Bora-Bora is a Honeymoon destination par excellence.
We, of course, were not on honeymoon.
Approaching Bora-Bora from the sea, on your own little boat, just HAS to be VERY different from coming in to land on a jet-plane, staring starry-eyed at the beautiful island and enclosed lagoon.
The news that friends of ours had run aground on a reef and lost their yacht was still uppermost in our thoughts and it made the surf, crashing onto the shallow reef surrounding the Bora-Bora lagoon, seem extra scary. We slowly plodded along outside the reef for what seemed like hours, before we reached the entrance. Every now and then we could glimpse the bright blue, CALM sea within. Oh, how we longed to be anchored.
At least the passage into this “Volcanic Island slowly evolving into an Atoll” was easy to access.(Not like some of our near disastrous entries in the Tuamotu Atolls). During the war, the Americans enlarged the passage to make sure that their warships would be able to enter. So Shang Du had no problem. (It also had a lot to do with having a working engine as well.)
We anchored fairly close to town – rest and supplies being the immediate priorities. This would be our last port of call in French Polynesia. No clearing in, only clearing out once we were ready to leave. Aaaah……The first night after a crossing is always the best. Glorious, uninterrupted sleep.
Bora-Bora must be a really famous place because even I have heard of it. We made a point of watching the movie “The South Pacific” after our stay there. Interesting. Not accurate, but quite recognisable.
What we found on land was a bit disappointing. Frans and I visited the Tourist office, but even though the lady was really friendly, she gave us no voluntary information. She answered questions, but gave no suggestions and we ended up a bit more confused than before entering. We did manage to get a number for someone who offered Island tours. It was only later that we realised that almost all of the tourists on Bora-Bora fly in with a complete pre-booked package of what they are going to eat, drink, see and experience. And… if they wanted to add on to their experience, their “resort” would provide anything they needed. Very few people were “walk-ins” like us.
The great advantage of having a family of 6, is that any tour or service will probably run for us alone, as we invariably fulfil the minimum requirement.
On our Island tour we were joined by a man and woman. As they introduced themselves to us, the children were tickled pink to AT LAST meet a real honeymooning couple!
From them we learnt that it was really hard and also expensive to travel to the Island itself from the various resorts if it was not already included in your package deal. Most people are whisked away to their resort as soon as they land and then there is no way to get to the main island except by a ferry trip or special water-taxi – both very expensive!
They also gave us some idea of what it felt like to stay in those idyllic-looking chalets with the glass bottoms and private little swimming pools that we could only glimpse from our dinghy.
They told us that due to the design of the resort it felt as if their chalet was the only one. So, completely private. Big plus. : )
There are meals provided at the resort restaurant which are included in the package. Another plus. It made it very hard, though, for them to impulsively sample the streetfood sold at roadside stalls on the “mainland”.
Apart from the little pool in front of each chalet, there is also private access to the sea. This seemed to be sooo cool, until we realised that there were no fish around the chalets and no reef nearby. This turned the sea into just another salt water swimming pool. The resorts do feed the fish at certain times though, and then it IS possible to see them through the glass bottom and also around the chalets.
So…… why would one choose a chalet at a resort (stationary, not much sea-life, limited moblilty, captive market for expensive tour packages etc.) above your own sailing boat (with your own dingy transport, many changes of scenery, home-cooked meals etc.)??????
For THE FRESH WATER SHOWERS of course!!!!! LOL
OKAY, OKAY, after my slight detour into Lala land, I’ll get back to the Island tour:
Even though the Tour operator was as friendly and his English even better than the other operators on previous islands, we had to come to the conclusion that he just didn’t have as much to work with on Bora-Bora. It really is quite a small island. He took us to 2 look-out points and three touristry attractions.
The first look-out point (or what Canadians call a Look off point) was next to the signal tower with a good view of the entrance canal into the lagoon. It was also next to the tour guide’s home. After a few questions, we learnt that he and his brother were some of the last people to be born on the island. Pregnant mothers are now transported to a hospital on another island, to deliver their babies there.
