Bora Bora

Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of French Polynesia  ,
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Up at 6, breakfast, unwanted bags in hotel storage and then a taxi to the airport before 8. Checked in, security and then onto the 68 seater turbo prop aircraft for the 50 minute flight to Bora Bora.

There are about 118 islands scattered all round Polynesia, with Tahiti as the main hub. I had chosen Bora Bora in the Leeward Islands to the east as the typical lagoon based tropical island. Besides that it has such a fabulously sounding name. If our time in the islands was limited, then let's spend it on a good one.

We flew over two other lushly green islands surrounded by different shades of turquoise and blue waters and outer reefs. Soon we were descending into our own turquoise waters and the airport, which was built on the outer reef in the north of the island. It was a ferry ride to the central island and its main town of 'Vaitape', where a 'minibus', a converted truck with wooden side benches took us to the hotel.

We had decided against one of the huts built on stilts over the water as we wanted to spend our time seeing or doing (maybe) as much as we felt like. The room was in a residential complex on the densely forested mountain side that ran down to the sea and the hotel centre was on the lagoon beach side. Here was a restaurant, bar, infinity pool and dive centre (no I didn't know that when we booked, it was just a real bonus - Thank you Gods!)

Soon unpacked and settled into our modern (air conditioned) room, we wandered round and quickly explored the hotel, which was in the tropical style. It was lunch time and extremely hot and sunny (I guess in the high 90's) and we booked a dive for tomorrow before returning to our room.

In mid afternoon we went snorkeling off the hotel's beach. Walking into the sea there was no 'oooooh' feeling as you got deeper, just an 'aaaaahh' as the warm water hugged you. Wonderfull. The beach quickly sloped away and there were low outcrops of coral on the white sandy bottom. Around these were many tropical fish of different sizes and exotic colours. Now we were starting to see our tropical island and it was a lovely experience. In the trees around the hotel were young Frigate birds and they chased each other through the branches and over the beach making screeching calls like pterodactyls. I stayed in the water longer whilst Norah sunbathed on the beach. Late afternoon and after a shower we returned to the beach side bar for cocktails. This was a completely different set up and atmosphere to Easter Island. This was a definite tourist holiday atmosphere where Easter Island was its natural, no frills self. Here we were certainly getting the frills!

We ate supper in the hotel's restaurant and although the menu was not elaborate, it was good. An early night followed as we were still adjusting from the time change yesterday.

Wednesday 12th March

Up at 6.15 for an early breakfast (what happened to the holiday frills?) As we were getting dressed there was a sudden heavy rain shower which lasted for 15 minutes and stopped as suddenly as it had started, leaving blue skies. I was at the dive centre for 7.30. Norah had decided to go into 'town' to have a look around.

We motored up the lagoon and picked up other divers at a couple of hotels. Here the water taxis are busier than the road taxis as it is easier to get round by water. At the north tip of the island we crossed the reef into the open sea and moored in a two metre swell just off the airport. The last words of the dive briefing were "they feed sharks round here so don't swim with your hands sticking out!!!" We rolled off the side of the boat into the swell and down the mooring line to the bottom at 25metres. Wow Wow Wow Wow !!!!!  It was like being in an enormous tropical fish tank. I had seen the dive book photos, where you were surrounded by fish and this was one of those scenarios. I have never seen as many different type, shapes, sizes and above all, colours of fish. They were all around you and in, out and around the different types of coral growths and gullies on the bottom. It was a fantastically amazing experience. Oh yes - the sharks. There were around twenty, 1.5metre long, white tip and black tip reef sharks cruising round in mid water, so they weren't too much of a distraction on the bottom!  Here, grazing on the coral were two 60cm loggerhead turtles, who just let us drift by as they fed and a shoal of over 100, 40cm (small) barracuda, who were swimming on the edge where the reef sloped away. Suddenly they seemed to take fright at something and all turned and shot towards us, parting at the last minute as they passed through our dive group. It was like being in the middle of a shower of arrows. Mesmerising. A solitary, 60cm silver tuna moved slowly by us, a gorgeous fish.

We had now swung round in a large circle and as we started to ascend I looked up and the sharks were above us. Perhaps they had decided it was feeding time! They parted as we rose in a group and then circled us, like the cowboy films where the Indians circle round a wagon train. I was not particularly concerned but it was intriguing to see how close they came, especially when they just brushed your fins and eyeballed you!

I had been impressed by the diving in Florida, I suppose it doesn't take much for someone who trained in Starmount and Ecclestone Delph flooded quarries (in the depths of winter) but I was now realizing that each dive was getting better than the one before and it was magical.

We motored to a second dive site, still off the reef and slightly calmer. More 'WOW' factor in the brilliant, clear blue water but hardly any sharks. The fish were just as varied and then the main attraction appeared - a 2 metre Lemon Shark. The black tips were like big pups compared to this guy. This was a serious looking shark - sleek, athletic and strongly graceful as he glided past us, thankfully some distance away. He made a few more appearances during the dive but always at a distance. Too soon and again it was time to surface and return to the hotel. What a magical morning.

