TOM: We’ve now had two days at Bora Bora, and we’ll lump them together for this journal update. Our ship, has been anchored just offshore of the village of Viatape. For the two days we’ve been here, there has been an overchoice of tempting activities -- even if you don’t count the many things there are to do right here on the ship. The excursions have included specialized snorkeling trips; diving adventures, helicopter rides around the island, underwater exploration in a small submarine, wave runner rentals to circumnavigate the island, water “scooters”, and even an odd looking piece of headgear that lets you “walk on the bottom” without knowing a thing about deep water diving -- or, as advertised, even how to swim!
There has been day-long tender service either to the little nearby town of Viatape; or a bit further to a private snorkeling beach at yet another idyllic spot near the edge of the lagoon that surrounds Bora Bora. The island can also be explored by private bus (“Le Truck”), rental car, motor scooter, or taxi.
Early on the first morning our ship was joined by another cruise ship, the Princess Cruise ship “Sapphire”. It’s apparently unusual for our ship to have a “neighbor” at any port of call, and for good reason. Our 300-passenger vessel looks like a rowboat next to the 2,000-passenger Princess behemoth. Moreover, the tiny shoreside town of Viatape, which has only 15-20 shops in the entire town, was absolutely swamped with tourists. The ship’s staff encouraged everyone who had not previously booked an excursion to “save” the village and/or island tours for the second day, and consider taking advantage of the ship’s own private snorkeling beach on day one. The Princess vessel was to depart that same evening, and on our second (and last) day on Bora Bora the town and the entire island would have only our ship’s passengers as visitors.
We opted to take advantage of the ship’s “private snorkeling beach”, about a 20 minute ride by tender from the ship. On the trip to the beach on the tender, we noticed a young polynesian in a sleek single outrigger canoe that paddled behind our little boat just as we departed for the little island where we’d snorkel. What really happened is that as soon as the tender came up to speed, the canoe positioned itself just behind our tender in the boat’s wake -- and used it to “surf” almost effortlessly out to the motu “right on our tail” and with very little effort. It was a fascinating sight (see video clip)
We arrived at the motu to find yet another almost indescribably idyllic setting. Soft white sand beaches covered with coconut palms to provide shade, and once again those amazingly crystal clear turquoise waters. The snorkeling here was so good that we made a point of spending part of both of our afternoons at Bora Bora here. The second day was even more rewarding, as the prior evening we’d attended one of the naturalist’s lectures about “fish identification”.
We’d seen so many different types and colors of tropical fish on the first day that it was a bit of sensory overload. You take a mental picture of some particularly fascinating specie of tropical fish, but later when you want to describe it you find you’re a bit at a loss for meaningful words. From the lecture we learned to spot certain characteristics of the fish, such as which fins are used for propulsion; the relative depth at which they were seen; whether they are “compressed” laterally or vertically; the shape of the tail, etc; certain striping patterns; etc. It really DID help when after the second day’s snorkeling trip we compared notes on what we’d seen.
STEPHANIE: When you sign up for this cruise, included in your “packet” of information is a list of the various tours which will be offered on each island. There’s a small bit of information on each, and, of course, the cost. You are encouraged to sign up, via the Internet, as soon as possible. We decided to wait until we were on the boat to choose any such excursions, and, so far, we’ve not been disappointed. Yesterday, we joined “Le Truck”, for a trip around Bora Bora.
It’s only 19 miles around Bora Bora, and some of our fellow travelers opted to rent bicycles and ride around it. In my opinion, that’s a bit scary. There’s quite a bit of traffic here with an overabundance of trucks. And the road is extremely narrow. From my window seat on “Le Truck”, I winced whenever we passed another vehicle. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on a bike even if the weather had been cool enough to ride.
But ours was a perfect way to see the Island. “Le Truck” is, in fact, a blue, blue bus. Inside and out, it was decorated with bunches of red hibiscus flowers and green hibiscus leaves.
It might seem odd that a 19 mile tour would take 3 hours, but this bus only went short distances between stops. Our first stop was at a very picturesque Presbyterian Church nestled at the bottom of Mt. Otemanu. Next came pauses at an old, very small marae. Just down the road, our driver pointed out an old, rusted armament shed, relic of WWII. No room for pictures here, as the narrow road was even narrower here.
Just a mile further on, we pulled off the road at a small family-operated pareo shop. We watched as a woman took a piece of wet, white cloth, and dipped various parts of it into paint. She put some of the cloth in bright pink paint, while other parts were dipped into brilliant blue. She added greens and yellows, and then spread the cloth on a drying table. If I had attempted this, the result would have been one large mess -- but hers was a beautiful pareo in the making.
But she wasn’t finished. Next she took some cutouts -- fish, turtles, a palm tree and the words Bora Bora, and carefully placed them on the cloth. When the cloth was dry, the places where the cut outs had been would be lighter than the rest, adding to the overall design.
About now, her small daughter came out to help, showing some of the customers the cut out pieces, and adding her favorites to the cloth.
Whether it was the beautiful finished pieces of cloth fluttering in the warm breeze, the fresh fruits available for snacking or this small adorable little saleslady, this small family business sold several pieces of pareo cloth this morning.
Around the rest of the island we went, stopping at various spots for pictures of the mountain and sea. At one point, we could see the narrow, rutted, dirt road the off road adventurers take on their jeep tours. It appeared to be headed straight uphill to the mountain’s crest.
Our last stop was at Bloody Mary’s restaurant. Evoking memories of “South Pacific”, this small, trendy restaurant is certainly a place to visit. Pictures of celebrities dot the walls and a large outside wall lists the names of the “rich and famous” who have visited there.
We had a couple of free hours this afternoon for another snorkel. It was fun to try to identify the fish we saw using Naturalist Bobbi’s list. It’s a bit like identifying birds, not done by the color, but shape, use of fins, slope of head, and depth of the water where the fish was seen. It really works. I need to get a “fish book”.
Tonight we set sail for Moorea. Two days there and we’ll be back in Papeete. It seems impossible that this trip is coming to an end.
Postscript: Online access has been a bit of a challenge, and has limited the options for uploading pix and especially videos. We’ll likely hold some in reserve for a final posting once we’re back to a spot where we have a more usable connection...