Escape to Bora Bora: The ‘Faraway Heaven’ at the Heart of Polynesia
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - The Allure of Bora Bora's Idyllic Lagoon
The crystalline waters of Bora Bora's lagoon are undoubtedly one of the biggest draws for visitors to this South Pacific paradise. Encircled by a coral reef, the lagoon wraps around the island like a shimmering sapphire necklace. Its protected waters provide a calm sanctuary for an astonishing diversity of marine life, making it a snorkeler and diver's dream.
As you gaze across the lagoon's translucent turquoise waters, you'll understand why Tahitians call it the "fragrant waters" - the scent of tropical blossoms wafts gently on the breeze. Dotted with small coral formations rising just beneath the surface, the lagoon provides a home for schools of butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish and more. Larger inhabitants like manta rays, reef sharks, sea turtles and dolphins also frequent these rich waters.
For many, experiencing Bora Bora's lagoon is a highlight of their South Pacific travels. Gliding across the lagoon's glassy surface aboard traditional Polynesian outrigger canoes, visitors can observe the island's unforgettable scenery. Bora Bora's iconic Mount Otemanu provides a breathtaking backdrop as you drift across the lagoon's vibrant reef. Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding also allow you to admire the lagoon's beauty and encounter its marine residents up-close.
Don your mask and snorkel to discover the dazzling world beneath the lagoon's surface. Vibrant coral reefs teem with thousands of colorful fish and invertebrates. Often called an "aquarium without walls", the diversity and abundance of marine life is astonishing. Watch blacktip reef sharks patrol the lagoon's deeper waters as green sea turtles and eagle rays drift by.
For scuba divers, plunging into the lagoon's depths reveals even more marvels. At spots like Coral Gardens, you'll be surrounded by coral heads pulsing with colorful life. The lagoon's numerous dive sites cater to all levels, promising incredible underwater adventures. Night dives reveal entirely different creatures like octopus, moray eels, and swarming squid.
What else is in this post?
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - The Allure of Bora Bora's Idyllic Lagoon
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Snorkeling and Diving in the Island's Pristine Waters
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Luxury Resorts Nestled on Private Motus
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - The Intriguing History of Bora Bora
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Culinary Delights with French and Polynesian Influences
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Activities Like 4x4 Island Tours and Shark Feeding
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Getting to Bora Bora: Flights and Cruise Options
- Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Bora Bora on a Budget: Ways to Save on Your Trip
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Snorkeling and Diving in the Island's Pristine Waters
Snorkeling and diving in Bora Bora's pristine lagoon waters is nothing short of magical. The vibrant reefs and abundance of marine life make it a world-class destination for underwater explorers. For many, experiencing the wonders beneath the lagoon's surface is the highlight of a Bora Bora vacation.
As you float across the lagoon, you'll be amazed by the kaleidoscope of colors and movement happening below. Schools of yellow tangs and blue-green chromis dart amongst staghorn coral, while giant clams snap shut their colorful mantles. Look closely and you may spot shy octopus tucked into crevices or a hawksbill sea turtle gliding by.
Descending beneath the surface, you'll enter a living aquarium. Each dive site has its own unique character and inhabitants. At popular spots like Motu Piti Aau, coral bommies rise up like miniature mountains, providing cleaning stations for eagle rays and sharks. At Coral Gardens, cabbage coral fans wave in the current, hosting darting anthias fish. Here blacktip reef sharks may even come in for a closer look.
For new divers, Anau and Garden Eels Lagoon provide shallower reefs to explore. While experienced divers can plunge 100 feet down at sites like Pinnacle and the Aquarium. Night dives reveal even more marine life, like feathery lionfish and spiny lobsters. With virtually no currents, Bora Bora offers superb visibility and easy diving for all levels.
While scuba diving reveals the lagoon's most hidden secrets, snorkeling is equally impressive. Many visit Bora Bora just to snorkel its legendary reefs. You can snorkel directly from the beach or join a lagoon tour to hit top sites around the island. Snorkelers flock to spots like Coral Gardens where blacktip reef sharks come to be cleaned. Here you can watch the daily shark feeding spectacle.
