Bora Bora is unquestionably the most beautiful and mythical of the Pacific islands. Seen from the air, Bora Bora has been compared to that of a tiny emerald in a setting of turquoise, encircled by a sheltering necklace of sparkling pearls . It’s a short hop over from Tahiti (about 45 minutes by air) but that hop is far too short as you fly over and past the other isles that make up French Polynesia.
Bora Bora’s airport is located on a palm fringed motu about 20 minutes by boat from the main village of Vaitape. Yep, no cabs on this trip, instead off you go via a Boston Whaler. Nice intro to the island as you get a picture perfect view and a splendid ride through the lagoon and its amazing range of hues of blue and turquoise.
Met at the dock by a lovely young lady from the hotel, I and my other fellow guests were loaded on the hotel’s bus and quickly deposited at the hotel’s lobby. Now hotels on Bora Bora are not cheap. In fact, they are quite pricey. My advice, if you are going to over pay for a room: do it with style. And in this case that meant the Hotel Bora Bora and a room built out over the lagoon. Great way to wake in the morning, order up some coffee and sit on your own private balcony outside of your own thatched hut sipping in the caffeine while the ocean waters turn from indigo to turquoise as the sun rises over the sea.
The island is small enough to circumnavigate in an afternoon. Which I did by bicycle. Seemed an idyllic mode of transport for my excursion. And it was, but having not been on a bike in like 20 years, my ass and crotch were major sore the next day . . . but you probably didn’t need to hear that.
Now there’s not a lot to do on Bora Bora, which is part of its charm, but the locals know that touri look for a way to spend their cash and are only too willing to help you do so. And so, in addition to sail boat rides and outrigger rides around the lagoon, swimming with the sharks has become a popular island pastime.
It sounds crazy, but on Bora Bora it’s not an unusual activity—the sharks are supposedly harmless and not interested in people. Out to the outer reef via outrigger canoe (that was a lot of outs), the guides began whooping and hollering and calling the sharks as they threw raw (bloody) fish into the water. I’m pretty sure the hollering part was for show, if you dump tons of fresh kill into the water, sharks tend to find it without auditorial input. Not sure if chumming and starting a feeding frenzy is the sanest method of introducing touri to the local sharks, but what the heck, doing stupid things while on holiday is part of the charm of travel.
Within minutes the sharks have arrived and you slip into the crystal blue water with your snorkel and mask and watch Tahitian divers hand feed the back-tip reef sharks right before your eyes. Like a foot or two before your eyes. During the feeding you have to hold on to a rope in order to keep some distance between you and the sharks. But after their feeding, the tour guides invite you to go past the rope and swim with the creatures.
Now my fellow touri were a bit apprehensive at this point, probably wondering just who it was that decided the sharks were done eating. But I figured a piece of rope isn’t much of a barrier in the first place, at least not to a hungry shark, and that the sharks probably have this routine down and don’t want to screw up the free dinner they get daily, so I immediately scooted out into the blue. Since the crazy American did it, my fellow touri joined in until the sharks had had enough and took off. Guess, like me, they are not overly fond of German touri, either.
Way cool, outing. Makes for a great tale when boring friends with travel yarns. And with the exception of a drunken night at Bloody Mary’s, or maybe that was several drunken nights at Bloody Mary’s, it was the highlight of my trip to Bora Bora.