Day 38 — Feb 7 — Bora Bora
We awake to look out and see a small mountain island out the window as our ship slips quietly into the Bora Bora Lagoon. We prepare for the day and I head up on deck to check out the view. The small mountain that we saw out our window turns out to be the small island. The Volcanoes of Bora Bora tower into the clouds, never to be fully seen today.
There is a luxury yacht in the harbor that turns out to be owned by the Russian billionaire, Roman Abramanoff. We are told this is his SMALL Yacht, sheesh!
Out Tender Tickets in hand, we ferry into the island and start shopping vendors looking for a snorkeling adventure. We soon find one that holds up to a dozen people and we are given a price of $70 USD per person for a 5 hour tour. This is reasonable compared to other vendors and the cost on the ship and we agree. But the price is Cash, no credit cards accepted. We don’t have that much on us but are told by the ship captain there is an ATM and a Bank close by and he leads us there.
After several tries with multiple cards, we find that Mastercard is not accepted but Visa is. Hmmm, our Visa cards are on the ship. We traveled light this morning because we expected to get wet. We get back to the dock and the tour people suggest we give them something of value to insure payment so as not to delay the trip. We can then go back to the ship after and bring them back the money.
Okay, so a Driver’s License is in their possession and we get on the small boat with the tour and all are happy. The boat has an outrigger and we wonder if we will see rough waves. We are told in the winters the water and waves can be rough but not to expect that today. We even have a friend we made on the ship that is part of our tour. 2 more friendly people with our sense of humor from our ship and all is good. Our captain, Marono, has a wonderful sense of humor very much like my own dry, sarcastic, tongue in cheek humor and we are having a grand time! Marono has 2 small dogs that are quite at home sleeping on top of the control housing and it is clear that Marono loves them dearly.
Our camera lenses are in their element also and shutters click away, especially at the azure waters of the Bora Bora Lagoon. Our tour today will take us all the way around the Lagoon and make many stops for us to jump or slip over the edge of the boat into the waters with snorkeling masks and breathing tubes on. What we are not provided, much to my chagrin, are flippers for our feet. So we are given a workout to get back to the boat as a few times we have to swim as hard as we can to make headway in some of the currents.
The first time in the water, we are told there are stingrays but we never see them. The water is somewhat clear but deep so all we see are rocks and such. We climb back on the boat and the next stop is magical as we are told it is shallow so use the ladder on the back instead of jumping off the side. So my dive training is thwarted and I don’t choose to fall backwards off the side of the boat (any of you Divers out there will understand) and I climb down the back ladder. I am immediately entertained by a Stingray swimming around, then 2, then 5, then 7 plus Stingrays swimming less that 3 feet under me as I effortlessly float above them in the salty water, so salty it is difficult to sink.
The Stingrays are so cool to watch and I pay attention to their tails but none of them are bothered by our presence and their Barbs (or Stingers) are not evident. I have been among these creatures before and if they are concerned, they exhibit their Barbed Stinger on their tail and you can clearly see them. I even reach out and pet them as they swim curiously around me. Several of them even nudge me with their smooth bodies and they appear to be wondering if I have any food for them.
Soon, the allure of these creatures diminish a bit as I wonder what else can be seen here and I reluctantly swim away from them looking for other life beneath the waves and Whoa! Wait, is that a Shark? Oh my, it IS! A Black Tipped Shark, all white body with black tips on its fins. I breathe a little heavier for a moment and then my mind travels back to my trip to the Galapagos a couple years ago and remember the docile, unconcerned nature of this species. Unfortunately, I did not bring an underwater camera this trip so you’ll have to take my word on this!
