To most, Bora Bora conjures up images of an exotic palm-fringed, sugar-sand paradise somewhere out in the middle of the South Seas, mostly visited by starry-eyed honeymooners who rarely adventure beyond their private overwater bungalow.
While it is all that, Bora Bora can be so much more. Far beyond enchanting, Bora Bora is also exciting. For those seeking a more exhilarating experience, you will find it on this tiny, pristine land mass, labeled by many seasoned travelers – including author James Mitchener – as “the most beautiful island in the world.”
Here are ten activities for the more adventurous explorer.
1. Shark Feeding
The phrase alone is enough to invoke waves of terror. Just a short boat ride out to the shallow reef will bring the intrepid traveler face-to-face with a bevy of blacktip reef sharks. Not to worry though, because the blacktip is generally docile and does not feed on human flesh; it is not unusual for them to swim in close proximity to snorkelers. The actual feeding is done by an experienced guide and produces a frenzy of sharks all vying for the offered victuals. Not to be missed.
2. Get Up Close and Personal with Stingrays
In the shallow lagoons created by the motu (miniature islets afloat around the main island just beyond the reef), legions of stingrays gracefully glide about, seemingly seeking contact with swimmers. There are a variety of tours that will take you to places like “Manta Ray Channel” that are populated with the rays. With some tactic maneuvering (and possibly assistance from your guide), it’s possible to reach out and touch their velvety hides.
3. Scuba Diving
The sunlit crystal aqua water and density of sea life make Bora Bora perfect for diving. The Coral Garden Reef in just 18’ of water is ideal for an introduction dive. You may even spot a moray eel camouflaged near the bottom of the coral. More experienced divers can head out to deeper waters or the steep drop-off coral walls up to 150’ in depth.
4. Swim with Octopi
Look closely in the shallow shore near some of the deserted islands and you just may find a baby octopus lounging in the rocks. These slippery sea creatures can attach onto your skin or expel ink, so handle them with care.
There can be no more striking view of the Earth than looking down at the motu around Bora Bora from above. Unfortunately, the $2695 sticker price for the private helicopter and tandem jump for two people prevents most from taking advantage of this spectacular vista.
6. Safari Expedition
Bouncing wildly in a 4×4 open-air jeep up the steep, craggy volcanic terrain to view Bora Bora’s stunning scenery is a great way to see much of the island away from the lagoon, though it verges on thrill-ride status and not for the faint-hearted. Reaching the top, passengers are treated to a 360 degree panoramic view of the lagoon and reefs ringing the island, as well as some of the neighboring islands of French Polynesia.
7. Parasailing and Jet Skiing
Solo or duo, the fabulous birds-eye view from nearly 1000 feet makes parasailing a fun alternative to the more expensive sky diving. Launched and then returned to a boat, the partakers never get wet. Jet skis are also available for rental for a couple of hours with a guide to zoom around the lagoon and stop at various islets for a picnic or to snorkel.
8. Eat Exotic Food
Move over sushi… meet poisson cru (“raw fish”), the new ceviche. A delectable concoction made of fresh raw tuna, cucumber, scallions and tomato, the fare is served marinated in lime juice (which slightly “cooks” the fish) and creamy coconut milk which adds just the right amount of texture and sweetness. This dish is even enjoyed by those who do not favor sushi.
9. Dance Like a Polynesian
All the larger hotels will feature at least one night with a dinner and traditional Polynesian dance show complete with warriors and grass-skirted locals. To be chosen to do a tamure – the exotic, athletic Tahitian hip-shaking hula, simply get yourself seated in the front and make eye contact when they begin “scouting” for participants.
10. Polynesian Wedding Ceremony
And for the really, really brave. . . it’s possible to arrange for a spontaneous traditional Polynesian wedding. An outrigger canoe will come to the hotel to pick up the couple, dress them in traditional Polynesian garb and flowers and take them to a deserted motu. Once there, warriors carry the couple in their arms to meet the priest for a ceremony complete with singing, dancing and champagne. Note: the fear factor can be eliminated by requesting a non-binding ceremony.
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