Drifting atop these vibrant reefs, you'll be mesmerized by the sheer diversity around you - butterflyfish and parrotfish dancing amongst coral, while angel and trumpet fish hang motionless, waiting to ambush prey. Watch giant trevally hunt while batfish cruise the sandy bottom. With some luck you may encounter gentle manta rays or a hawksbill turtle.
The best snorkeling tours use guides who grew up in these waters. They know where sea turtles nap and sharks gather, sharing incredible marine life encounters. Some outfitters offer walking tours, guiding you among shallow reefs at low tide. This provides a colorful snorkeling experience for non-swimmers too.
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Luxury Resorts Nestled on Private Motus
Bora Bora is renowned for its lavish resorts, many situated on their own private islands, or "motus", tucked away across the lagoon. These secluded enclaves of luxury offer the ultimate island hideaways. With their overwater bungalows perched above crystalline waters, five-star amenities, and emphasis on privacy, they provide an escape right out of a dream.
While public beaches on the main island allow all to sample Bora Bora’s beauty, the private motus host only resort guests. This exclusivity heightens the feeling of having your own South Pacific oasis. The only visitors to these islets are manta rays gliding beneath your bungalow and crabs scuttling across ivory sands.
Overwater bungalows are the epitome of indulgence. Glass floor panels allow you to peer down at passing fish, while outdoor decks feature direct ladder access to the lagoon for swimming and snorkeling. From lavish soaking tubs to room service via outrigger canoe, overwater stays marry luxury with natural splendor.
Leading resorts like the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort and Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora lure celebrities and indulge honeymooners in well-appointed overwater villas. With sights like Mt. Otemanu as your view, not even the hefty price tags of $1,000+ per night can deter luxury-seekers.
Though out of reach for many, more budget-friendly stays on motus are available at places like Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort. While not as lavish, their beachfront bungalows still offer a taste of exclusivity. Ultimately, staying atop those iconic overwaters or on a motu’s private sands carries a certain mystique. As the sun dips below the lagoon each evening, you’ll be far removed from the world beyond.
Motus stays let you immerse in island life, waking to the sound of waves lapping your deck. Each day presents a blank canvas for crafting the perfect Polynesian experience. On the pearl-hued sands of your own motu, privacy replaces pre-planned itineraries.
Though seclusion reigns, resort motus hum with activity from romantic dinners on the beach to Polynesian shows under the stars. You can dine on grilled mahi mahi, savor sunset cocktails, and stroll the shoreline hand-in-hand. Many offer spas tucked away in gardens or pontoons anchored in the lagoon for paddleboarding and snorkeling excursions.
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - The Intriguing History of Bora Bora
Though nowadays renowned as an island paradise, Bora Bora has a long and captivating history. Understanding its past provides insight into the island's culture and people, enriching any visit. From early Polynesian settlers to serving as an important World War II supply base, Bora Bora's strategic location has influenced its intriguing history.
Archaeological evidence indicates Bora Bora was first settled around the 4th century AD by seafaring Polynesians traveling across the Pacific in outrigger canoes. These bold voyagers used the stars to navigate thousands of miles to find new islands to inhabit. Bora Bora's volcanic peaks made it visible from afar, and its protected lagoon provided calm waters teeming with fish.
Upon arriving, settlers cleared sections of dense jungle and planted crops like breadfruit, yams and taro. They collected shells from the lagoon to craft tools and built thatched huts along the shoreline. Skilled fishermen took to the lagoon in outrigger canoes to supply their communities. Villages were typically governed by local chiefs under a complex hierarchical system.
Later, 19th century European explorers like James Cook arrived, bringing Christianity, new crops and technology. This irrevocably changed island life, though ancient traditions were retained. The London Missionary Society took hold and many locals converted to Protestantism, abandoning rigid spiritual class divisions. New plants like pineapple and cotton were introduced, altering agriculture.
During WWII, Bora Bora proved vital as the site of Operation Bobcat, a massive American supply base supporting Pacific campaigns. At its peak in 1943-44, over 5,000 US troops were stationed here. Quonset huts, pipelines, and gun and torpedo shelters were constructed around the island. Locals assisted the war effort as engineers, nurses and interpreters.
