Bora Bora

Arrive Tuesday at 8 AM. Depart Wednesday at 6 PM. (2 days).

Bora Bora, Mount Pahia on right with Otemanu behind (square top)

The natural beauty of the Bora Bora has earned it the title of "Pearl of the Pacific." James Michener who was stationed there as a soldier and it the author of “Tales of the South Pacific,” wrote the phrase “Anyone who has ever been there wants to go back.” I'd want to go back too, but I'd say the beauty is a toss up between Bora Bora and Moorea. Both have their own unique charms. For the debate between the two islands:
  1. Bora Bora has the better lagoon and I'd say it looks absolutely stunning from the air or from higher elevations. The colours of the lagoon are fantastic blues. Being completely surrounded by a reef and motus is unique and beautiful. If you are in Bora Bora on a clear day I'd say a helicopter flyover of the island (which I never did) is a must to get those postcard type views of the lagoon's colour and the islands overall shape.
  2. Moorea has much more rugged and mountainous scenery, and has spectacular bays. There are some beautiful views from higher up and it looks nicer from ground level with the more diverse and towering scenery.
  3. Both have nice snorkelling and Moorea has dolphin and whale watching as extras.
  4. Paradise is either island and I'd go to either.
Overwater bungalows
What a blue lagoon!

The ship did a pass by on the south side of the island this morning and sailed up the west side of Bora Bora to the one and only deep water entrance. The weather was grey, with choppy seas, as we passed by the island. Small bursts of rain would hit. We anchored in the lagoon in the shadow of Mt. Pahia, with the even steeper Mt. Otemanu peeking out from behind. Mt. Otemanu is a steep, craggy 2400 foot high mountain with a square outlined mesa top, that just shoots right up out of the water. The mountains are all covered in green foliage, and almost look moss covered from a distance.

These islands also generate their own weather and cloud form as moist air hits the sides of the moutains and compresses as it passes over/around their peaks. It seems pretty rare to have completely cloud-free skies. It is a neat effect to have blue skies at sea and a cloudy island in the distance.

Bora Bora lagoon with Mt. Otemanu from the north

It was amazing how quickly the weather changed as it semi-cleared up by the time we were to go on the catamaran sail in the morning. There was some gaps in the cloud showing blue sky when we took the tender to shore. The catamaran was quite large and it had a French skipper with a couple of young Polynesian men who were pretty funny guys who played the ukuleles and sang. The Polynesian guys were the all round bartenders, entertainment, and deckhands.

You can sit in the front of the catamaran on the nets over the water and just listen to the sound of water breaking over the bows as it skims over the water with the the billowing sail above you. A very nice experience. The weather completely cleared up on the north side of the island, WHERE IT WAS SUNNY and WARM, but not on the south side. You watched the motus on one side and the island pass by on the other side of the catamaran until it anchored in a shallow area on the north side of the island where people went for a brief snorkel. Afterwards, the catamaran headed back the way we came, but took much longer as the winds were against us.

4x4 on a dirt track

Only waverunners (jetskis) and small boats can circumnavigate the island inside the lagoon as the SE side of the island in the Matira Point area has very shallow water with coral heads (they call them potatos) that would stop your progress.

After the excursion, it was back to the ship for a quick lunch. Excursions can run late so you might not get a leisurely lunch. After lunch I took the 4 wheel drive excursion. It isn't recommended for pregnant women and boy does it ever get bumpy on some of the roads. You have to hang on with both hands. There isn't any dirt on some of the tracks, just lumpy bedrock. You are the martini, shaken, not stirred. The guide was pretty knowledgeable about the plants and such and we were taken to 4 different vantage points and got a free circular tour of the island in the clockwise direction. We saw some old bunkers and one of the two never used WWII coastal gun sites and ended up at the overlook above Bloody Mary's.

Bora Bora lagoon.
Old 5 inch guns NW of Vaitape.

At the third viewpoint our two landrovers stopped for refreshments. They laid out a fruit platter (which seems pretty standard on all tours). The guide was opening coconuts for us, and demonstrating the right technique which involves using a sharp stick braced into the ground to husk the coconut. A few jokes about Tom Hanks character in Castaway with his coconut opening technique were also mentioned. He also showed us how to cut up a pineapple and when someone asked if he liked pineapple, he joked that he hated pineapple as he has been cutting them up for years.

