The name alone is dream like. World famous for it’s lagoon of many blues and picture perfect scenery, Bora-Bora deserves it’s nickname “Pearl of the Pacific”. It’s not a place that regularly appears on backpacker travel lists as the cost of staying on the island is so expensive, yet it is on this small island of 38 km2 that we decided to spend a few days.
Bora Bora is formed from an extinct volcano, surrounded by a lagoon and a coral necklace that protects the area. This is a barrier reef, opens to the ocean: Teavanui Pass, west of the main island, which allows most large ships to enter the lagoon. They must however remain in a channel because the water is so shallow. To the east and north of the island, the reef supports a series of islands composed of coral debris and sand (this kind of island is called a motu). Mote Mute, is the airport of Bora-Bora. This is where we landed, from Moorea, after a 50 minute flight and a short stop on the island of Huahine. We sat on the right side of the aircraft to enjoy the best views of Bora. Seating is not assigned and we ensured we were first in queue to get our desired seats. Once onboard we got our cameras ready. The view was magical, and hard to believe that somewhere so beautiful really exists!
Upon landing, we collected our bags, and sailed for 20 minutes by catamaran (included with the flight ticket) to reach the port of Vaitape, the main town of the island.
We then journeyed 10 minutes by taxi (2000 Pacific Francs, 17eur) to reach the Tiare Market, a small supermarket where we had arranged to meet the managers of the campsite. With no phone to advise them of our arrival, the taxi driver kindly let us borrow his. Twenty minutes later we met Bertrand, a local of Bora Bora, who picked us up with his tiny boat.
The beautiful colors of the lagoon hit us like a big slap across the face, from dark blue to turquoise.
The transparency is exceptional, and we see several rays swimming alongside our boat. Our campsite was located on the Motu …. yes thats right, on the same motu as some of the most expensive hotels in the world such as the St. Regis or the Four Seasons Bora Bora (minimum price of a night in a Standard room: 1000EUR per night)!! The campsite cost 2000 Francs per night, or 34eur which includes a private beach on private land, lagoon and probably one of the best views of the whole island, facing the sunset.
It’s hard to believe that this was all for us, and testament that our extensive research on the internet has paid off (the campground is open for less than 6 months and does not advertise on the internet except for a discreet Facebook page). Further proof, we were the only guests!! On arrival at the site, we were greeted by Kenya, the owner’s daughter, who was friendly, and always smiling during our stay, we immediately felt at home. The campsite was very basic, no electricity (a generator is on for a few hours in the evening) or refrigerator to store our food, which was a slight problem as we brought a lot of food in anticipation, including some fresh produce such as milk and cheese. There are no stores on the motu, just the hotels and private properties belonging to locals and some celebrities (including Jack Nicholson, whose villa is apparently a stones throw from where we were! Bertrand proposed to call his cousin who owns a boat and had planned to visit during the after-noon. We placed an order for three large bags of ice, Bertrand having a small cooler and this would keep our food for a day or two. Some time later, Bertrand asked us what we wanted to eat. We pointed our finger at three french sticks purchased the previous day in Moorea. He suggested to cook lobsters, caught that morning in the rocks on the other side of the lagoon, and its a free lunch! We didn’t believe him and we asked to see the crustations. He returned with a large lobster and 7-8 small lobsters in a big casserole.
It was unreal, Bora-Bora, private beach, transparent lagoon, fresh lobster with French baguette and mayonnaise, all for 34eur/night! The value is there if you seek it! Anne Marie spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, while Thomas spent several hours in the lagoon, with his scuba mask and snorkel. There were plenty of rays and sharks though unfortunately no mantas. For mantas you must dive to a depth of more than 20 meters.
The price of a dive with one of the many operators in the area: 90eur. No thank you, not on our budget … maybe one day? In the evening we met the grandfather of Bertrand whose name we have unfortunately forgotten but not his humor! He is one of the elders of village Te Anau, and highly respected by others. He invited us to come the next day and attend Mass for the feast of the Ascension.
Our plans were agreed over a glass of rum from his personal reserve. The night falls fast in Polynesia and we were in bed around 20h.Upon awakening the next morning, we opened the tent to discover the view from our bed. There’s worse, you might say. After breakfast, we boarded the boat, and headed for the Protestant church located on the mainland.
Everyone is dressed in their Sunday best. We didn’t blend in, Thomas wearing army shorts and Anne-Marie in a summer dress, alongside the men in suits and women in flowered dresses but who cares!
We entered the church and were greeted by Tahitian songs. Everyone was smiling, singing along to the music and clapping their hands. The church was packed and the temperature rising, thankfully fans were installed on the walls. The mass, in Tahitian, lasted almost TWO hours. It was, as expected a nice experience, which was the case during the first half hour. We did not understand anything and spent most of the time between sitting and standing positions. Fortunately, as usual, they saved the best for last.
After the Mass ended, we were welcomed by Bertrand’s aunt, who invited us to share a local meal in the company of all participants at Mass at the rear of the church where several long tables had been set up. We had the privilege to taste several local specialties including cassava, chicken fafa and “poisson cru’ which is raw fish, marinated in lemon and coconut milk. It was a delight, enjoyed in a friendly atmosphere.
Polynesians really know how to welcome guests and entertain. We got ready to return to the boat, though not without taking some pictures with a local the size of Sebastien Chabal.
On size alone, it obvious to see the supremacy of New Zealand (and its players from the Pacific) in planet rugby.
The afternoon was spent in the sun on the motu. At sunset, we blew the cork off a bottle of champagne bought for 12EUR in New Zealand at Brancott estate which we had carefully transported! No champagne glasses though but still it was a real treat to drink from the bottle on our private beach!!
We spent our final night in the tent, which we bought for $ 40 from a French couple in Christchurch. Knowing that we would probably not use it once we arrived in South America, we proposed to exchange it for a free night at the campsite. A bargain for all involved and we were relieved of 5 kilos weight in our luggage. On our last day in Bora we took the opportunity to make a small tour of the motu, some swimming and taking all the beauty in, images that we will never forget.
On arrival at the international airport in Papeete, Thomas realised that he lost his bracelet (and Pearl) purchased in Moorea. After having searched everywhere and making sure it was not lost / forgotten on the plane, he decided to buy another in a jewelers at the airport. Fifty euros lost but at least he has a souvenir. Four hours later, we flew to the United States, an eight hour flight to reach Los Angeles aboard an Airbus A340 Air Tahiti Nui.
It’s over for the South Pacific. We’ll see you in America!