We have to pinch ourselves. We really do. Here we are anchored in the stunning emerald lagoon of Bora Bora, the epitome of romance for honeymooners and touted as the most beautiful island in the world. And we just sailed in and plonked ourselves down next to all the rich and famous enjoying their mega-bucks holiday! Ok, we didn’t exactly get here for free when you take into account all the costs associated with cruising..…but you get my drift. All very “Ab Fab” – “Eddie, Eddie sweetie dahling, fetch me my long white gloves and let’s crack open another bottle of Bolly dahling”.
As expected, tourism is the only business here, and the lagoon is mostly filled with bungalows over the water, belonging to all the major hotel chains. Tourist boats whizz back and forwards together with the inevitable jet-skis (grrr!!) but nothing, nothing, can take away from the stunning scenery and the shades of blue in the lagoon. Words really can’t describe it, so here’s some pictures to paint the scene:
These pictures were taken, of course, on the good days when the sun was shining. But the reality is that the weather’s been very unsettled since we’ve been here and more often than not it’s been raining or very windy, making it difficult to do many ‘off-boat’ activities. It’s also been hard to find a good weather window for the next 500NM trip to the Cook Islands, so we’ve now been here almost double our intended time, waiting for an opportunity to go west. Damn, I here you say, you poor things being stuck in paradise!
When we first arrived we anchored on the west side of the island, near the township of Vaitape and the Mai Kai Marina (not really a marina at all but a popular cruiser’s hangout at happy hour). The town itself is surprisingly under-developed and uninspiring. There are two reasonable supermarkets, a small chandlery and hardware store, banks and post office, but the rest of the street is filled with the usual tourist shops selling pearls and souvenirs.
So we got out of there as quickly as we could and moved a little further north to the next bay, off the Bora Bora Yacht Club. (again, not a yacht club as we would know it, rather a small waterfront restaurant and bar with accommodation, and not very welcoming to yachties!). The anchorages on this side of the island are very deep so unless you can find a vacant mooring ball you’re faced with the prospect of putting out 60-70 metres of chain. It gave our anchor windlass a workout I can tell you!
Having had enough of the west side of the island we motored round to the eastern lagoon. There are a couple of shallow spots and some tricky navigation but it was well worth it, it’s definitely the beautiful side of the island.
Here we’ve mostly been spending our time swimming and snorkelling in the crystal clear water, catching up on internet (finally we’ve been able to get some decent wifi courtesy of the Sofitel hotel) and enjoying the scenery. We tried 3 different anchorages on this side, but our favourite has been right down on the southern corner, through a very narrow (and shallow) channel which opens up into a small lagoon off the Intercontinental Hotel and very close to the coral garden snorkelling area.
We decided to try our luck getting access to the beach bar at the Intercontinental, and were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome we received, even directing us where to land the dinghy on the beach. So we indulged in some very fine Margeritas, enjoying our upgraded status from grotty yachties to welcomed guests.
Diving is supposed to be one of the drawcards of Bora Bora, but since we’ve been here it’s mostly been too windy and rough to venture outside the reef. We tried one dive-site inside the lagoon on the south-west side but the swell coming over the reef had created a fiercesome current, so we aborted that mission. We had more luck on the eastern side of the lagoon – one of my dreams has been to dive with manta rays, and there’s a site on the eastern side known as ‘manta ray alley’. Sounds like my sort of place! So we geared up and took the dinghy over to the mooring ball, eventually tying up alongside one of the other dive boats there. Sadly the visibility was pretty poor, but when those giants came gliding out of the gloom – what a thrill! A very very special encounter and one for the memory books. Here’s a bit of video that Bruce took:
They may look daunting, but they’re completely harmless with no stinger like other rays. They feed on plankton, and are one of the most graceful and beautiful creatures of the ocean, and not in the least phased about the presence of divers. How very lucky we were! When we surfaced and told the guys on the dive boat that we’d seen two mantas they were quite stunned, I don’t think their group got to see any!
We’re now back on the western side of the island doing our final provisioning and checking out, and preparing for our 3-4 day passage to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. The weather looks promising for a good run (hopefully without too much motoring) so tomorrow is likely to be D- day and our farewell to French Polynesia. So long, and thanks for all the baguettes!