Some of the roads that we travelled by were DEEPLY rutted and we agreed that even if we had rented a car, we would not have reached some of the areas that we did.
The other lookout point was a well known rock, slightly elevated from the sea.
There is some story attached to it, I am sure, but our guide didn’t share anything in particular.
We did have a good view of at least two of the “honeymoon” resorts. This is where we had our long discussion on what it was like to stay in those chalets. Our tour guide told us that the most expensive resort does not allow locals to dine in their restaurant. Ever.
But, the tour did not only consist of lookouts. We were taken to three very touristry activities. Touristry does not mean that it was not enjoyable, only that it was a planned activity put on just for visitors. We visited a very well known pub/restaurant called Bloody Mary’s.
In front of the pub there is a huge board filled with the names of all the celebrities that had visited there in the past. It was very amusing that some of the names that my children recognised were Rowan Atkinson and James Mitchener.
Inside the pub, they have really unique restrooms. We would have missed these if it was not for my small bladder. The whole pub floor is covered in raked sand and they allow you to walk around barefooted if you so choose. Of course, Karin Joan so chose.
The theme continues into the rest room with raked sand on those floors as well. There are swinging doors into the cubicles and it felt very beach-like . I could not figure out where to wash my hands. In one corner there is a “rock waterfall” with a little pool, but no water. The pool is at about hand basin height. After staring a little harder, I managed to spot the chain and ring hanging to one side. As soon as you pull the chain, you cause the waterfall to flow and you are able to wash your hands. When I came out and shared my experience the whole Shang Du crew needed the restrooms.
Frans said that the men’s ablutions were even more interesting, but we won’t be posting a picture of that.
The second “activity” that we visited was an introduction to the island fruit. We loooove fruit. The huge “Pampelmoes” (grapefruit) and the coconuts went down very well, but we were a bit wary of the starfruits. They are beautiful when cut up and a great garnish to any dish. Our first taste of starfruit was in Brazil and we decided then that these were an acquired taste and that we had not acquired the taste. But, true to the island people’s nature, they insisted that we try them, and I must admit that this was a very different fruit to the Brazilian one. They looked the same, but tasted much nicer. It was nearly two and a half years ago that we were in Rio, so maybe we have just changed in our expectations, but I think not.
Our last stop for the day was a cloth printing shop. They use paint, sunlight and stencils to produce all kinds of beautiful handprinted materials.
Of course, they also want to sell the merchandise that they make. To assist in their sales, we had an extensive “sarong parade” in which they demonstrated the diversity of the sarong by draping it over us in many ways.
The “woman” in charge was actually a man (Behind Marike on the photo).
“She” was definitely trying to look like a woman and it was very funny, but the only ones in our tour group to be taken in, were the two men!
The really neat part of this printing stop, was that they put out bowls of cut-up coconut and mango for the tourists to try. We absolutely adore fresh coconut and the mangoes were really delicious too. You could never tell by our actions that we had just left the fruit tasting station. 😊
We did enjoy the tour, but in retrospect, we think the operator could have done a much better job if he divulged more island stories and explained Bora-Bora’s involvement in the War.
Later, we did some exploring on our own and managed to find some of the war cannons still up on the gun turrets.
It was a lovely walk – even though we had to ask for directions twice, as it was so badly marked. The first time was at the yacht club (where rich yachties go to relax). On the way back, we actually stopped there for some VERY expensive coffee and milkshakes). I have to say, that I don’t know which treat was nicest. The one from the Yacht club, or the one we bought from a little roadside stall after another walk. Probably the second, as it was such a “local” thing to do.
The other activity we managed to do was to take our dingy right round the main island, on the inside of the reef. It made for a great sight-seeing trip even though we became thoroughly drenched by a sudden Tropical downpour.
Then, there was the real reason for going to Bora-Bora. The diving!
I was going to include the diving into this blog, but it is long enough as it is. You’ll just have to watch this space for the underwater section. Coming soon!