When we landed in Bora Bora it was 6AM (06:00). Tired and jet lagged we departed the plane and headed for the boat that would take us to our hotel. As we stepped on board we noticed that the sun was beginning to rise. On the horizon was a perimeter of clouds so we could not tell where east or west was; it appeared the sun was rising up from all around us. I began digging for my camera when I felt my husband's hand on my arm. "No", he said gently, "some things are meant to be experienced, you will never capture this on film."
The water turned the deepest turquoise blue, the sky was a riot of yellow, pink, purple and blue. Mt Otemanu was green, black and purple in that early morning light as a lone bird circled high above its peak.
Phenomenal. Breath taking.
For one perfect moment everything stopped and the sun glided majestically into the sky.
Although I have no photographs of this sunrise I have the memory, and I think as I take my last breath in this world I will remember and become that sunrise.
OK... so I know you look to these tips for things to keep you active, but I thought I would mention that it is very important to make your vacation a time to unwind and enjoy the scenery, preferably without moving at some points! With the overwater bungalows that are available in Bora Bora, I would highly recommend to schedule some time to just sit out back, read a good book and enjoy the sound of the ocean crashing gently into the supports of your bungalow!
No one will bother you here, the fish are not too loud, and the sun is still bright!
The spa is on the near by island. There's a free shuttle ferry service from Inter Continental Hotel.
As you walk into the facility, the place gives you a very calming impression even before you check in. I went through 2 hours spa and full body massage. The massage table is over the glass floor where you can see tropical fish swimming around. After the session, you can relax even more at the tea room or try out steam room and pool.
It's a bit pricey, but you are on vacation, and you know you worth it. ;)
Reservation is required. Bring your swim suits.
If you can, get on a boat *or to a motu( before sunset, already from the lagoon the sunset looks stunning.
We were sailing away shortly before sunset, and got amazing views when we were already outside the lagoon, so we got the whole panorama.
There were some small clouds over Mt. Otemanu, and made the old volcano look as if it were smoking. Kayakers gave us a farewell, racing behind the ship. They thought the ship was not going fast enough!
Then the colour of the sky changed into light orange tones, as if you sail out to the west, as we did, you only get the reflections of the sunset over the island. But that was beautiful as there was quite some cloud, and that is when you get the reflections.
The cruise ship sailed into the sunset, towards Maupiti and Motu-iti. (There are several islands of this name in the Pacific, and in general it means nothing more than “small island”, motu = island, iti = small.)
Speaking of views: If you fly to Bora Bora absolutely try to get this window seat on left side! Just have a look at those photos from the air, and you know why:
Even big cruise ships can enter the lagoon that makes Bora Bora so spectacular. But there is only one passage through the reef, the Te Ava Nui/Teavanui Pass (Passe Teavanui). It is east of the island, and north-east of Vaitape.
One tiny motu – one of those islets – is sitting on the reef line, the Motu Tapu (Sacred Island).
Next you pass a bigger motu, the Motu Toopua which is home to two resorts. The houses and church of Vaitape are dotted along the shoreline.
The water in the lagoon, however, is far too shallow to dock at the shore, so cruise ships do anchor at some distance from Vaitape, the island’s main town and (modest) business centre. Tenders then take the passengers ashore.
The first inhabited motu you see when you arrive by ship is the Motu Toopua, with the overwater-bungalows of the Bora Lagoon Resort in full view. At the southern end of this motu you would find the Bora Bora Nui Sheraton.
Bora Bora is enclosed by the reef and such motu (please note: the plural is NOT: motus but motu, although it is used to not irritate people with no knowledge of the local language). The east side of the island is nearly fully surrounded by motu, the biggest one, the Motu Piti Aau, is about 5 kilometres long. On it are a water taxi base, a waterski operation, even an archaeological site, and three hotel resorts. There are only very small passes between the motu(s) on this side.
The northernmost motu is the Motu Mute which is the site of the airport.
This was the only tour we took while in Bora Bora. It cost $60,000 XPF for a private tour in outrigger boat, swim with rays and sharks, snorkelling, tour of island and gourmet BBQ picnic. We were picked up at 9:45 from our hotel and dropped off at 3:45. No doubt about it, we had a great time. The rays and sharks were amazing. The snorkelling to die for. The views of the beautiful water breathtaking. The food delicious! We started with tuna cru (raw tune "cooked" in lime juice and cocnut milk) and a fresh salad with fab sald dressing, the prawn skewers and lobster tail, the mahi mahi steak and beef stteak and potatoes, finished with fresh fruit , all washed down with champagne. It was a great thing to do for our honeymoon, and soemthing we will never forget.
