Bora Bora. Paradise on Earth. Period.

Trip Start Jan 04, 2011
Trip End Mar 23, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, March 18, 2011

What can I say?  We definitely saved the best for last.  Bora Bora is true PARADISE ON EARTH!  Somehow, even with such high expectations, Bora Bora managed to wow me like no other place has.  From the very first sight of the fabled isle on approach in our Air Tahiti propeller plane, Bora Bora is a pure marvel to the eyes.  A feast of colours (greens, blues, whites), geometry (symmetrical shape), sandbars and peaks from the air.  A feast of perfuming flowers, colourful fish, tropical fruit and warm Tahitian people on the ground.  Perhaps the splurge on staying in an over-water bungalow may have biased my opinion of our 5 day stay in Bora Bora, but with the natural beauty here, it would be hard not to be dazzled by this place.

Upon arrival, we were taken by catamaran from the airport (which is on an island that fringes the lagoon - also referred to as a "motu" here) to Vaitape (the main village on Bora Bora).  We then boarded a shuttle bus to our hotel just 10 minutes away.  The over-water bungalow was everything we thought it would be and more.  The experience of walking off your deck and into that incredibly coloured lagoon was priceless.  From the minute we entered the turquoise warm waters, we were greeted by a sort of United Nations of the fish world... A few representatives from every variety of fish around approaches flashing its colours and swift moves all around you.  Likely the result of being fed by every tourist who comes here.  It truly is a snorkelers paradise... and literally right under your feet.  Our over-water bungalow had a glass floor in the center of the sitting area covered with a glass coffee table.  From here we could watch the fish traffic both day and night (we had a spot light into the water).  Though it was a very different experience, nothing beats swimming with them just inches away from your face!

Speaking of swimming with marine life, during our Bora Bora lagoon cruise we got to take part in a couple of experiences I will not soon forget- swimming with sharks and petting stingrays.  When our captain stopped the boat in the lagoon and threw chunks of raw fish into the water, I could not believe my eyes.  Within mere seconds, sharks raced up to the surface to snap it all up. Fighting each other and causing a big splash like they hadn't eaten in a week!  In less than a minute there were dozens of these 4-5 feet long black-tip sharks surrounding our little boat.  Then he says, OK, let's go in!!??!!  Given I'm hardly what the marketing folks refer to as an "early adopter", I waited until most if not all of the 8 other passengers on board tested the waters, successfully, before I put on my snorkel gear and ventured in.  Soon enough I felt like one with the little beasts.  Actually, the lemon sharks that stayed below us at the bottom of the lagoon where not so small.  They were perhaps 6-8 feet long.  Still a little nervous when one of those comes straight at you and only turns away 2 feet from your snorkel mask!  Can one sweat in water?

Of course, once we conquered the fear of big sharp teeth in the water, it was time to deal with 5 foot long tails loaded with fatal venom - stingrays!  Even after "Jaws" and other shark-attack movies, it appears venomous tails instill more fear in us than sharp teeth.  Me included.  It was only after our captain had not only fed and petted the stingrays, but also, lifted them out of the water with his bare hands, that most of us intrepidly descended the boat ladder into the ray-infested shallow water.   There was a young Indian couple on honeymoon that were the most fearful.  Each time a stingray came within metres of them, they booth screamed in a very high (almost deafening) pitch.  The husband with the higher pitch of the two.  I think he missed his calling as a Soprano in life!  The captain had to hold the husband's hand steady when he was taking a picture.  It was shaking so badly!!  Once again, I eventually warmed up to these slimy gliding creatures.  Actually very soft to the touch and friendly.  Having said that, any time one of their tails would rub up against me, I'd still freeze and wait till the whole tail went by ;-)  Unfortunately, given the premature demise of my pathetic underwater camera case (not that anyone's bitter about it), I don't have any underwater shots which would have been amazing I'm sure.  I did buy one of those disposable underwater cameras for the lagoon cruise, but given prior experiences with them, I won't be holding my breath for any decent pics.

Marine life encounters aside, the lagoon cruise of Bora Bora, passing through every shade of blue and green imaginable, was itself an awe-inspiring experience.  Sometimes the water would gradually change shades and colours, other times you could see the marked line with contrasting colours within feet of each other!  During the cruise we would go by the many luxury resorts built on the motus, each with their own version of over-water bungalows.  Some having downright over-water mansions with multiple floors, countless rooms, balconies on all sides and private infinity pools hanging over the lagoon.  Perhaps next time.

Lastly, it has been the warm Tahitian people that most surprised me during our 10 day tour of French Polynesia.  Whether it's the big smiles of the working Tahitian women (they seem to be working more and harder than the men here - including all the heavy lifting of luggage!), or the big laughing eyes of the Tahitian children, I've always felt very comfortable and very welcome.
Something tells me, I'll remember my time in Bora Bora for a long time to come.  Dreaming of it often during our 'lovely' Canadian winters!
I will miss you Bora Bora.

Tonight we just arrived in LA.  Had a very good bowl of pasta (finally!) at a great Italian restaurant in Santa Monica that I've been to before.  Tomorrow we are off to see the men's semi-finals at the Indian Wells tennis tournament in the desert.  I can't believe I'm going to see Nadal vs. Del Potro and Federer vs.Djokovic.  Dream of a lifetime match-ups to end a dream of a lifetime trip!

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