Written by Prosperine on 04 Apr, 2002
Scuba diving was quite a treat for me. By this point I felt quite comfortable with diving, though I was still too scared to fall out of the boat backwards. Here in Manihi, introductory divers dive outside of the reef with the certified…Read More
Scuba diving was quite a treat for me. By this point I felt quite comfortable with diving, though I was still too scared to fall out of the boat backwards. Here in Manihi, introductory divers dive outside of the reef with the certified divers but will only go to shallow depths of 5 meters where lots more marine life can be seen in comparasin to Bora Bora and Moorea for that matter. My husband and I completed two dives (Each dive is one tank and one location for a little over an hour.)
We traveled to "The Break" (also known as "West Point") and "The Fall Off", both on the ocean side of the atoll close to one of the passes. Many people come to Manihi for the great diving and fellow divers who would do multiple dives per day raved about their experiences here.
"The Break" - It took a few seconds to descend with Thierry Pomel (divemaster at Manihi Blue Nui). Once comfortable, I swam freely on my own. It took some getting used to regulating my breathing so I wouldn't constantly float upwards. In time, I adjusted myself. I saw the certified divers surrounded by sharks while their feeding began in the drop off about 30 feet deeper than I. Thierry and I kept in the shallow area swimming over the drop off and occasionally spying a black tipped reef shark. It was the end of the dive which thrilled me and had the certified divers coming over to me! Thierry spied a 4.5 ft moray eel hidden in some coral. He saw my immediate interests and began to play with it by petting it between its eyes above it's gaping mouth! Moray eels are not friendly...but this one acted like a pet backing away and coming back for more! Oddly, I had the feeling that he wanted me to get closer and pet the thing as well.
Thierry also spotted a lion fish in a crevice nearby which seemed to be hiding from the eel. Now, why would someone play with a moray eel, an ultra-aggressive territorial creature that can inflict traumatic wounds or a poisonous fish? I couldn't tell you. The other divers came by to see what all the commotion was. Thierry managed to agitate the eel which swam away. The tall Frenchman who looked like this guy in the old 007 movies went after it with his deluxe underwater camera. Thierry managed to get the lion fish from it's little nook...by nudging it with the cup of his palm without touching it, of course. My husband encountered about 10 sharks down in the depths and large Napolean fish.
"The Fall Off" - This dive the following day with Julien wasn't as fun since there was real first time diver along for the ride. We three hand-in-hand saw typical reef fish as the instructor kept us away from peeking over the deeper drop off points. Eventually, he let us swim freely; but again, not much excitement. I do regret not bringing my camera on those shallow dives. I saw large Napolean fish (but nothing close to the giant one in Rangiroa), surgeon fish, etc. For the certified divers, the current was to strong to cross the pass; but they managed to see a few black tipped sharks and an eagle ray with other assorted large fish. Close
Written by jmineo on 21 Nov, 2001
A bit of excitement swept through the plane as we touched down in Bora Bora. This is so close to a mythical place that it's strange to find it actually exists. This is the place synonomous with Eden or Paradise, the place people say they'll…Read More
A bit of excitement swept through the plane as we touched down in Bora Bora. This is so close to a mythical place that it's strange to find it actually exists. This is the place synonomous with Eden or Paradise, the place people say they'll move to when they win the lottery or become rich and famous. Even the geography of the island is mythical with a large extinct volcano rising from a turquoise blue lagoon surrounded by string of white sand motus. Even the airport is on a motu and you have to take a ferry to reach the main island. Some of the exclusive hotels have their own motus and transfer their guests directly.
The lagoon is magnificent with that prized milky turquoise shade stunning your eyes with its beauty. Other shades flow into each other around the base of Bora Bora's extinct volcanic peaks. It was awe inspiring on arrival. Unfortunately, the beauty doesn't survive a closer inspection as we soon found out. We got a taxi from the port to Village Pauline, a quaint motel, set up by our Sofitel concierge. The room was spacious but the bathrooms and kitchens were communal. Although we were initially disappointed, the pleasant gardens and clean facilities comforted us somewhat. The value for money on Bora Bora is atrocious, especially if you're not prepared. Too much hype has destroyed this idyll.
