Bora Bora is drop dead gorgeous! Any travel poster is understated. The Islands are the greenest of greens and the water …. a hundred shades of blue. The area is actually a sunken volcano crater that forms a big lagoon which contains a larger island and several smaller ones.
It was a US navy base during WWII as the reefs provide a natural barrier. The US Navy built several structures on the island including a couple of piers, the road that circles the main island and the airport which is on one of the smaller/flatter islands. The main island goes almost straight up with little flat land.
Tourism and black pearls are the main economy. Bora Bora is well set up for the tourists, well organized and very friendly. This is a bit different than Tahiti where it seemed like “Oh, there is a cruise ship in town, I guess that means I should work today” . In Bora Bora, it was more like “Yay!, there is a cruise ship in town, lets go have some fun and make some money!”.
On the islands, there were many of those bungalows, sitting just above the water with prices of $900-1,000 per night. Bora Bora has no tide so the bungalows are ok just a few feet above the water, but many of them went bust in 2008. Everything needs to be shipped in including the diesel fuel for the electric plant. There are 8 supply freighters per week. Better than Nuku Hiva where the supply ship comes once a week. With no natural rivers or waterfalls, 40% of the water is created by a reverse osmosis desalination plant, 60% with wells. No living cheaply in paradise!
Back to the water….. it is 80 degree, crystal clear with white sand or coral, creating all the shades of blue. Our shark and stingray encounter started on a big outrigger looking catamaran. The crew of four included 2 musicians that were really good and played whenever we were cruising from place to place. The first stop was around the other side of the airstrip island where the water was even prettier. This was the shark and stingray area. It was about 4-5 feet deep with mostly sand and some coral. I convinced Mel to come out into the water since it was so shallow and the water so warm and beautiful. At first there were only stingrays around, at least 10 of them, 2-3 feet across. We were told we could touch the stingrays but not the sharks. I touch four of them. Like touching a cold, wet marshmallow. One older, scarred up guy’s skin was a bit abrasive.
Then came the sharks… The crew told us, don’t worry the sharks are vegetarians and proceeded to feed them squid. We were instructed to not to hold our cameras out underwater as the sharks are they might think the camera is food and also touching the sharks might pissed them off. None of this was encouraging Mel to go in the water. But she went in and we paddled around with our snorkels looking at the pretty fish and the graceful stingrays, when a 3 foot stingray came up from behind and swam directly under us. Very startling to have this big, silent gray mass, glide under you. A few minutes later the sharks started circling around and a big 5 foot one came right at us and turned at the last minute. There were 4-5 large brownish sharks and 8-10 smaller, silver sharks circling around, just like in the movies. Mel stayed in a little bit longer and decided to go back to the boat. She did come back in the water later with the camera which is where she got me snorkeling and other the water level shots Not sure about Mel, but would do it again in a heartbeat!
Second stop was a “coral garden” area further out by the reef. The water was about 6-10 feet deep with nice coral bushes in colors of yellow, lavender and chartreuse. Saw lots of clams stuck in the coral “bushes”. The interior of the clams have very vibrant colors of electric blue, purple and orange. High contrast to the yellow/green/brown standard coral. There were NO sharks or stingrays, just small to medium colorful fish.
Afternoon tour was around the island in an open air/island bus type of thing called Le Truck. The tour completely circled the island in 2 hours which included 3 stops, which should give you a sense of how small the island is. Stops included: how to make a pareo, best beach on the main island and the Bloody Mary Bar where many famous people have come to have a drink. (see pictures). Along the way we learned that land crabs like to eat flowers and there are no graveyards on the island. If your family likes you, they bury you in the front yard and surround your crypt with plants. If they don’t, you could be food for the fishes.
We did do a little window shopping. It is with great restraint, we have not bought many souvenirs. Its only the 3rd stop of 55 so we need to pace ourselves!