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Culinary Delights with French and Polynesian Influences
One of the joys of visiting Bora Bora is experiencing the island’s unique fusion cuisine that combines French and Polynesian influences. From tropical interpretations of classic French dishes to Polynesian specialties, the flavors reflect the blending of cultures that has occurred here over centuries. Many visitors find themselves indulging in multiple memorable meals during their stay.
Signature French-Polynesian dishes not to miss include poisson cru, a raw fish salad marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. This light and tangy dish makes perfect use of the island’s fresh seafood. Locals recommend the parrotfish or octopus versions. Traditional polynesian feasts called Ahima’a remain popular, where an underground oven called an ‘ahima’a oven is used to slowly roast pork, chicken, fish and vegetables to perfection.
For a true local delight, sample uru - the heart of the breadfruit plant baked or fried into fritters. This starchy treat has sustained Polynesians for centuries and offers a nutty, mild flavor. Fresh tropical fruits also abound on Bora Bora. Savor juicy mangoes, pineapple, guava and passionfruit picked right on the island.
Though casual beachfront eateries serving grilled fish and burgers are plentiful, gourmet experiences await as well. The island’s luxury resorts like the St. Regis Bora Bora and Four Seasons excel at fine dining with Polynesian flair. Menus fuse French culinary techniques with the flavors of coconut, vanilla, lime and more. Sample exquisitely presented dishes like mahi mahi with vanilla sauce or slow-cooked pork shoulder with breadfruit chips.
Travelers recommend reserving one night of your stay for the traditional Tahitian dinner and show offered at resorts like Le Méridien. Here you can sample staples of Tahitian cuisine like po'e (pudding made from bananas, coconut milk and breadfruit) while watching talented performers in grass skirts share invigorating drum dances and sing hauntingly beautiful himene songs.
For a quintessential French experience, head to top-rated restaurants like Villa Mahana or The Sunset. Here seasoned chefs craft artisanal takes on classsics like escargot, foie gras and beef bourguignon. You’ll feel transported to France as you sip Bordeaux against the backdrop of swaying palms. Villa Mahana earns particular praise for its romantic waterfront setting and extensive wine list.
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Activities Like 4x4 Island Tours and Shark Feeding
While lounging at your resort is always tempting, getting out to explore the whole of Bora Bora rewards with one-of-a-kind island experiences. Adventurous types shouldn't miss the chance to take a 4x4 island tour. These guided treks allow you to experience the island's rugged interior, full of untamed jungle, hidden WWII sites, and scenic vistas. Hold on as skilled drivers navigate steep muddy trails, splashing through rivers to reveal the island's secrets.
Tours like the Matira 4x4 Safari pick you up in a custom monster truck to careen up the island's spine. Your enthusiastic guides share legends of ancient temples and sacred sites nestled in the jungle. Stopping at scenic overlooks, you'll gaze out at the entirety of the island and lagoon stretched below. The bone-rattling ride and cheeky commentary make for an unforgettable way to explore beyond the beaches.
While land excursions thrill, getting out on the lagoon is a must in Bora Bora. A highlight for many is embarking on a shark and ray feeding tour. Donning snorkel gear, you'll be gently lowered into the clear waters as your guides begin churning up fish to attract the marine life. Within moments they arrive - sleek blacktip reef sharks and giant friendly stingrays swarming for their snack.
It's an adrenaline rush being in the water amidst these powerful creatures. But the opportunity to observe them up close as they spiral through the lagoon is incredible. Your experienced Tahitian guides maintain a respectful interaction that is safe for both humans and sharks alike. As you peer down into the depths, the true diversity of Bora Bora's marine life is on display.
While some may have fears, the sharks here show no interest in swimmers. Well-fed, they are content to dart amongst snorkelers giving outstanding photo ops. Watching their effortless gliding and whip-like tails is mesmerizing. After the feedings, your guides may even let you gently pat a passing ray. Don't pass up the sharks and rays tour - it provides once-in-a-lifetime encounters with the lagoon's most iconic residents.