Also suprising for such a heavily touristed island is the complete lack of services. For instance, we couldn't find any nearby places to rent scooters. We had to walk to Matira Point, the only beach on the island. We'd hoped to go to Hotel Bora Bora for a drink and then sit on their beach which is supposed to be the best for snorkeling (following our usual pattern) but were put off by the huge and numerous "Properti Privee" signs. We didn't like the exclusive atmosphere and also noticed the smell of sewage along the road and trash on the beach. We came to a public bit of beach next door and thought about snorkeling, but could find nothing to warrant a quick wade. We walked back to our hotel, on the way stopping at the famous Bloody Mary's. I only know it's famous because they say so on the sign and have even bigger signs outside listing all the famous people who have eaten there (we'd never actually even heard of the place). Such luminaries as Sen. John McCain, Judge Reinhold (remember the innocent looking guy from Beverly Hills Cop and Fast Times at Ridgemont High?) and someone called Commander Cody have all dined (or at least gotten hammered) here. I had their 'famous' Bloody Mary and my wife tried a vanilla rum punch. The floor was covered in white sand, with coconut stumps for stools, lots of tropical flowers and seafood displays. The toilets and urinals were possibly the best part, complete with wooden penis handles and rock waterfalls when a chain was pulled.
Our second and last day in Bora Bora (thank god, simply because we had better islands to look forward to in the Society chain) we went looking for scooters. We found rentals at Pauline's, a resort, but were only available for a few hours, so we opted for bicycles as the island is only about 20 miles around. We cycled around the entire island passing numerous garbage dumps and open channels of murky grey water that poured into the 'beautiful' lagoon. Lots of ugly mud huts and very poor housing made of thin painted plywood, the windows a sawn square on a hinge propped open with a stick, dirt yards and piles of rubbish. Not a patch on the scenic beauty and overall prosperity of Moorea and it's ironic when you consider this is where the most expensive 5-star hotels are located catering to wealthy Americans and Japanese. All these hotels are part of large international chains, ie Meridian, Pearl Beach Resorts, Club Med, so I can only assume most of the money goes abroad whereas the bulk of accommodation on other islands like Moorea and Huahine is smaller and more directly benefits the locals.
The best part of our Bora Bora excursion came when we stopped for lunch at a fruit stand by the road run by an older Polynesian woman. We had the young, green coconuts to drink (wonderfully refreshing and much sweeter than the juice of brown coconuts) and also poisson cru which was amazing. The tuna was so fresh in melted in the mouth. This is the local dish of the Pacific and made by marinating the raw fish slices in lime juice then adding chopped onion, garlic, tomato and coconut milk. We ate at a small table near the beach and afterwards bought fresh papayas, bananas and a large green grapefruit/orange fruit called a Pamplemouse for a total of 1400cfp ($12) including lunch which was the only semi-bargain we found on Bora Bora.
Written by Josh S on 13 Jan, 2005
The manta ray’s milky white underside just scratched the surface of the water as it performed a graceful somersault in front of the underwater spotlight. Our eyes widened and we stood dumbstruck at nature’s magnificence revealed so easily, standing on the dock under the moonlight.…Read More
The manta ray’s milky white underside just scratched the surface of the water as it performed a graceful somersault in front of the underwater spotlight. Our eyes widened and we stood dumbstruck at nature’s magnificence revealed so easily, standing on the dock under the moonlight. The creature made several passes by the dock, with its mouth agape as it fed on plankton attracted to the light. Sublime moments such as this are supposed to be possible only after much effort, but at the Hotel Bora Bora, they seem to be a common occurrence.
A short 45-minute flight from Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia, Bora Bora is surrounded by perhaps the world’s most cinematic lagoon. As our turboprop banked low through puffy clouds, we gazed down on the volcanic Mt. Otemanu rising abruptly from the turquoise waters. We were picked up promptly at the airstrip, which lies on an islet, or motu, fringing the lagoon, and were whisked to the southern end of the island, directly to the pier of Hotel Bora Bora. Manager Martial Thevenaz, a friendly Swiss expat, met my companion Sylvia and I there with a cocktail and a welcoming smile. Instantly we felt the stress of the last 24 hours of travel evaporate, and we allowed ourselves to be swept up in the romance of the place.
The hotel, part of the Aman Resorts group, has been extensively remodeled since its establishment in the mid-60s, and Aman’s legendary Midas touch is evident everywhere, from the stylish teak furniture to the privacy and discretion afforded to all guests. We spent the first few nights in a luxurious pool faré—basically a small villa complete with our own private plunge pool. Our air-conditioned faré offered an adjoining living room, a large bathroom with a stand-alone tub, a bedroom with a four-poster bed, and a separate den—more than enough space for two.
The resort occupies perhaps the most prime piece of real estate on the island, with stunning views of the mountains and easy access to the main town of Vaitape and Matira Point and environs, site of most tourist accommodations, yet removed enough to feel completely private. The meticulously landscaped grounds evoke the lushness of the environment while the architecture incorporates traditional Polynesia motifs in a way that manages to be luxurious without being gaudy. It sounds silly, but we felt like "smart travelers" compared to other couples we met staying at different resorts on the island—with a great location, five-star accommodations and facilities, and a friendly and welcoming nature, the Hotel Bora Bora seemed the best place from which to experience the island’s many charms.