That night we went to Apicius and had an excellent dinner. The days seem to just fly by with the activities and the elegant dinners. I was pretty tired by the end of each day and easily fell asleep every night.

The next day I was going to go on the Aquascope, but bad weather and currents cancelled the outing. The water was too murky. The day at the Radisson beach on the same motu as the Pearl Beach resort was also cancelled due to the weather. Instead they ran buses from the docks to the Matira Point beach. Somewhat disappointing day, but my wife had a great time at the shark feeding and the swimming with rays. They also did some extra snorkelling out at another reef site. The clouds were hanging low and heavy - with rain bursts for the morning, but I managed to get some atmospheric shots in the town of Vaitape. Walking a backstreet (a single lane dirt road) I could hear the occasional person sweeping inside the houses and the odd voice or two speaking. There were lots of sleeping dogs and rooster crowing. One yappy little dog kept tailing and barking at me until an irate rooster attacked it and drove it off with its tail tucked between its legs. Saved by a chicken.

In the afternoon a quick trip down to Matira Point by Le Truck to see the beach. Saw people sail surfing as there was a nice brisk wind. The beach has pretty nice sand and it is pretty shallow out for a long ways.

That night, the ship sailed at sunset for Moorea.

Mt. Pahia with Vaitape below

Matira beach is the best beach on the island is at Matira Point, just east of the Hotel Bora Bora and all the way to the Club Med. At the Matira Beach Park, you can wade out from the point itself all the way to the reef at low tide. This same reef prevents ships from circumnavigating the island inside the reef. Make sure you see the right section of beach as some parts of the beach are narrow, while others are wider. The beach is made up of a series of scalloped bays so you cannot see the entire length of it from one place on the beach.

Hotel Bora Bora has some overwater bungalows that have views of the monolithic Mt. Otemanu across the lagoon. This is one of the most photographed scenes in French Polynesia.

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort. Sits on the white sand beach of Motu Tevairoa, the largest island on the outer reef. Has better views of Mount Otematu than the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort.

Bora Bora Lagoon Resort has some overwater bungalows with great views of Bora Bora's other peak, Mount Pahia.

The famous South Pacific restaurant Bloody Mary's. Very expensive and many celebrities have dined here. Offers a dining experience of chargrilled seafood and steaks with a sand floor. Just before it and the Pauline Village turnoff on the way to the restaurant is a turnoff to go up to a lookout by the Bora Bora TV tower. (Unmarked road at a double electricity tower 100 meters north of Bloody Mary's (up a 130 metre hill on a jeep track - 10 minute hike)). Views of lagoon.

Some Shore Excursions From The Ship

Aquascope. 1.5 hours, $45
  • The only existing semi-submersible ship with a panoramic horizontal view of the reef. A 10 minute transfer to the Aquascope which is already anchored in the middle of the lagoon.
  • Begins at Motu Toopua, where an amazing assortment of fish can be seen on the steep underwater slope from 10 to 100 feet below the boat. It is a 40 minute trip.
Shark and Ray Feeding. 3 hours, $65
  • Motorized outrigger canoes take you out to the reef where you enter water ranging from 4 to 7 feet deep.
  • The guide attracts black-tipped lagoon sharks with bait (repas de requins - meal time for sharks).
  • A great variety of tropical reef fish and some beautiful coral will be seen. A chance to touch and even feed rays is also included. Viewing is limited from the boat.
Bora Bora Off Road Adventure. 3.5 hours, $68
  • A true 4 wheel drive excursion in a Land Rover. The best viewpoints on the island will be reached.
  • Goes up Pahonu Hill with views of Matira Beach.
  • Second ascent to visit the WWII 7" guns in their original emplacements, and travel along the north shore into the lush valley of Faanui.
  • View Faanui Bay from a traditional plantation high in the mountains. Not recommended for bad backs and pregnant women.
Lagoon Sail by Catamaran. 3 hours, $95
  • On the O'Hana, a modern catamaran that is 65' x 30'. Sail north from Vaitape towards the airport and beyond.
  • Pass by the over water bungalows of the Meridian and Pearl Beach resort. View Mt. Otemanu, the highest peak on the island.
  • After 1.5 hours stop at a site for swimming in the shallow waters of a sand bar where you can walk into the water from the catamaran. Not ideal for snorkeling.