Bora Bora is an island in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, and an overseas territory of France (similar to Tahiti yesterday). The island was settled by Tongan people about the 4th century. While the island was sighted by earlier explorers (Roggeveen in 1722 who named Easter Island), James Cook led the first group of Europeans to visit the island in 1777. In 1842 Bora Bora officially became a protectorate of French. The island, located about 260 kilometres northwest of Papeete, Tahiti, is surrounded by a lagoon and a fringing reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia, and the highest point, Mount Otemanu reaching 727 meters is dressed in a cloudy halo. James Michener described Bora Bora as the “world’s most beautiful island” and it really is!
Over the last few years seven high-end resorts have been built on motus (pronounced mo- twos) small islands) surrounding the lagoon. Thirty years ago the Hotel Bora Bora built the first over-the-water bungalows on stilts in the lagoon and today over-the-water bungalows are a standard feature of most resorts. Unfortunately, Hotel Bora Bora has been closed for 2 years. Rumours that it will be torn down and rebuilt are circulating, but investors, are believed to be waiting for better economic times. Bora Bora’s main attraction is its calm and crystal clear lagoon offering a full array of nautical and land activities, such as off-roading the hills to see the old World War II cannons (the island was a strategic WWII Allied fuelling station, and American battlements were set up to protect this operation – the elders of the island did not allow the removal of the gun sites after the war, believing it would bring bad luck, so they stayed). The waters are said to be some of the most beautiful in the world and we can certainly attain to that – How does one describe BEAUTY. The ship is anchored so we’ll take tenders to the shore. We’ve learnt that the anchorage of Bora Bora is actually inside the crater of the original volcano. The island is sinking and moving, and the amount of sand coming in from the reef is changing the colour of the water. It’s just an amazing island.
Today, our new-found friends Mel and Kelley have hired a private boat and to decrease the cost per person will share it with us and 2 other people (Maureen and Rosemary). Our captain, Frank, is all set so we’re off to spend 3 hours snorkelling and having a lot of fun.
We set off for our first stop near the lagoon. The colour of the water is just amazing, it goes from dark blue, to a teal blue, then to a sky blue, then a light blue, and finally a crystal clear. The water is amazing and it’s warm. We’re well lathered in 30+ sunblock and the sights that await us are out of this world. Once we’re in the water we’re immediately surrounded by Manta Rays. There must easily be 50-70 or even more as another boat has come up to join us and we are sharing the wild life. Our captain Frank has some tuna on board and takes a small amount to feed the rays. Oh my gosh, they are literally surrounding us and the weight of their bodies are brushing our legs and we feel that we could fall over. Frank continues to feed the stingrays and in a matter of moments we’re also surrounded by black fin reef sharks. They take up position and are rewarded for their appearance with copious amounts of tuna. These sharks are extremely well fed by the tour boats so are of no immediate danger to us. We’re told to be careful and not stand of bump on either the rays or the sharks. Of course, when one snorkels everything is magnified. The sharks are indeed beautiful, they are a light beige colour with black fins, hence the name. The fish underwater are just amazing – they are all brightly coloured, blue, pink, red, yellow, white strips – it’s just amazing. All these fish sharks, rays and fish, living together. The sharks on this side of the reef are beige as I mentioned, however the sharks on the outer side of the reef are darker in colour. This keeps them with the colour of their environment (the beige ones in the crystal clear water and the dark ones in the deeper water outside the lagoon).
After about an hour, Frank navigates to the outer side of the reef and lagoon. We tie up with 3 other boats and we’re off again to snorkel. This time, we don’t see sting rays but we do see LOTS of sharks. Again, the boat captains feed them well and we can snorkel with them. To be quite honest, I have a very healthy respect for sharks measuring 5-9 feet in length so I keep a close distance to the boat. Again, as we snorkel the beauty of the fish swimming below us is amazing. The colours are bright and they are in a multitude beneath us. I can reach out my hand and almost touch them they are so plentiful and close. It’s really quite a thrill. Gert is definitely more adventurous then me and plays with the sharks. At one point he’s surrounded by these huge sharks, I have to admit I feared for his life, but he was having a ball!!
Our final stop of the day to was a private motu (or small island). This one is for sale for only 3M Euro. It is approximately 3 acres in size and consists of 2 islands which were easily accessed by walking in the shallow water between the two. The colour of the water and the rich coral was amazing. We walked around the island and inspected the pineapples and other fruits. The water being so shallow was like bath water.
We were later dropped off at the Pier where we agreed we’d go out again the next day. It was a fabulous day and one we’ll remember for our lifetime. The colours were intense, amazing, vibrant books that we’ve read can’t even begin to capture the scenes. One man who came to live here when he was a young man of 20 feels like a millionaire – he walks out of his small home that faces the lagoon and breathes in the fresh air, tastes the salt water on his tongue and feels like he’s died and gone to heaven. We think we know how he feels!!