While the resort’s white-sand beaches and fantastic food could support any dedicated couch potato for weeks, we had a more active vacation experience in mind. We spent some time snorkeling off the resort, but soon we were ready to venture further afield and dive the island’s famous reefs. The adjacent Bora Bora Dive Center offered easy access to the best of the island’s diving, and we were soon speeding our way to Teavanui Pass, the only break in the lagoon’s circumference, dynamited by the U.S. Navy during World War II. I was a relatively experienced diver, but Sylvia was completing her certification, and on her very first open-water dive, she was immediately surrounded by a dozen or more gray reefs sharks and lemon sharks. The surge of the current flushed new water through, keeping the visibility up to 80 feet, and we floated across a huge garden of beautiful hard coral as sharks and many species of brightly colored fish surrounded us.
Later that week, we dove some of the shallower sites inside the lagoon, as well as one site off the north end of the island in the rough water outside the lagoon, where I saw dozens of blacktip sharks and more spectacular coral gardens. The dive masters at the Bora Bora Dive Center were extremely helpful and safety-conscious and successfully negotiated Sylvia through her certification process.
Other recommended activities include biking around the island (it’s only 32km all the way around) and having a lunch feast of traditional Polynesia fare on an outer motu). Both are great ways to experience some of the "real" Bora Bora on a one-to-one level, interacting with locals and the island environment. I tried several times, unsuccessfully, to find out how to climb Mt. Otemanu or its neighbor Mt. Pahia, having read about the hike in several guidebooks. However, unfortunately, no one seemed to know whether this was still possible. We also decided that the lagoon tour, complete with shark feeding and stingray petting, is best avoided. While they may be a brief thrill, it’s far more interesting to interact with these animals while diving or snorkeling when they are truly wild, rather than in a contrived "feeding" environment in which some rays are literally picked up out of the water. Plus, if you’re used to traveling independently, the "group tour" aspect of the experience is quite a turn off.
The list of additional activity options at Hotel Bora Bora is long and includes tennis, massage, jet skiing, sailing, heli-tours, horseback riding, deep sea fishing, sunset cruises, parasailing, and the use of a game room (who wants to watch movies in such a place?). Most are available for additional charges at typically insane Bora Bora prices, though the resort’s prices are comparable to those elsewhere on the island. Remember, in a place so far removed from most of global commerce, even a hamburger can cost $30… so just be prepared.
Despite the island’s relative isolation, however, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food at the resort’s Matira Terrace Restaurant (a mix of Asian, Polynesian, and French influences), area restaurants like the famous Bloody Mary’s (where the food outshone their signature cocktail), and several places along the Matira strip. The food was uniformly excellent, and we found that with a cheap beachside lunch at a local joint and a nice dinner, our meals were comparable to what we’d spend at home.
On our last night, we moved into an overwater bungalow, something that has become an emblem of Polynesia luxury accommodation. Ours was no disappointment and those at the Hotel Bora Bora offer the paragon of privacy, luxury, and exoticism. With our own private deck and swim ladder, paradise was certainly the word most readily on our lips. As we watched the sunset from our deck and sipped the complimentary champagne as the tropical breeze cooled our faces, we felt like the luckiest couple on the face of the earth.
Bora Bora is reached via a short flight from Tahiti on Air Tahiti, while Tahiti is serviced by Air Tahiti Nui directly from Los Angeles. The flight is a pleasant one, with a friendly staff, good food, and new Airbus planes. From the West Coast of the USA, it’s a much easier trip than going to the Caribbean.
The Hotel Bora Bora is part of the Aman Resorts group, and details have not been overlooked. Rates range from $700/night for a standard bungalow and $875 for a pool faré to $925 for an overwater bungalow and $975 for a beach faré. More information can be found on their website at www.amanresorts.com/bora/home.htm, by calling (65) 6887 3337, or by emailing email@example.com.
Additional information on the island can be found on the official tourism website at www.gototahiti.com.
