This is my most favorite of the South Pacific islands. It is one large island surrounded by lots of smaller islands (motus) with a reef that surrounds these motus. This makes a protective lagoon inside the reef which is great for snorkeling. In fact this lagoon is three times as large as the land portion of the island. When we were here once before years ago, I said it was my favorite snorkeling place in the world. After today, I’ll confirm it once again. This is the picture I took in the early morning light as we sailed in.
After we tendered in to the dock, we met our guide, Patrick. This excursion was organized by another cruise critic member, and I was told it was “the best” tour and there was a waiting list because the outriggers could only accommodate 36 people (12 per outrigger.)
The guide in our boat, Ed, gave us the option of going outside the protected reef in order to see lemon sharks and other fish. We all agreed even though we watched the surf crashing in to the reef as we went around it. Only one other man and I got into the water here. It was deep, but I did get to see a lemon shark – plus lots of other fish! We weren’t here long, but it was well worth the stop.
We then headed back into the protected lagoon area for our next snorkel stop. On the way our guide played his ukulele and sang Tahitian songs. At the next stop we were able to get in water where we could stand up. We saw more stingrays and many more black tipped sharks than I had seen elsewhere. I was also surprised to see so many of the Hawaiian state fish – a long name I can’t say or spell! Plus, we saw many fish we had seen when we snorkeled in Hawaii.
The next snorkel spot was called the Coral Garden, a protected area where the diversity of South Pacific marine life can be observed in its natural habitat. More than 700 tropical fish species live in this reef. Doug and I both really enjoyed this spot. I found a moray eel that was the biggest and most active eel I’ve ever seen. I followed him around as he made his way in and out of the coral. I even saw him eat a little fish. He was truly ugly and had small short teeth which I was able to take a picture of as well. Our guide finally came over and tapped me on the shoulder to tell me to be sure not to get too close or touch him . . not to worry, that was not going to happen!! I also saw another clam with a blue zigzag line showing the opening – only this one was larger and more easy to see against the white coral background.
We worked up an appetite for the huge BBQ lunch that awaited us on our own private motu. This is a picture that shows one of the outriggers plus the tables in the water for our feast! And feast it was! It began with Tahitian beer, French wine and champagne. Before they removed the banana leaves under which suckling pigs had been roasting on hot lava rocks for over half a day along with island favorites such as bread fruit, plantains, taro, and chicken with spinach, fresh tuna and lobster were being cooked on an outdoor grill. In addition to all these cooked items, there was local fresh fruit of pineapple and bananas. And we ate it all with our fingers – native style.
One of the highlights of this excursion was the head of the company who runs it – Patrick. The people on our cruise who had done this same tour the year before couldn’t stop talking about Patrick – especially the women. When I met him, I understood. He is a really interesting looking man . . and seems to be very nice, although I didn’t get much of a chance to speak with him since he was in a different outrigger. But after lunch, all the women had their picture taken with him – after he took off the parea he was wearing. And I joined in the fun as well. Maybe it was the champagne! But he also has interesting tattoos so we all had him model those as well. I know this picture will get “double-clicked” by many of you! He said there was a story behind the tattoos, but I never got to hear it.
After all this excitement, we got back in the outriggers to head off to our next spot. I decided to sit on the very front with another woman to get a clear view of the scenery. And just after Doug helped me on, he fell getting into the boat himself. I heard this gasp and the words “someone fell” only to find out it was Doug. The color of the boat edge and the water were nearly the same, and he was trying to move our backpacks out of the way for someone else and didn’t look carefully enough as he put his foot out – and his leg went down between the boat and the dock. He was so lucky he didn’t break his leg or cut himself as he pulled his leg back up. But he did scrape the inside of his thigh and ended up with a huge, purple bruise on his whole upper leg. He was amazing – I would have been crying – but he just kept smiling, put some antiseptic on and didn’t even flinch when it stung.
We then headed off to the “spa” spot. This was a shallow place in the middle of the lagoon where the sand was a different consistency. We were told that if you rubbed it on your skin, it would be like exfoliating it and would make it smooth and healthy. Doug said it would mainly take off whatever sunscreen we had on! I didn’t get a picture of this, but everyone seemed to enjoy it – or at least another opportunity to get back in the water. The water was so shallow and clear, you could just sit down in it.
And then it was time to head back to the ship after a full day of sun and fun. We had circled the island throughout the day and we had a long boat ride back to the place to get our tender. We were able to see lots of scenery along the way – even a canon on the hillside that had been placed there during WWII but never fired. And we saw lots and lots of what has become the typical Bora Bora hotel – all the little private “huts” out over the water. You see those in travel magazines and have to think Bora Bora since this is where they were first built. Other islands have copied them because they are so great for island vacationing. But they are very expensive. Most have a floor that can be opened at night with lights to see the underwater life below. The one in this picture has an added “gazebo!” There are usually many in a row, but I wanted to show a close-up view of one. And you can also see some of the various shades of blue in the water. Because of the surrounding reef, you see this even more around Bora Bora. All of it makes this island one of my favorites.
We were really worn out after such a long day outdoors and even after such a huge lunch, we were starving again by dinner. And after that we were both asleep before 9 p.m. and a bit grateful for the upcoming sea day to sleep in and recover!
A GREAT end to the three days we had in the French Polynesian islands.