Bora Bora

There are two places in the world that are considered heaven on earth, Bora Bora and the Maldives. You can’t go to either of these locations and not have lofty expectations. I can tell you I did. After leaving Moorea, trying to put behind the amazing time I had there was going to be a large task. And, let me tell you, Bora Bora exceeded my lofty expectations.

There are no direct routes to Bora Bora from Moorea unless you have your own yacht. I had to take a ferry back to Tahiti and from there, a short flight to the island of paradise. From my research on YouTube, I knew I had to sit on the left side of the plane, facing forward. Why? So I could see the atoll from above. As we got closer, I could see Bora Bora and the surrounding islets that line the reef. It was breath taking to see the different hues of blue. After landing, we walked along the runway to the airport gates with the view of Bora Bora and the turquoise waters that surround it. Some people couldn’t keep there excitement to themselves and let out a scream. The airport is on one of those islets along the outer reef so everyone had to take a ferry to the island, free of charge. Those lucky enough to be staying at one of the luxury resorts got the VIP treatment with a private ferry for their guests only. I made it to my modest little hotel and I checked in. I could see the pool and the turquoise waters of the lagoon beyond the door of the reception area. It was dusk and I didn’t have anytime to really investigate the area.

The next morning I just stayed on the beach and enjoyed the facilities of the Royal Bora Bora Hotel. I went snorkeling on the beach in front of the hotel as well. There is a reef on one side that has a number of species of fish, even found an octopus.

The next day would provided a more extensive look at the lagoon. I went on a lagoon tour with snorkeling. Our first destination on the tour was the outer reef to swim with black tip sharks. As we made our way there we were greeted by the local dolphins who swam along our about but only for a short time. We made it to the location, anchored the boat, and we made our way into the water. This was the oceanside of the reef so we were in deep water and these black tip sharks were bigger than the ones in the lagoon, three to four feet. Swimming with these bigger sharks went against all logic. I knew they were use to people and wouldn’t harm us but my anxiety still heightened whenever they swam towards me. I think the other four participants of the tour felt the same way and they spent most of there time close to the boat.

We didn’t spend much time here and eventually made our way back into the lagoon toward the next stop. This is the time where my jaw dropped and got oohs and awes from the others. The boat traveled through the turquoise waters that changed from one brilliant shade of blue to another. The shores were dotted by the much heralded over-the-water bungalows that cost from $1,000 to $5,000 per night. We reached our destination and jumped in the water. The visibility in the lagoon was about 40 to 50 feet and we could see a school of eagle rays swimming back and forth at the bottom of the lagoon. I would guess that there were at least 40 of them. They had nothing to fear since they were out of the reach of the dozens of tourists floating at the top of the water. Some tried to dive to get closer to them but with little result.

Our next stop was the reef filled with sting rays and black tip sharks you can swim with in the shallows. This is just like the one in Moorea. The sting rays have become so docile that you can actually pet them. It was like deja vu for me. The guide called as back to the boat and I thought it was a little early and he didn’t allow the others more time to spend with the sharks and rays. He explained that a manta ray had been spotted near by and that we were going to see it. This was a treat for us tourists and even for the guides who stated that these giant rays rarely made their way into the shallow lagoon. It wouldn’t be my first time. I had swam with manta rays in Bali that were over 10 feet. This one was half that size but it was still a treat. There amazing to watch, so graceful, as they fluttered there way through the water like a giant seafaring butterfly.

Our day of swimming wasn’t over yet. We had one more stop, the coral gardens. I raved about the reef in Moorea and in comparison to this one in Bora Bora, it didn’t compare. There was so much color in the reef and the fish were just as colorful, even a moray eel. I had liked to spend more time here but with the extra stop because of the manta ray we had to move on before I wanted to. I realized where this coral garden was and that my hotel was probably a 30 minute kayak ride away and I would return on my own. The reef was so vibrant with so many species of coral and fish, I couldn’t wait to return.

The last stop would be our longest and our lunch stop at one of the little islets. We had local food that we ate while sitting on a thatched wooden picnic bench in the water. The beach provided an amazing view of Bora Bora and it was a fitting closing act to this eye opening look of the island. It was one amazing day.

The next day would be one of exploring, at least that was the plan. The morning went just as I planned. I walked to one of the only public beaches on the island, Matira Beach. It was only a 15 minute walk along the highway and well worth the effort. The beach lives up to the reputation of Bora Bora and I’m glad it’s open to the public and not just for the luxury hotels. The shallow water goes out for a few hundred yards and because of the lack of depth, its warm, warm like bath water. I also walked to the far end of the beach where the water got deeper. This was a perfect place for snorkeling with pockets of coral that dotted the water. I jumped in and after less than five minutes, I spotted another turtle. I tried to swim closer but it swam into the deep and it was no longer in my line of site. I refocused my attention to the coral reef and I was treated to more of the same, multiple coral species and a variety of fish. I swam back to the beach and relaxed on my beach towel. Then, all the sudden, the wind picked up and it was strong. So strong, it sent the sand into the air and it felt like I was receiving a lite sand blasting. Obviously, it was time to walk back to my hotel. The sand never diminished so my plan to kayak back to the coral gardens that I so enjoyed the previous day was cancelled. In fact, the high winds continued into the next day. Luckily, I had a beautiful little beach to enjoy at the hotel.

The next morning was to be my last and before I caught the ferry back to the airport, I spent my time just staring at the view of the beach and the amazing waters. This wouldn’t be my last glimpse of the island. As my flight flew back to Tahiti, I caught the beginning of the sunset and this would be one memorable last look of this wonderful and amazing atoll.

(Side note: sit on the right side of the plane during the outbound flight for this view)

I’ve probably used the word “amazing” a hundred times to describe Bora Bora. Its just so hard to recount the beauty of this heaven on earth location. The video I posted below best captures the vivid colors of Bora Bora. It was an eye opening experience that I hope I can repeat.

Until next time, French Polynesia.