Written by incrediblejoycey on 29 Mar, 2008
On my last visit to Tahiti I had to experience the interior of the island. I have driven around the island many times but always wanted to take a 4 x 4 adventure so I could experience Tahiti's rugged beauty. I had heard about Tahiti…Read More
On my last visit to Tahiti I had to experience the interior of the island. I have driven around the island many times but always wanted to take a 4 x 4 adventure so I could experience Tahiti's rugged beauty. I had heard about Tahiti Safari Expedition being the top tour company to take on a 4 x 4 adventure and booked my trip before leaving the states (they are typically sold out weeks in advance). I opted for the full day excursion which traverses into the heart of the island, dissecting the mountains by a tunnel so you actually pop out on the opposite side of the island. Our guide was very informative as he spoke about the different foliage we saw along the way. The indigenous plants were the most interesting as we were told how the ancient Tahitians would use the different petals of flowers or leaves for medicinal purposes. Our guide pointed out the main volcano and explained how the other peaks were formed and that at points in time we were driving on the rim of the volcano quite near the crater. Of course, we spotted numerous waterfalls all along the way as we bopped in our new and well equipped open air Land Rover. One of my favorite stops was at a natural swimming pool complete with the quintessential tropical waterfall. While I floated in the cool waters I watched all the young studs climb the face of the rocks and jump into the refreshing pool below. This was the perfect way to start the adventure. You see, the road was only paved up to the Moroto Hotel, and from then on it was a true 4 x 4 journey. Tahiti Safari Expeditions had two vehicles with tourists, ours was the English speaking group, and the other group was the French speaking group. Both drivers watched the weather with a keen eye `cause if it looked like heavy rain then our course over the mountains would become unnavigable. Now it goes without saying that I am extremely afraid of heights! And there were quite a few places were there was not much between us and the 3000 foot plus drop off - this was just a one way road!!! But no worries, I knew we were in capable hands and this was supposed to be an adventure, right? In our group were three Russian men who had on GPS monitors so we could determine our elevation at different points along the way. For awhile, and towards the end of the climb, we were all hoping the next turn would bring us to the top of the mountain. Finally upon reaching the highest peak of 4800 feet - and after I breathed a sigh of relief - I was able to snap lots of photos; the views were incredible! It really was something of an engineering feat to cut a road into the rainforest and then blast a passageway through the mountain. On our descent, which was equally as thrilling as our climb, the vistas were just stunning. Along the way we came across a large lake (no swimming allowed) and a car going up the way we just came. All I could think was, "What if we encountered this car going up the mountainside!" YIKES!!! I highly recommend spending an extra day or so exploring the youngest of the Society Islands - Tahiti, and experience Tahiti beyond the beaches! Close
Written by BeauandHolly on 31 Jan, 2005
We spent 2 weeks at the Club Med Bora Bora on our honeymoon - it was simply incredible! The resort was very nice, with a little cabana right on the beach - literally 20 steps from the water. There were beautiful views of a secluded…Read More
We spent 2 weeks at the Club Med Bora Bora on our honeymoon - it was simply incredible! The resort was very nice, with a little cabana right on the beach - literally 20 steps from the water. There were beautiful views of a secluded bay, a long dock with views of tropical fish underneath, and daily trips across the lagoon to the motu, and snorkeling, windsailing, kayaking, and sailing were available on the premises. Also, Club Med operated a shuttle into Vaitape, which we enjoyed several times. We were very fortunate to be there during the Heiva Festival and were able to watch the finals for the champion single dancers, both male and female. We so enjoyed the drums and dancing, and the people were very welcoming and friendly.
We also went diving several times with Top Dive, an EXCELLENT dive shop we would fully recommend. We were able to dive with sharks, manta rays, and even saw a sea turtle, not to mention all the other wonderful underwater flora and fish!
Bora Bora was a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime excursion. If you have the chance to visit this beautiful retreat, do not pass it up!
Written by RSchoettger on 19 Aug, 2005
Prior to leaving on the Aranui 3 for the Marquesas Islands, we had no idea of what to purchase, except for maybe wood carvings, tapa's, and other items. My wife and I travel so much, and it is becoming more and more difficult…Read More
Prior to leaving on the Aranui 3 for the Marquesas Islands, we had no idea of what to purchase, except for maybe wood carvings, tapa's, and other items. My wife and I travel so much, and it is becoming more and more difficult to find unique collectables. We always want to buy something special to remember our trips and planned to spend some bucks to buy from a gifted wood carver in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva (which we did anyway!). I gave little attention to tattoos, as I definitely shied away from this practice, being as conservative as I am.
As the trip moved forward, talking with the crew and seeing the true history behind tattoos in the South Pacific, I became quickly interested. The Marquesas Islands are historically one of the true artistic tattoo centers in the world, where it is more appreciated as an art and is rich in culture and tradition.
So, being over 50 and having little concern with the pressures of measuring up to my current job and life in general, my wife and I took the plunge! She always wanted one anyway.