But there is no doubt in my mind that Pierrot and his company are making money hand over fist with the tour. THere is no way it is worth $600US for this picnic. My advice is, if you have so much money you cannot think of another way to dispose of it, do this picnic. If you have the choice of this one thing, or to do 3 or 4 other things instead...sometimes quantity is better. We really enjoyed our time, but it was pretty much our entire entertainment budget blown in 4 hours.
***Note added June 2006***
My husband just read this tip and thought it was too pessimistic. I want to stresst hat we had a fabulous time on the picnic and it was the highlight of our trip. Pierrot was great, the food fabulous (if anyone can get the salad dressing recipe from him, I would love the details!) and we couldn't have asked for a better day. My point just was that it was awfully expensive.
This trip was a huge splurge and the only reason it was possible was thru stand-by flights, hotel discount and a promise from the inlaws to chip in for the picnic (which never materialized)! It was a warning to others in the same sort of situation, not to people who can afford a trip like this every year.
Only 38 square kilometres, a drive around the island hardly takes more than an hour or two (visits not included of course...).
Rent a car, a buggy or a bike : Europe Car and numerous hotels will provide you with a map of the various places to see and their location on the island. I will develop the most interesting ones in the following tips.
We started our tour at Europe Car (PK 22.4) and drove in an anticlockwise direction.
In front of the Club Med, you’ll see a stair way going up into a dense forest. You first have to jump over a ditch to reach it. Then the way up is quite steep to the top. After climbing up for 20 minutes, you reach a first viewpoint overlooking the area. The path then leads you a bit higher to a second viewpoint. From up there, you will view a 360° panorama on the Pointe de Matira and the South-East coast. An amazing contrast of colours ranging from emerald green to turquoise and deep ocean blue.
Bora Bora is a small village. As you the dock there are "greeters" tents for the various commercial arrivals. Just to the side is a large barn converted into a mart filled with stalls manned by the locals making and selling their craft, Pareos, jewelry and such. After you have walked through you come out onto the main (read only) road which loops around the island. Directly in front of you is an area in which you can rent different types of transportation. Little cars/carts, bicycle etc. To the right you are greeted by 2 statues, 1 a Vahine (girl) and the other pictured here.
There are many little jewelry shops selling the beautiful Tahitian black pearl as well as galleries for the indigenous arts. There are various shops and eateries right along the quay.
After the Belvedère lookout, the next interesting spot is the view point at the rock of Hiro. Another stunning view, one of those postcard views you expect to see in French Polynesia.
Pull your vehicle along PK 15.6 at the feet of a very steep rocky path and start climbing. Ten minutes later, you’ll be on top of a hill, next to rock of Hiro.
Spectacular landscape all around the spot, great view on Mount Otemanu on the way up, and panoramic view on the Raiatea and Tahaa at the top.
And again those green-blue shadings...
When you are at the rock of Hiro, a sort of trail to the left goes down and passes by a rubbish dump. Then you loose track of it and have to work your way through a dense bush before you reach those WWII guns left there after the American supply bases had been deserted. They had been brought on Bora in 1942 during the Operation Bobcat.
The path is totally unmaintained and rushes through a dense vegetation…wear long-sleeves and trousers !
Not absolutely worth it, but if you are at the rock of Hiro, why not pressing on as far as there ? Nice view on the ocean from up the gun :-)
Pursuing the tour of the island, don't forget to stop at the Marine Museum. The place contains model ships faithfully reproduced by Mr Bertrand Darasse, a passionate of maritime history. Each model is related in one way or another with Polynesian history. Mr Darasse told us a few stories about those boats and their “making of" (scale 1/150). We were both amazed by such a care for details !
My favourites are the Bounty of course and the little Kon Tiki :-)
The entrance to the museum is free.
Continuing your tour of Bora, you will come across various fields of the famous tiaré flower (Polynesian Gardenia) before you reach the entity of Faanui and it's beautiful church.
I coudn't help stopping for a picture ! Those smooth colours on a green mountain background and a menacing sky... it was really fabulous ! Definitely one of the nicest churches I saw in French Polynesia.
In spite of its small size, Bora counts several marae but they ain't that easy to find without a guide (no indication on the spots). So it was quite difficult for us to decide if this place was a mere pile of stones or the rests of a sacred ground… After some research, we found the petroglyph we were looking for, and so I guess this was well the marae of Fare Opu. Our book said on this marae, set along the sea, we could see the beautiful drawing of a turtle. But no further information.
We didn't want to take one of those guided tours for tourists, but in this case it would have been interesting to get some explanations...
Motu Tehotu, 98730, French Polynesia
Good for: Couples
Motu Ome'e BP 506, Bora Bora, 98730, French Polynesia
Good for: Business
I would highly recommend the Interncontinental Thalasso Resort & Spa if you enjoy luxury amenities....more