look round the little village. It is a great place and will be your last stop to get a mobile signal for your phone.

TIP: There is a great little shop on the main road just up from the wharf. You can’t miss it. They sell everything you need. Stock up with booze for the boat journey as there is none on board. Grab some chocolates and sweets while you’re at it. The little shop is not expensive, bearing in mind how remote Mangareva is.

Once aboard the Claymore, you will be shown to your cabin. If you are travelling alone, there may be a good chance you will be sharing a cabin since there are only twelve berths available. On my journey to Pitcairn I shared a cabin with a tourist from Norfolk Island, though I did have my own cabin on the way back.

The boat trip itself was actually really good fun. There is not too much to do other than look at the empty sea, and I really enjoyed it. The endless nothingness of the Pacific Ocean is a sight to behold and only a journey to Pitcairn can touch on the sheer vastness of the Pacific.

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I spent three hours sitting up on the stern, just staring at the water surrounding me as the boat chugged along. The freighter journey is a truly moving experience. I found myself very aware that I was experiencing something very few others in the world have which is hard to come by these days.

While on-board, take the time to go up to the bridge and also down to the engine room. The Claymore is a full-on working cargo vessel and that alone is fascinating. The crew are a great source of information and they’re all quite fascinating to listen to.

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The food is good and simple. It is typically one meat and two veggies, so pack a few Pot Noodles if you want to spice it up a bit... but I liked it. Meal time is undoubtedly the social hour on the ship, so it’s a great time to meet fellow passengers from all walks of life.

Arriving at Dawn

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On the third day, at sunrise, you will be moored off Pitcairn. Seeing Pitcairn for the first time as you emerge from your cabin is really something. For all of us that have dreamed of visiting Pitcairn, it is difficult to comprehend the reality that you have actually arrived. Although a relatively tiny island in size, Pitcairn is an absolutely imposing sight. The island awaits you from the deck of the Claymore and dominates the skyline in front of you. It will take your breath away.

After breakfast on the Claymore, it is time to board the longboat that will take you to the landing at Bounty Bay. Most likely the water will be bit choppy (you really are in the middle of the South Pacific) and it will strike the fear of God into you as you take the leap of faith from the Claymore II to the tiny longboat. My advice is simple: put your life in the hands of the local Pitcairn boatmen and you will be expertly ushered on.

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In a matter of minutes, the longboat roars into the famed Bounty Bay harbour (yes, the famed harbour from the movie, Mutiny on the Bounty). The whole island will be there to greet you which is a sight to behold in and of itself.

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If you opted for a Homestay, your host will be waiting for you at the wharf, ready to welcome you and transport you via...get this... via quad bike. Don't forget to visit the General Store in Adamstown, the capital and main settlement on Pitcairn, as it only opens for a couple of hours - every three days.

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The shop sells an eclectic mix of food. All of course is dried, tinned or frozen and there’s always fresh produce available from the locals. You’re not going to be having the most exciting banquets whilst here but what more could you expect? The good news is the shop sells alcohol at duty free prices. It is really bizarre and wonderful. Thousands of miles from anywhere and you can buy beer, wine and spirits cheaper than where you have just travelled from!

The first day on the island is almost overwhelming. It is a busy time for the locals as the boat has arrived and, as a visitor, you are just so excited to be there.

4 Days on Pitcairn

If you stay for the four days, everything you need to see as far as sights are concerned can easily be ticked off – weather permitting. What you won’t see is how the island really functions on a day to day basis. In order to help you decide how long to stay, let’s start with a 4 day visit.

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The islanders are very hospitable to anyone on a four-day visit. You will most likely do a homestay and will therefore be ensconced with a local family. In the four days you are there, this is what you really need to do and see.

Christian’s Cave

Christians Cave which is a 20 minute walk from Adamstown is where Fletcher Christian spent time looking for passing ships. It is a lovely walk through the Island Nature Trail and a great view. Once there, the view of the Pacific Ocean whilst sat on the rocks looking out to sea, gives you that real feeling of both the loneliness and attractive melancholy that is Pitcairn.

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Dine with the Entire Country!

Finally during your four day visit, there is a good chance the Islanders may throw a community dinner, which takes place in the main square. It is a great evening and the food is excellent. The local fish is wonderful and served fried, raw, and sashimi style.