One afternoon while at sea on the Aranui, they announced that they are taking reservations for one of the best artists, or tuhuna, in the South Pacific at a port on the tiny, remote island of Tahuata. With only 3 hours on shore, they were limited, but they never before had more than two or three takers. Not this time! Over eight people were interested as we wrestled for position. For those who did not make the list on Tahuata, the Aranui offered another opportunity while at port in Nuka Hiva with another tahuna.
Fortunately, my wife and I were picked to get a tattoo from Fati Fi’I, one of the South Pacific’s finest tahunas. As we arrived at the port town of Vaitahu, Tahuata, we were quickly whisked off the ship on the whale boat and made shore. Within a 5-minute walk, we were at a small house that was need of much repair. Both my wife and I looked at each other and wondered if this was wise!
The only thing that actually kept us there was that we were third and fourth in line and watched as the first gentlemen had his tattoo done. In watching, it was a relief to see that Fati took many precautions, such as disposable gloves and needles, and executed great care in applying the tattoo. In addition, the final result was wonderful and very detailed.
My wife went first since she had always wanted one. She asked for something to represent happiness, and in about 20 minutes, Fati completed a wonderful wheel design on the back of her right shoulder. I followed with what I wanted to represent: traveler. He put a Marquesian Cross with water on my left upper arm, which turned out fantastic. He first drew the art in a red marker and asked for approval before continuing. What was surprising was that it really did not hurt that bad, and before I knew it, it was done.
Two tattoos applied: $100. Marquesas tattoo: Priceless.
The only minor problem was that we could not go into the salt water for about 5 days. We missed a couple of beaches, but we ended up being extremely happy with the result. There was no infection from anyone on the trip. I think about this always and enjoy the thought that I can actually take this to my grave!!
So, my recommendation is: If you truly collect art from around the world, it is a mistake to not get a tattoo by a leading tuhuna in the Marquesas Islands. As we did, you can find many places on the body to make this a memorable piece of art! This is one of the best things I have ever done.
Written by jenandfrank on 19 Jan, 2005
Top Dive – Vaitape, 689-60-5050. French. This is definitely considered (as it should be) the finest dining on Bora Bora. It is located north of Vaitape on the lagoon and with only 47 seats. Reservations must be made (way in advance)…Read More
Top Dive – Vaitape, 689-60-5050. French.
This is definitely considered (as it should be) the finest dining on Bora Bora. It is located north of Vaitape on the lagoon and with only 47 seats. Reservations must be made (way in advance) and can be done online or with your concierge. The website is www.topdive.com (Top Dive is also a hotel). It's extremely romantic, with beautiful views of the Bora Bora Lagoon. (If you are out on the terrace, you can watch manta rays in the water below you.) The restaurant has huge cathedral ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, marble floors, candles everywhere—just about everything inside was done top-notch. It’s open for lunch and dinner and offers a free shuttle bus from the docks and other hotels on the island. Their chef, Phillipe Bachman, creates many exquisite dishes using fresh seafood, some even flown in from New Zealand. Their menu is seasonal, and the wine list is extensive. (This is not a place you will find chicken served). They also offer a prix-fixe, three-course menu. I had mushroom raviolis and the mahimahi (the chutney was insane). My husband had the warm ham salad and the filet of duck. We shared a crème brulee for dessert, which was incredible. Our meals and the service were excellent (on the slow side, like the rest of French Polynesia), and we wanted for nothing. The portions tend to be on the smaller side, but we both left satisfied. If you typically do not order an appetizer and dessert, this place probably isn't for you (you will leave hungry). They also offer a five-course tasting menu with wine if that is something of interest to you. Special meals can be prepared with advance notice. It’s definitely worth the trip—not as pricey as we expected, and we didn’t hold back either. It is highly recommended.