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Getting to Bora Bora: Flights and Cruise Options
Getting to this remote South Pacific paradise requires some planning, but reaching Bora Bora's shores offers ample reward. Your gateway will be Fa'a'ā International Airport located on the nearby island of Tahiti. From there, scenic flights operated by Air Tahiti whisk you away to Bora Bora in less than an hour. You'll soar over turquoise lagoons, green peaks and coral reefs on final approach. Flights arrive at Bora Bora Airport on Motu Mute in the north.
While not the cheapest island hop, flights from Tahiti provide the fastest and most direct way to reach Bora Bora. You can expect to pay around $500 roundtrip from Tahiti. Search Google Flights for the best fares and book early. Hopper and Skyscanner also help monitor price trends. Consider flying into Tahiti a day or two before your Bora Bora flight to avoid missed connections. Papeete offers a convenient overnight stop with time to explore Tahiti's capital.
When booking, research baggage allowances carefully as Air Tahiti charges hefty overweight fees. Pack light or pay up. Also beware Air Tahiti is notorious for delays and cancellations. Build buffer time into your itinerary as you never know when your Bora Bora dream might be deferred. Check recent reviews to gauge current reliability.
Though reaching Bora Bora takes effort, touching down you'll know it's worth it. From the air, the island's palette of emerald and azure dazzles. The pleasant open-air terminal offers panoramic lagoon views while friendly flower-adorned staff greet arrivals. Resort shuttles await whisking you across the causeway to your island escape. Don't miss watching your departing flight lift off across the lagoon.
For travelers short on time, cruising provides an attractive alternative. Major lines like Celebrity, Norwegian and Princess offer Bora Bora as a port of call on South Pacific itineraries. Arriving by cruise ship provides easy access without costly flights. However, time on the island is limited to a day or two. Most cruise offerings only provide a snapshot, not an immersive Bora Bora escape. But for a first taste, cruising offers convenience.
Escape to Bora Bora: The 'Faraway Heaven' at the Heart of Polynesia - Bora Bora on a Budget: Ways to Save on Your Trip
Though a luxury paradise, a Bora Bora escape doesn’t have to drain your wallet with the right strategies. This iconic South Pacific destination is more accessible than its glossy reputation suggests if you plan wisely. Follow savvy budget travelers who’ve unlocked ways to savor Bora Bora without overspending.
The biggest barrier is airfare, which isn’t cheap. However, you can secure flights for under $500 roundtrip from Tahiti by watching sales. Sign up for Air Tahiti’s email list to receive notifications of fare deals. Consider traveling in the off-season of late March to early May when rates dip. Just avoid July to September when French Polynesians take holidays. Being flexible with dates helps find bargains.
Don’t feel forced to stay in an overwater bungalow. More affordable motu beachfronts and garden view rooms provide similar easy access to the lagoon. The Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa and Conrad Bora Bora Nui offer some of the best values. While not five stars, they deliver a true Polynesian experience without insane price tags.
When it comes to dining, hit up local spots around Vaitape town. Snack on cheap, delicious crepes, sandwiches, burgers and poisson cru. Food trucks like Roulotte Matira offer filling meals starting under $10. Happy hour specials at beach bars like Bloody Mary’s provide mango mojitos and sunset views without breaking the bank.
Don’t miss out on adventures - lagoon tours are actually quite reasonable. Join group excursions for shark and ray feeding or coral garden snorkeling. Avoid pricey private charters. Shop tour providers for deals. Most offer a vastly discounted child rate if you're traveling as a family.
Self-touring by kayak or paddleboard allows you to freely explore the island’s exquisite coves and beaches. Many hotels provide them complimentary for guests. Hiking and cultural sites are also free to visit. Bring a picnic lunch along to save on meals.
Save on resort extras by avoiding high-priced spa services. With a lagoon like yours, who needs a massage? See if breakfast or evening appetizers are included. One hotel happy hour can take the place of a whole dinner out.
Lastly, avoid the huge temptation of duty-free French perfumes and liquors on departure. They inflate your bill exponentially. Spend that money on extra days in Bora Bora instead - they’ll give you memories that last far longer than any bottle.