Monday, June 5, 2023

Hype or Reality? Exploring Bora Bora

Bora Bora, a name that evokes images of pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and luxurious resorts. It's a place often associated with dream honeymoons and celebrity getaways. . My son, Rivers, and his wife, Laura have a Screensaver on their TV that flashes up a scene from Bora Bora.

I wasn't able to exactly replicate it for several reasons. 1) The peak of Otemanu is almost always at least partially covered by clouds. 2) This picture was taken from one of the resorts, across a reflecting pool with the overwater bungalows between the camera and the mountain 3) I did not see the "No Signal" sign floating in the air.

In spite of all that, this was my attempt to re-create the picture from Rhapsody.  This is taken on the East side of Bora Bora, looking west at the main peak of Bora Bora, Mount Otemanu.

So, what is so great about Bora Bora, both by itself and in comparison to all of the other islands we have been to? Does it live up to its hype? One of our cruising friends referred to it as Bora Boring and I believe that is mainly because it is difficult for any place to live up to all of the hype about it, however famous it may be.

One of the first thing that anyone that has been there will tell you about Bora Bora is the water. The turquoise colors of the lagoon are stunning and the water is incredibly clear.

This picture was taken on our first day in Bora Bora.  The water here is probably about 20 feet deep and the coral heads, or bommies as they are called, provided some excellent snorkeling right off the back of Rhapsody. The incredible clarity of the water can make it difficult to judge the depth of the water.

This is the small island of To'opua within the greater lagoon of Bora Bora. This picture shows the pass within the lagoon that we first sailed Rhapsody around and then returned to dive a few days later. There was quite a strong current in the pass on the day that we dove. As we were making our way up current we looked up and saw a fever of eagle rays (yes, that is the name of a group of rays) appear before us. We counted an astonishing 50+, swirling around us, gracefully navigating the sandy bottom of the pass. They hovered in place, just above the clear sandy bottom at nearly 50 feet below the surface. They seemed to be flying, their pectoral fins, looking much like wings,  constantly flapping, as they moved against the current, always maintaining their position. They moved effortlessly and gracefully as we hung on to the sand and any outcropping rocks, trying to hold our position so that we could watch them.

Bora Bora offers an opportunity to "cabotage," a French term for exploring the lagoon within the fringing reef.   We had a chance to cabotage Bora Bora, which certainly has some very shallow portions that need to be navigated and at times it felt a bit like slalom skiing, as we passed to the right of one marker, to the left of another, and back to the right to avoid an exposed reef,

The yellow line was our route, weaving through the red and green markers. With our keel measuring 7 feet 2 inches (2.2 meters), we had to navigate through areas where the water was less than 10 feet (3 meters) deep. It was a bit nerve-wracking with Bob at the wheel, watching the chart plotter,  and me in the bow watching for the coral reefs and the shallow areas. It is definitely a team effort! We weaved our way around ensuring the safety of our boat and arrived safely in the far southeast corner, about as far away from the crowds as you can get on Bora Bora. 

 Bora Bora is primarily set up as a destination vacation, with a focus on luxury accommodations and commercial activities. Many people choose to stay in the extravagant hotels and overwater bungalows, indulging in the amenities and services they offer, both for the beauty and experience as well as being able to say "I went to Bora Bora" 

Bora Bora is known for its exclusivity, which comes with a higher price tag. Compared to other islands in French Polynesia, both the restaurants and the local fruit and vegetable stands tend to have notably higher prices. It's a destination where the expectation is to indulge in the luxurious offerings and commercial activities. The grocery stores were smaller and not as well stocked as those on other islands. Even the prices at the local fruit and veggie stands were quite high but perhaps due to the shocked look on our faces, or some sort of guilt for charging us so much, every vendor added more to our bags after we had paid, more tomatoes or more bananas, or more of whatever we had bought, even though we did not want more as we had carefully chosen the amount that we thought we could eat before they went bad. Oh well... I guess we'll figure out something to do with all these extra avocados. 

Part of the draw of Bora Bora is hoping to see or be seen with the rich and famous. Bloody Mary's is a restaurant that feeds on that idea and has a reader board outside listing all the names of people that came there but you didn't get to see! 

More names if you care!

This picture was taken from the clearing for a communications tower above Bloody Mary's,  looking across the lagoon at Mount Otemanu. Can you find Rhapsody?  Good luck with that. We are actually 5th from the left in the very back row, just where we like it, in the back of the pack.

The island, though beautiful, may not fully live up to the overwhelming expectations surrounding it. We enjoyed our time in Bora Bora, but as is usual, we were ready to move on and explore other places, ready to uncover the hidden gems that await us. 

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Cindy said...

It was great snorkeling with the rays, and some other little sharks when we were there. The guys did have some goodies to feed them so that they would want to hang around and visit us. But what an experience nothing compared to yours, but I certainly enjoyed it being there for a day.��

Anita Motard said...

Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. Meeting you in Bonaire and getting my butt beat by you at Mexican Train domino's is one of my best memories. I learned never to sit or play after Sarah :)
Safe travels