Formerly called Temanuata, it is now considered French "superior" dining. This is another restaurant that offered a free shuttle from the docks (most restaurants do to be competative). This place was casual, with indoor seating but open windows and doors, so you felt like you were outside.The walls are made from coconut tree trunks, and there are several shells hanging from the beams in the ceiling. The food was acceptable but overpriced. Quite honestly, we were shocked that our concierge spoke so highly of it and that this is considered by the locals to be the best restaurant on the island – have they been to Top Dive? The service left a lot to be desired and they were a bit rude. They were slow – VERY slow – dinner took us over 2 hours. Chef Eric Lafond, who once cooked at Hotel Bora Bora and Le Meridian, has really lost his edge. For dinner, my husband had the steak, which was (at best) acceptable. I had a local catch of the day that came with a small tasting of poisson cru. The fish was so plain that I could have made it myself at home. We both had the house salad to start, which was good. We weren’t served our drinks until the middle of our meal despite the fact that the restaurant was empty and we asked several times. When it came time for a supposedly "delicious" (preordered) dessert, we knew we were going to miss the last Nui water shuttle back to the hotel, so we tried to cancel the dessert, explaining to them why and asking to have their shuttle take us back to the dock as soon as possible. You would think we were asking for their first born – they made such a big deal about it. Mind you, our dessert hadn’t even been made. The owner/manager (Regis Jaquet) made a big deal, yelling at us in front of the other patrons. Needless to say, we weren’t the only ones in the same situation, and when a few other people heard what was going on, they chimed in as well. Now feeling like an idiot and knowing everything on this island is word of mouth, he became very apologetic to us and personally drove us to the dock. Although we appreciated the ride and his apologies, they were far from sincere. Had it not been for the other couples complaining as well, would he have continued to berate us in front of the restaurant? Who wants to have a night out and pay for that? Note: It is closed on Saturdays for lunch and all day Sunday, and they do NOT accept American Express. I do not recommend eating here.
Written by jenandfrank on 18 Jan, 2005
The shark-feeding tours are the big thing on Bora Bora. We booked ours through the Concierge at the Nui. We paid just under $75 each (and I’m sure the Nui got its cut) for what should have been a 3-hour tour. Our tour company was…Read More
The shark-feeding tours are the big thing on Bora Bora. We booked ours through the Concierge at the Nui. We paid just under $75 each (and I’m sure the Nui got its cut) for what should have been a 3-hour tour. Our tour company was Matira Tours (689/23-55-78). They picked us up at 9:30am at our hotel (they also have 1pm departures), and there were about 20 of us on the trip. Matira runs tours everyday except Sunday and also offers Motu Picnics and snorkeling-only trips. Some tour companies bring you on outrigger canoes and some on regular boats (almost like those used for diving trips).
We took a regular boat (33 feet long), which was my preference because the canoes were just too low to the water if you know what I mean. The boat was well-equipped, had a canvas top to block out the direct sun, and also offered an easy ramp to get in and out of the water. We were too chicken to actually get off the boat despite the fact that everyone claims the sharks won’t bother you since food is in abundance for them, but this is how the trip played out. You catch the boat, and while heading out to the reef, the captain points to where you are headed. Funny how he said, "It’s about 100 yards from that hut"… um, that was OUR hut he was pointing to. That was comforting since we had been in that water everyday since we had got there.
Anyway, you sail to the barrier reef and are given masks and snorkel gear with no fins because they scare the sharks. While you are preparing yourself, the staff begins to chum for sharks. They were throwing in squid, tuna, and mahimahi among other things. Their goal was to not only get sharks near the boat but also stingrays and as many other smaller fish as possible. The two guides hop in the water and tie a rope around two large pieces of coral (sometimes if your tour agency meets up with another, they tie the rope from boat to boat and they do the excursion together with a large group). The sharks apparently know not to cross this rope (right). Once in place, you are expected to jump into the water (about 4 feet deep) and stand behind this rope. While holding onto the rope for stability, the guides start to feed the sharks and put on a small show for you. Thankfully, the water is so clear that we could see everything that was going on from the boat. This way we weren’t disappointed that we missed much in fear of our lives. Along with the 4- to 5-foot blacktip reef sharks, we saw 3-foot sting rays, angel fish, butterfly fish, and tons of other tropical fish that I couldn’t name if I tried. Almost like they were in a trance, the sharks would go to the rope and turn around every time. It was very odd. yet interesting (I would have been peeing in my pants had I been in the water with a shark coming straight for me). The guide said to not to be disappointed if the sharks didn’t get close to the rope because sometimes they just aren’t interested.
So the excursion was fun, everyone seemed to be happy, and now it’s over, so everyone is told to pack back into the boat. Some people were complaining they were cold and didn’t pack properly - obviously that wasn’t an issue for us (I guess they figured after swimming it would be hot out, so they didn’t pack extra clothes). The staff had prepared cut pineapple and began to serve that and fresh coconut milk. Before you could say French Polynesia, the weather started to rapidly change and it began to pour. The staff started running around the boat to drop the canvas "walls," and meanwhile, the boat got turned around. Well, now it’s pouring, there is no visibility, and the staff has no idea which way is back to the hotel. Although they were all speaking in Tahitian, it was obvious that they were semi-freaking out. Great, that’s all I needed to see. We have sharks circling our boat, the locals have no clue how to get back, and people onboard are starting to have panic attacks. I thought that, for a brief second, the movies Blue Lagoon, Castaway and Gilligan’s Island flashed before me. Classic. So after a lot of arguing, one of the staff members took a shot, I think, and although we weren’t headed straight for our motu, we got close enough that he tried to make it seem as though it was a planned detour. It was amusing now but very scary then. Overall, it was a great experience that lasted about 5 hours instead of 3. It made for great stories to say the least. Maybe next time we would consider going in since we saw what took place, and it is said that no one has ever been touched by a shark on one of these trips before. This is highly recommended.