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Highest Point

During your stay you have to go to Highest Point. It is the top of the island and has one of those touristy signposts that tells you the distance from other places on the Planet. The panorama is awesome and you get the sense of the distance you really are from everywhere else in the World.
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Whale Watching

Pitcairn’s seasonal whale population arrives around August each year so weather permitting you can go whale watching with one of the locals. The water is ridiculously clear and it’s yet another one of those once in a lifetime opportunities you get on Pitcairn.
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Radio Station Visit

The abandoned Radio Station is amazing and was actually my favorite spot on the island. Before satellites and the internet, the only communication with the outside world was by short wave radio and all the equipment from the last 60 years has been left to slowly rot. It’s an eerie place with old 1970's Motorola radios but if you are into amateur radio and old technology as I am, then it is a real treasure trove.
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Take a dip in St. Paul’s Pool

St Paul’s Pool is the opposite side of the island from Adamstown… but it is worth the long walk. It’s one of the few places you can swim - as long as you keep an eye of the outgoing waves. There are no white sand beaches on Pitcairn so St Paul’s cathedral-like rock pool is your best bet for beach-style adventure.
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Head “Down Rope”

The Down Rope hike does end with a small beach but it is a very difficult scramble down a cliff face and should not be attempted without a local guide.
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Life on Pitcairn Island - home of the descendants of the mutineers from HMAV Bounty

Stunning Pitcairn Islands Revealed | Edge of the World

Enric Sala: Journey to the Pitcairn Islands | Nat Geo Live

11 Days On Island

If Pitcairn is really calling your name, do what I did and stay for an eleven day stint. Pitcairn isn't really about the sites though they are fascinating. For me, it was all about the daily experience of actually living there. Although eleven days is not long, it is certainly long enough for you to capture and (in some instances) endure the actual routine of Pitcairn--and believe me, it is something you will not forget.

First of all, any tourists that did stay for the four days have now left. Chances are you may find yourself the only remaining visitor on the island. Imagine that for a second… everything to see and do has already been done, so it is a case of living daily life and trying to fill your time productively. No small task to be sure.

You have to bear in mind that the Pitcairn Islanders spend three months at a time with nobody else other than themselves. And so once the boat leaves, they go back to doing whatever they do.

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I don’t know about you, but I found it very difficult to keep myself occupied. The Island has Internet but is pretty slow. It is the equivalent of 1990's dial up, so forget about live streaming, and downloading a movie will take about three days and is astronomically expensive. There is one TV channel, which is picked up by Satellite dish from Australia but when it rains heavily, the signal dies. Which is ironic, because it is the very time it would be nice to watch TV! In short, you had better be a keen book reader or a fan of jigsaw puzzles and genuinely enjoy the company of yourself if you have designs to come to Pitcairn.

One of the highlights of my time was visiting the school which currently looks after four pupils. The children are great fun and they are fascinated to hear about life off island and listen to a few yarns. I was also fortunate enough to be invited to dinner around various family houses across Pitcairn, which is also enjoyable and does give you an insight into living here on the island.

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But what eleven days on Pitcairn will ultimately show you is that life on island is mostly about existence rather than careers, consumerism and the pursuit of furthering oneself. From my outside point of view, the island runs on a close knit, fragile, and quite successful tiny society. The community is generally what you would expect from a tiny remote mini-state:

They don't have time for bull@*&#. You may tell them about your great life in a Condo with your trophy wife and your Porsche 911, but they live here because none of that matters to them. When you talk to many of the adults on the Island, they haven't really got anything to say or tell you, because it has already been said before.

What I’m trying to tell you is that there aren’t many places on earth left like Pitcairn and you’ve got to experience it for yourself.

Saying Goodbye to Pitcairn

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When I finally got on the Longboat to leave the Island, I was euphoric. I could not wait for the noise, traffic, people, shops, beaches and bars of the outside World.

But now, as the days have turned into weeks and now months since I left Pitcairn, I find myself with an empty feeling that I cannot get rid of. It truly is a unique and mind-blowing place. It’s a trip that will stay with you forever. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of the island. Pitcairn is impossible to shake off.

Neil Armstrong said that he struggled to apply himself to anything following his trip to the Moon, because what could ever match that? Sounds melodramatic, but that is how Pitcairn will leave you. When I was there, all I wanted to be was back home. But now I'm back at home, all want to be is back there.

It isn't for everyone, it really isn't. However, Pitcairn is currently running a re-population program. Now… where did I put that application form?

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Did you enjoy this True Traveler Tale? If so, send us a message here or visit the Pitcairn Tourism website at www.visitpitcairn.pn to learn more about your journey today!