Danee Hazama prend en photo un appareil Air Tahiti Nui sur le tarmac

Danee Hazama - cultural photographer

Danee Hazama

Danee Hazama is a talented photographer. Although he is particularly involved in the cultural field, Danee likes to work on all subjects. For him, art is everywhere! Danee Hazama's passion for photography began at the university in California. His career started in the United States before he decided to settle in Tahiti ten years later.

His first trip to French Polynesia took him to the Marquesas Islands, where he immersed himself in the culture thanks to the local population. Fascinated by all the cultural aspects of the islands, Danee quickly developed an interest in their history. Since then, he has been studying the origins of the Polynesian people. The photographer took part in the Fa'afaite adventure, crossing the Pacific Ocean aboard a reproduction of a traditional double-hulled canoe, and launched a major research project tracing the migrations and origins of Polynesian peoples as far back as Taiwan. Today, Danee Hazama continues his investigation, illustrating it with magnificent photos to tell this ancestral story through images.

« In Hawaiii, they say ‘Kuleana’, which means ‘responsibility’. Mine is to tell the story through photography. I want to show the cultural similarities between the peoples, and to convey that Polynesia is one big family. »

This modern-day explorer tells you all about his French Polynesia. Enjoy Danee Hazama's advice and tips about exploring the islands.

Touristes qui font une excursion à la Maroto

Hike to discover the islands

The Polynesian islands are divided into two categories: atolls and mountainous islands. This last category includes Tahiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea and the Marquesas Islands, with their exceptional mountains. Danee Hazama loves to take advantage of these marvelous settings to go hiking: “Tahiti is the youngest and highest mountain. It’s a place where you can go out and be on your own, without any people around. There are many beautiful hikes here.

Two of his favorite hiking trails are in Tahiti:

-          The Fautaua Valley: “You need to get permission from the Mairie de Papeete (Papeete City Hall) to go there. If you hike to the end, you will see waterfalls. It’s just so beautiful… so amazing!

-          The lava tubes of Hitia’a, tunnels shaped by the lava of the ancient volcano, in the heart of the valley: “You need a tour guide to take you there. It’s amazing because you go through a lava tube, walk through the river, climb up by rope, and pass through different arches of lava tubes to get to a waterfall! Then, you can see a lot of other waterfalls as you go!

There are many kinds of hikes in the Islands of Tahiti. You'll find trails suitable for all levels. For the more difficult or less well-marked trails, don't hesitate to hire a guide. There are many professionals ready to help you discover the most beautiful landscapes of the mountainous islands.

Plongeur dans les fonds marins de Tahiti

Scuba dive in the Marquesas Islands

Scuba diving in Polynesia amazes all those willing to try it. The Society Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago are, of course, among the most popular destinations. Danee recommends Huahine and Tikehau, for example: “I just recently came back from Tikehau, and that's probably one of the best places to dive to see plenty of fish and live coral. Jacques Cousteau said that Tikehau is one of the places where he found the most variety of fish. When you’re in the pass, it's a pretty amazing place!

But far from the waters of the Tuamotus, the photographer discovered another exceptional diving spot: the Marquesas Islands! “I was recently there, and I dove in Hiva Oa with Marquises Diving Center. There is a scuba tour with Humu, the diving instructor: you dive off of Hiva Oa and Tahuata. It's a little bit darker than the Tuamotus, but you still have that feeling of being in the wild under the sea! You can dive there along the cliff base and see manta rays and all kinds of things! Then, you can go to the very remote village of Hapatoni in Tahuata that has archaeological remains. So, if you’ve already been to Tahiti and want to do something out of the ordinary, I would recommend that.

Marquisien avec un cheval

And immerse yourself in Marquesan culture

Danee Hazama has always explored the islands through a cultural perspective: “I have a passion for Polynesian culture. When I first arrived here, I met an archaeologist in the Marquesas and he invited me to be the project photographer on a few of the archaeological excavations.” The Marquesas Islands hold an important place in the heart of this passionate explorer. He recommends them to all those who wish to discover another side of French Polynesia: “The Marquesas are some of my favorite islands. For something different, I think it’s great to go visit the Marquesas, because it's more out of the way, it's not as touristic. You feel like you're in nature and the culture there is very evident.”

Indeed, Marquesan culture is particularly rich. Archaeological remains, arts, dances, crafts, and tattoos are just some of the marvels of the Marquesas: “We know the Polynesian tattoo, but tattoo in general came from the Marquesas and not from Tahiti. There are Tahitian motifs, but most of the tattoos that you see everywhere are from the Marquesas.”

Polynésien sur une pirogue Polynésienne Fa'afaite avec un instrument nommé pu

Discover ancient navigation techniques

One of the big things is voyaging. This is how the migration came across the Pacific on sailing canoes. But it is not as well known, even though our flag represents a voyaging canoe, very few people actually voyage.”

Danee Hazama had the opportunity to take part in the expeditions of the Fa'afaite Tahiti Voyaging Society, an association dedicated to rehabilitating traditional navigation aboard the Fa'afaite canoe. This large, double-hulled sailing canoe is a replica of the pirogues used by the first Polynesians during their long migrations across the Pacific Ocean.

Fa'afaite thus contributes to the revival of ancestral navigation, and to the connection of a People to the ocean and to its history. “With Fa’afaite, we have sailed throughout the Pacific, and we try to perpetuate the old traditional teachings of navigation to keep this knowledge alive. It was an amazing experience meeting the different island cultures and seeing how the ancestors sailed. It wasn't the same, but it was similar. At least we got an opportunity to have the feeling of what it was actually like to voyage. When you do that, you have even more respect for the tupuna (ancestors) because they didn't have the materials that we have today.”

To learn more about traditional sailing in Polynesia, follow the Fa'afaite expeditions!

If you'd like to discover traditional sailing, there are also smaller sailing canoes available for you to try out during a cultural immersion with a specialized guide.

entrée d'une grotte à Tahiti

Rent a car for a tour of Tahiti

When they come here, most people think Tahiti is only Papeete, and they go to Moorea and Bora Bora. But I think you really should give Tahiti a chance!  It's beautiful and it’s an interesting island.”

For the photographer, one of the best things to do in Tahiti is to just rent a car and drive around the island yourself. A perfect outing for families. You'll be able to discover all Tahiti's treasures in one exciting day! “Go around with your family and take sandwiches, get local food, and find yourself a place to have a little picnic. Stop, take your time, take a tour around the island, go see the Grottes de Mara’a in Paea, the Vaipahi Gardens in Mataiea where you can see a waterfall, go to Teahupo’o and hire a Taxi Boat to see the big waves if the swell is going!”

Danee also suggests stopping off at some of the less visited locations, where you can learn more about lesser-known aspects of Polynesian culture, such as traditional medicine. Stop for example at The Pépinière Gooding Mahina : “to see the medicinal garden so you can learn about medicinal plants and everything.”