Written by jenandfrank on 28 Dec, 2004
Bora Bora was named and built by U.S. GIs in the 40s. I have heard two different comparisons to Hawaii; one was that Tahiti as a whole receives fewer visitors in one year than Honolulu does in one month, and the other was that Tahiti…Read More
Bora Bora was named and built by U.S. GIs in the 40s. I have heard two different comparisons to Hawaii; one was that Tahiti as a whole receives fewer visitors in one year than Honolulu does in one month, and the other was that Tahiti receives fewer visitors in one year than Hawaii does in one day. Either way, my point is that this is a place to get away from it all: secluded, quiet, crystal lagoons, perfect beaches, superexotic. High season here is determined by each hotel and/or the airlines. Unlike most warm locations, it is not based on a rainy season, simply because the weather here is very unpredictable day to day. For those first-time visitors to Bora Bora, what you should know is that the airport is located on a motu (small island) called Motu Mute. So regardless of where you are staying, you will need to take a boat to your destination. Most hotels offer a water-taxi service and some, we heard, charge, but the Nui did not. Note: Most people fly into Bora Bora, and the flights are open seating. We had great views from both sides of the plane, although some people will tell you to sit on the left side. Vaitape is the capital of Bora Bora. Cars (and scooters) can be rented right off the dock/marina, and we found they did not need to be reserved in advance. The cars are small, and the roofs are basically canvas (so if you get stuck in the rain, you are screwed, like we were--soaking wet). Our 4-hour rental from Europcar (tel. 67.70.03) was $80, and that did not include insurance. The island is less than an hour’s drive all the way around (20 miles). We drove to Hotel Bora Bora for lunch, because after all, it’s famous and almost always top-rated in travel guides. It seemed a beautiful hotel, but a step below the Nui. Lunch was very good, but the staff became indifferent toward us once they discovered we weren’t guests of the hotel. Other than in Vaitape, there is no need to rent a car, scooter, etc. (there really isn’t even a need in Vaitape, unless you want to drive around the island). None of the motus have roads, so walking will be key on this trip. If you are looking to buy some basic food or snacks, there is a fairly large supermarket to the left of the docks in Vaitape, a 2-minute walk. We bought some snacks, bottled water, etc., and used our minibar to hold it all. We found that this was great and cut back on some overpriced hotel expenses. Local cuisine is created using sweet coconut, vanilla, and fresh seafood. The "national" dish is poisson cru, which is raw fish and diced vegetables soaked in a mixture of lime juice and coconut milk. Other (nonfood) shopping is somewhat limited, and prices are higher than on some other islands, especially for black pearls. Generally speaking, if you are a seafood lover, French Polynesia is a great place to be. They have so many local fish that we could never dream of getting at home, and everything is ridiculously fresh. My husband is not a fish eater, though, and he still found ample choices everywhere we went. French Polynesia in general discourages tipping. I thought this was ridiculous, and we tipped anyway, but for some people, that is a plus. I will say though that no one refused a tip. Overall, I would say the Polynesian islands are not for young groups of friends or children, mainly for the lack of things to do or places to hang out at night. Plus, you will see that most everyone is a honeymooner or an older couple celebrating an anniversary or something. It is a very low-key and romantic place to be. Someone recommended that we bring floats with us (to use off our bungalow, to snorkel, etc.). Apparently, they are hard to get over there and are very overpriced. What a great idea that was. They were very inexpensive at home, they are packed flat, and we put them right in our suitcase. After each island, we just left them for the staff and blew up new ones at the next place. If you are into water activities, this is the island for them--snorkeling, scuba, kayaking, jet skis, shark-feeding tours, etc. The shark-feeding (water safari) tours are the big thing on Bora Bora. We were too scared to get off the boat, but we did take the tour and heard rave reviews from those who actually went in the water. For a more detailed account, read my journal on it. But for the basics: You are taken less than a mile offshore, and the boat staff starts to chum to bring sharks in your area. You get into the water on the other side of a rope and watch as the staff feed the shark and bring them close to you (and the rope). French Polynesia is part of the EU, and the French unemployment benefits are higher than U.S. minimum wages. Thus, most of the citizens of Bora Bora are affluent or comfortable, to say the least. This is why there are no beggars or people trying to sell you things everywhere you go (like Mexico, for example). Overall, we found that everyone spoke perfect English, and that Americans were welcome. Many people ask how they can travel to this location on a budget. Well, I’m not sure about budget travel, but to get better pricing, I would