High Society – Bora Bora, French Polynesia

IMG_4574We 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:

Bungalows galore

Bungalows galore

Bungalows over the water are everywhere in Bora Bora

And yet more bungalows…

The extinct volcano provides a great backdrop

The extinct volcano provides a great backdrop

You can just see Toucan (left) and Rehua in our special southern anchorage (photo courtesy Rehua)

You can just see Toucan (left) and Rehua in our special southern anchorage (photo courtesy Rehua)

Blue on blue on blue. Rehua off the Intercontinental hotel

Blue on blue on blue. Rehua off the Intercontinental hotel

another view of the volcanic crater that is Bora Bora. on it's way to becoming a coral atoll

another view of the volcanic crater that is Bora Bora. on it’s way to becoming a coral atoll

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.

Mai Kai Marina, a nice spot for happy hour

Mai Kai Marina, a nice spot for happy hour

the main street, Vaitape. Not so pretty or upmarket.

the main street, Vaitape. Not so pretty or upmarket.

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!

The anchorage off Bora Bora Yacht Club

The anchorage off Bora Bora Yacht Club

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.

On our way to the south-eastern end of the island

On our way to the south-eastern end 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.

The coral isn't great, but there's an abundance of fish life

The coral isn’t great, but there’s an abundance of fish life

and the largest moray eel I've ever seen!

and the largest moray eel I’ve ever seen!

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

A trigger fish and racoon butterfly fish hanging out in the coral gardens

A trigger fish,racoon butterfly fish and cleaner wrasse hanging out in the coral gardens

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.

The very lovely Intercontinental Hotel

The very lovely Intercontinental Hotel

beautiful bougainvillea everywhere

beautiful bougainvillea everywhere

Great Margharitas!

Great Margaritas!

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!

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6 Responses to High Society – Bora Bora, French Polynesia

  1. Geoff says:

    You are truly becoming Rum coonessieurs!

  2. Geoff says:

    Well Bora Bora certainly looks everything it’s supposed to be, very envious! The dive with mates must have been spine tingling!, I have only dived with them in the old Manly Shark tank, very mundane by comparison. Bruce about the girlie drink, I think its back to rum punches for you. Take care you too, missing you both.

    • svtadmin says:

      Hey Sherm, thanks to the Intercontinental at Bora Bora, we’ve now started our own infused rums – one with apple/pear combo, and one with coconut/vanilla. Yum!!!

  3. Rosemary Malone says:

    How are you ever going to drag yourselves away??? x

  4. Linda says:

    How utterly beautiful!

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