Norah returned from 'town' and reported that there was very little to see apart from a few tourist shops, two churches, a café and the ferry terminal BUT, she had been on a tour of a couple of the pearl farms that the island is renowned for. They seed and grow their own range of cultured pearls in the tropical waters here. Mmm - this sounded ominous.

An easy afternoon in the shade, it was around 30 deg and as the afternoon wore on it became quite breezy. We didn't want to eat in the hotel that night, so we bought wine, pate, bread, cheese and salad from a local supermarket and picnicked in our room. Here it went dark at 6.30, as compared to the 9.30 dusk at Easter Island, so we decided, unfortunately, not to eat on our patio in order to avoid the local evening bugs.

Thursday 13th March

A lie in until 8.30, although it was daylight at 6am and a leisurely breakfast looking out over the lagoon. I've always hesitated to use the 'paradise' expression but here was surely looking really good. It was still breezy and a little cloudy, which helped to keep the temperature down. We had decided to go back into town and look at another couple of pearl shops, one where we chose a small dark pearl as a memento of the island.

The afternoon was spent sunbathing and snorkeling along the beach, before squeezing cocktails in and then another picnic tea. The weather was going stormy and with the freshening breeze came a thunderstorm offshore, with great lightning bolts shooting through the clouds. It didn't develop on the island and we had a quiet night.

Friday 14th March

Awake early to a steady downpour and a strong breeze. It slowed to a shower after breakfast and then brightened up by the time the dive boat left at 0800 (come on - I couldn't pass up another chance of diving in waters like these)! Norah opted for a 'beach' day, making the most of this ideal opportunity to chill out before the next phase of travelling.

The fast aluminium dive boat set out through the lagoon towards the north where, on the way, we passed a pod of small dolphins (and a flock of gannets) who were feeding on a shoal of fish. We stopped to watch for a few minutes and then went on to the dive site.

Without repeating the details it was another magical dive but this time I felt as if I was seeing more, rather than just being overwhelmed by the visually stunning sight around me. I noticed more of the extremely varied shapes of the coral growths and the way that the fish population live in, around and under the coral. I watched the way that the fish behave in a defensive and sometimes territorial way. How some types of fish would come up close and others would shy away as you approached. This was way better than 'Coronation Street'! There were just a couple of black tip reef sharks, one of them a youngster who just like a puppy dog, came closer to see what these intruders were.

Second dive was back to where we had seen the Lemon Sharks the other day. All quiet, there were dozens of Barracuda around and then coming up the slope was a 2 metre Lemon Shark, then another, then another. It looked just like a world war 2 movie, where three destroyers sleekly follow each other in line astern. It was a fabulous sight. These guys passed at a distance and we continued our circular route over the reef. There was another group of divers away to our right and as we came to a gulley, the three Lemon Sharks came up it between our groups and then turned towards us, swinging past us at the last moment. If I had reached out I could have touched the leader and I got a close up of his jaws and the inwardly curved teeth. As he passed I was seriously eyeballed and a great feeling of respect came over me, as I realized just whose domain this was. I had wanted to see sharks since I started diving and it was an exciting experience to be so close to these fantastic creatures. There may be readers who have dived with bigger sharks but these were amazing moments for me.

We motored back through the fabulously blue waters outside the reef and when we reached the spot where we had seen the dolphins they were still there. We slipped into the water close to them but they did not want to play. It seems the smaller species do not react with humans so much as the bigger bottlenose dolphins but it was still exciting to be in the water with them.

Back at the hotel we sunbathed for a while, had lunch and then a relaxing afternoon before cocktails. Could we get used to this? Maybe, but our feeling is that whilst this is enjoyable for a few days relaxation, we need something to occupy us and we're not yet ready for a long beach type holiday. Everything is relative and I appreciate that this may not be the feeling of our friends suffering the current English weather. Once again, it makes us feel so lucky to be doing this trip.

Our final relaxed dinner was in the hotel restaurant. Not busy and I think they are just off season but that suits us fine. All the staff have been very friendly and helpful and this seems to run in the Island's style. There is no tipping on the Island and everything is done from a spirit of friendliness, which makes for a great atmosphere.

Saturday 15th March

The night turned quite windy with a long thunder storm and a lot of rain, which eventually stopped after dawn leaving the morning air fresher. There had also been a big bug making a noise on the trees outside all night. We had seen the type at Iguazu and it was about two inches long and had a serious sting, so we didn't go out looking to ask this one to keep it down a bit!

A relaxed breakfast (that word relaxed seems to be connected with everything we have done here) and then packing ready for a lunchtime 'bus' to the ferry terminal. We spent the last hour sitting on the dive boat jetty in the hot sun and feeding the fish with the last of our 'picnic' bread.
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