recommend passing on the over-water bungalows and staying either in a garden bungalow or the other regular hotel-like accommodations that are offered. That said, to be fair, traveling all this way and not staying in an over-water bungalow, I think, would be a mistake. That is part of the charm of these islands--to be able to be in a secluded area, totally relaxed, in this beautiful hut, over the most incredible water you’ve ever seen. We found this site, to be the most helpful before we traveled; unlike most locations, the travel sites for the French Polynesia are limited. At this point, if I had to choose one island to go back to before I die, it would most definitely be Bora Bora. Any review you read that claims anything other than perfection while visiting this island never left their room. Close
Written by jenandfrank on 29 Apr, 2005
French Polynesia is famous for black-pearl shopping. More so than any of the other Polynesian islands, Tahiti is where you’ll find the best price due to the overwhelming amount of competition in town. Tahiti is also where you will find the largest selection.…Read More
French Polynesia is famous for black-pearl shopping. More so than any of the other Polynesian islands, Tahiti is where you’ll find the best price due to the overwhelming amount of competition in town. Tahiti is also where you will find the largest selection. Far and away the French Polynesian’s most valuable export, there are shops everywhere, from the airport to your hotel. True Tahitian pearls are created by huge black-lipped oysters (pinctada margaritifera) that thrive in the lagoons here. The pearls generally vary in color from shades of light gray to really dark gray (almost black), with green and pink hues. Some people are confused; they believe a "black pearl" is really black. These pearls are not black, and you’ll find that most stores outside of the French Polynesia correctly refer to them as Tahitian. On the islands, however, all of the stores appease the customers and refer to them as "black." What really makes these pearls special is that they vary in shape, color, quality, luster, surface, and size. Luster is determined by the quality of light that reflects from the pearl’s surface. The shinier the pearl, the better the luster – it’s really that simple. Spotting (blemishes) also diminishes the aesthetic quality of the pearl and the value as well. Since the late 1960s, Tahitian pearls have been cultivated on pearl farms here. Although most oysters can produce pearls, only the pinctada margaritifera, which grows naturally in French Polynesia, can produce the black pearl. Pearl cultivation is basically a "man-made" mimic of the natural growing process. A mother-of-pearl mussel shell bead is grafted into the tissue of the black-lipped oyster and placed back in the lagoon. After over a year underwater, the pearls are retrieved, cleaned, sorted, and given grades.
The phrase "Tahiti Cultured Pearl" is used exclusively when a pearl has been grafted and cultivated by man. In ’93, the FP government created the GIE (almost like the GIA for diamonds). The Groupement d’Interet Economique Perles de Tahiti was formed to promote Tahitian pearls overseas. Although many tourists will complain that the GIE certificate that accompanies most pearls is bogus, the nonprofit organization tries to streamline what they believe to be quality and different grades of pearls. Many shops will use the GIE as a guideline, but at the end of the day, they are trying to make the sale, and if the pearl looks good and someone is in the market to bargain, they will bend the truth a bit. The GIE certificate does not hold the same weight (or formality) that a GIA does. Pearls average in price from $100 to $10,000. There are so many factors involved. I would definitely recommend shopping around before buying anything. The majority of what you will see are pearls that range from 8 to 14 millimeters. Generally speaking, the darker the pearl and the more luster and cleaner surface it has, the more expensive. If the pearl is so dark that it has almost a navy-blue shine, it is very rare. Another thing to note is the shape. Most people believe if the pearl is not completely round, it is a defect and cheaper… NOT the case. In fact, you will find that many of the oblong or odd-shaped pearls are more expensive and harder to come by. Another thing to note is that many people think they can come here and buy a cheap black-pearl necklace. Not the case. In fact, we found that black pearls were cheaper in Maui than here – of course, with a smaller selection. If you are looking for a black pearl mounted on platinum, you will be disappointed. Platinum here is very hard to come by, and therefore, you will find most jewelry is set in yellow or white gold (if not silver).
Overall, the experience of shopping for the pearls is very interesting and could easily pass a day. If you really want these pearls but find that they are too expensive or can’t find it set in something you like, buy the pearls loose and have it set at home. It is a much cheaper option, especially if you have a jeweler at home you know or have done business with. As a general rule of thumb, bargaining is "allowed" and encouraged while shopping for pearls (only). This is recommended if you have time to spare or if you are in the market for Tahitian pearls.