So, alarm abating, I swim closer to the Shark. Wait, did I just say I swam closer? Why I did, didn’t I? Yes, closer to the shark. Wait, there’s two Sharks! Ummm, no, 3… Wait, 4, no, 6! Yes, I am swimming with 6 Black Tipped Sharks! Maybe this is my last moment on earth but I AM SWIMMING WITH 6 BLACK TIPPED SHARKS!!! This is the coolest moment of my life! Oh My God, wait, it’s about to get better! The Stingrays have returned and now I am swimming with Sharks AND Stingrays!
I don’t mean to belittle the other colorful fish in the Lagoon as there are thousands. We swim with them at the next stop also over a Coral Reef. The currents here are stronger and the lack of swim fins takes its toll on our energies and I swim hard for the boat and as I approach the back of the boat and the ladder, it seems the captain has decided to move the boat around to help the other passengers. The one failing of the captain was to see me as I approach and suddenly as I am within a couple feet of the propellers, he starts the boat! I spit out my snorkel and shout loudly and the captain shuts the engine down and apologizes as he allows me to climb the ladder safely, but not after a great scare. I’ll tell you, the sight of a boat propeller from a couple feet away is an alarming sight!
I do manage to climb on board and then the captain maneuvers the boat towards the other passengers that were struggling to reach the boat and all made it on board without further incident. Then the captain takes us to meet his Mermaid. Yes, that is what the captain says we will see. So we all stay enraptured waiting to see the Mermaid. We arrive at a shallow azure water area and we are all scanning the water to see what the Captain is referring to.
Before we know it, the captain jumps in the water to comical cheers of “Captain Overboard!” and he dives the 4 feet to the bottom and comes up with huge handfuls of the sandy bottom and he coats his face and body with the thick claylike sand and calls himself a Mermaid. He proceeds to tell us that people come here and do this partly to exfoliate their skin.
Soon everyone is in the water and is playing with the sand. The captain jokes that it will regrow hair and I coat my bald head with it for some fun photos but, alas, no new hair growth! We all have a good time in the azure water and everyone partakes of the good natured fun. Then it’s back on board and the captain drives away to our next location in the Bora Bora Lagoon.
We pass by many huts built over the water as hotel rooms that I’m sure you have all seen advertisements for in all the travel magazines. There are literally hundreds of them.
Marono then takes us to his own small island where we see rustic makeshift buildings and canopies, as rustic as you can imagine. We walk about the island where there are more friendly domesticated dogs that are happy to see us and our cameras are content with many more shutter clicks. Soon, Marono calls us for a snack that has been prepared by his companion on the island, a snack of ripe fresh tropical fruits from Papaya to Mango to Banana to Grapefruit. We all enjoy the tiny feast served upon woven palm branches and we are told to deposit the peels and skins on the ground in a certain location for the crabs to come feast on later. Nothing is wasted.
Enroute to his island we pass another island that smoke is billowing from and we query Marono as to what is happening. He tells us they are burning palm branches and leaves that they are clearing to make room for buildings. He now takes us around the remainder of the Lagoon and back to the main town where we reboard the Tender to go back to the ship to get our extra money to pay for the tour. Back on the island we pay the guide and start to walk about the island. We see a truck taxi offering rides to “Bloody Marys”, a local pub that is advertised widely for $5 USD each way. We decide to check it out and when it’s time to pay for our drinks we see why it is heavily advertised. $15 USD per drink later, we go outside and take some photos of the Lagoon from this perspective and soon a return taxi comes by and picks us up.
The taxis here are similar to the one we had in Nuku Hiva, a pick up truck with seats in the back. And it seems that all taxi drivers drive fast and it is an interesting ride back to town. We then walk down the main road and quickly find a market and we find pretzels which Elee has searched for in vain the whole trip so far. Our prize in hand, we stroll back to the Tender and head back on board the ship, Bora Bora all but a memory, albeit a good one.
Back on board, we clean up and attend the show, a tribute to Tom Jones. The ship flew an entertainer in from New Zealand that will be with us for many days. He was actually pretty good if you like Tom Jones. Then it’s off to dinner and a nightcap before turning in.