Saturday, March 17, 2007
We landed in Bora Bora in the afternoon and spent some time hanging around the airport waiting for the ferry to come pick us up. The island is really a collection of motus (pronounced moh-too--it's the Tahitian word for small sand islands poking up out of the ocean), and the only way to access the airport is by water.
The trip across to the main island where we were staying was brilliant. The water was shades of blue I didn't even know existed. Throw this together with the sight of so many over-water bungalows, and Karla and I knew we were in 'official' postcard style paradise.
Bora Bora is the tourist centre of French Polyneisa, and so it was definitely a change of pace from Huahine. The place where we stayed, Chez Nono, was along the beach from several big time resorts (including the Hotel Intercontinental!), and there were a lot more people around. Luckily, this also meant there was easy access to a lot of fun things to do. But first on our list was getting something to eat.
Down the beach from Chez Nono was a little "Snack" where we landed some truly fantastic cheeseburgers and some gorgeous, perfectly crispy and perfectly salted fries. Washed down with some cool Hinano beer, I had 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' by Jimmy Buffett running through my mind. I swear, Jimmy probably wrote the song sitting where I was. But he probably wasn't as lucky as me, since a) he didn't have the lovely Karla sitting across the table from him, and b) he didn't have the privilege of seeing a wild stingray cruise into the beach and along the shallows right in front of us. Oh yes, paradise indeed.
The next couple of days had Karla and I mostly cruising between our beach front bungalow and a couple of deck chairs parked under the shade of a beautiful big tree. The major choices we faced were whether we wanted to swim, sleep, read or eat. I got to saw through two books: The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki, that'd I'd been reading for work, and Otherland: City of Golden Shadows, by Tad Williams, that Karla had recommended. Both were goodies. It was great to have the luxury to just read for hours and hours.
We weren't total beach slugs though. We got out and did a couple of dives on the barrier reef that surrounds Bora Bora. The first dive had us swimming with black tipped reef sharks and gobs of gloriously coloured fish. The best bit was the 4 metre lemon-shark that swam along with us for a time. It was huge and beautiful, and not that interested in us. It did get close, though--so close that one of the dive instructors almost managed to catch a ride by getting a hold of its tail!
The next dive was nice but not that eventful. The neatest part of that was the bit of 'drift diving' we did--this meant just floating along as the current took us on a tour of the reef we were exploring. It was so strange to just be weightless and shifted along by the ocean's invisible hand. We were moving fast too--it wasn't exactly slow and easy, and kind of unnerving for diving newbies like us.
The other major activity was tour on our last day. It was great--we started by swimming with some sting rays. They were incredibly friendly, almost like dogs in the way they came up to us and wanted to be petted and fed. They would swim along at our feet and brush up against us. They were often pretty big too, one knocked me right off balance when it snuck up behind me.
We then went for a snorkel with some black tipped reef sharks. The guys running the tour chucked in a bunch of marlin to get them excited. It was amazing to see them swoop in on the bits and pieces floating in the water, especially when those pieces happened to be floating right near you!
After this we went for a traditional Tahitian lunch on one of the motus: barbecued marlin, poisson cru, a local sweet potato, coconut bread, and tons of other tasty tasty things. The tour guides then serenaded us with some local music, and I (with a fully belly and feeling very relaxed) promptly fell asleep. Karla had a great time during my snooze, making friends with the local hermit crab population.
We finished up the day with some snorkeling in the 'coral garden', where we spotted loads more fish, and even a couple of Moray eels. So much fun.
In the evenings, Karla and I would catch the sunset by the beach, and then go out for dinner. The food in French Polynesia is terrific, and Bora Bora was no exception. One stand out place we went was Bloody Mary's, haunt of the rich and famous (including Jimmy Buffet, and it turns out, the gentleman who took Karla and I out for dinner in Huahine, Rudy Markmiller). It's kind of a kitschy place for tourists, with sand on the floor. They even have a big sign out front of all the well known folk who have visited. But despite the hint of tackiness, the food is excellent. The fish, in particular, is brilliant. I know my Dad would be in heaven with all that's on offer.
Fun story: Karla and I got to meet the manager of Bloody Mary's thanks to a little joke Rudy asked us to play. Karla, in her most sultry voice approached Craig, the manger and said: "You know, Craig, you're not as ugly as Rudy said you were". This got some laughs from Craig, who has known Rudy for thirty years, and landed us some free drinks. Good one!
Another highlight of the trip was seeing Karla operate in French. Her skills are amazing! She was making friends with the folks at the hotel and at the dive shop, chatting up check out counter people and bus drivers. I was SO impressed with her, as were all the French speakers we met.
Our last night in Bora Bora we wandered down to the famous Hotel Bora Bora to check out how the other half live in luxury. The hotel didn't fail to impress, and we were even treated to a show! It included dancing, drumming, tests of manliness including spear throwing, rock lifting and fire twirling. It was all really interactive, with the audience members getting in on the performance. It was so much fun to watch, and a freebie to boot!
The next day we were off, and definitely sad to leave. There is so much to see in French Polynesia, I think we're definitely aiming to head back there again, if only for the poisson cru.