Day 10 – The Bora Bora Lagoon

We asked at the front desk about excursions to see manta rays.  We had one in mind that we had read about on Trip Advisor called Pure Snorkeling but they suggested a different one that was quite a bit cheaper for the same length of time, so we went with that one and were really glad we did.  At 9:00, Vincent picked us up on our beach and we were the only 2 on the boat.  He is French, but spoke English very well.

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So, we headed out to the manta ray spot.  Apparently, they like deeper water, but in the morning, come up nearer the coral to feed on little fish.   We borrowed fins from the front desk so we could move a bit faster.  The 3 of us swam back and forth over the manta ‘spot’ for about an hour with sadly no luck.  He said that 9 times out of 10 he finds them, so we just hit a bad day.  What a workout – it felt like I was riding my bike up a hill for an hour!

Next we went to a spot with reef sharks.  They hear the boat coming and think they are going to get fed, so get excited and follow the boat.  When we anchored, there were 20-30 sharks circling the boat – very cool.  So, what do you do in that situation?  Jump in the water!  There was one stingray in the crowd and a school of about 50 bright yellow fish approximately 5 inches long.  After a while, they realized we didn’t bring food and dispersed.

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Now onto a spot with more sting rays.  There were maybe 6 or 7 of them, including one very pregnant female.  Vincent told us that the females are perpetually pregnant.  He stayed in the boat and took a few pictures of us while we swam with them.  We keep expecting them to come right up to us, but they aren’t.  I think they expect to be fed before they are ready to get close.  Still very cool to see up close.  By the way, I am getting very comfortable with the whole getting salt water on my face and breathing in a snorkel thing.  Too much to see to let that slow me down, I guess.

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Our last stop was a coral garden with lots of fish – LOTS!  Turns out it isn’t too far from here, maybe a kilometer, so we are going to kayak out there to snorkel again.

Chatting with Vincent, we learned that he lives on a motu (how amazing is that) with his wife and 3 kids.  The oldest is away at university, and the younger 2 get driven by boat to school on Bora Bora every day.  There is only an elementary school here (up to grade 8, I think).  After that, kids go to school on Raiatea and board there, coming home once every 5 weeks.  Wow!  For his family, they have relatives on Raiatea that the kids can spend weekends with, but isn’t that so young to live away from home?

Chris, this guy Vincent reminded me of you and I was thinking that this is what you and Shandra should be doing.  Go find an island with good diving or snorkeling, get yourself a boat and show people around.  Then, we’ll come visit you!

We got back around lunch time, ate bread and cheese (again) and wine (again) on our patio.  Those have become our 3 main food groups.  We had a nap, took our nightly sunset pictures and had a great dinner at the restaurant next door.

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I am writing this Tuesday morning.  It’s 6:30 and Graham is already out snorkeling.  Breakfast gets brought to us on a tray around 7:00.  Could easily get used to this…  Today we will take out the kayak.  Perfectly calm waters right now and not a cloud to be seen.

Index of all posts of our French Polynesia trip October 2016

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Day 9 – Cruising Around Bora Bora

Bike ride day!  Bike rentals were included with our package at Village Temanuata in Bora Bora, and Sundays generally are a day where not a lot happens on the islands (boy did we find that out!) so we decided to do the bike ride today.  What a spectacular day for it.  It was a tad windy, and the forecast called for partly cloudy skies.  I think we saw about 3 clouds all day.

The bikes were cruisers. Old, rusty, no gears, and not exactly tight bolts everywhere cruisers. But they did the job.

Our place is at Matira Point, on the very southern end of the main island of Bora Bora.  We headed East, around the less populated side of the island first.  Our agreement was to stop when we wanted to, do what we wanted to, and take pictures of what we wanted to without worrying about the time.  Our first stop was about 3 minutes after we started riding.  And it went from there.  Spectacular views around every corner.  The colours of the water were like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

There was one hill, which if we were riding with gears we would have handled no problem, despite how steep it was, but the fixed ring gears killed us both.  I almost made it, but Sandi decided to walk her bike up.  That was one thing that made me grind my teeth as we were riding, seeing lots of mountain bikes with good gears, and even one road bike.  At the top of the hill we met four riders going the other way, in riding gear and on nice bikes.  Turns out they live on Bora Bora, although I guessed that they have retired here from France somewhere.  They took some pictures for us.

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One of the main attractions of Bora Bora is the mountain, Mt. Otemanu.  Given that we rode around the island we had a 360 degree view of it, and took pictures from many angles.  It is just awesome to look at.

One of our fun stops was when Sandi spied a swing suspended from a branch over the water.  She decided she would try it, but figured it might sag into the water if she sat on it, so she stood on it instead.  Good choice as the branch was very thin and when she stood on it she sunk to the bottom.  Good thing is was shallow.

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Sundays are for families in French Polynesia and we saw lots of small gatherings as we rode around.  Sundays are also for church, and we happened to be in the right place at the right time to see a parade.  It was fun to stop and watch them march by.

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Here is the downside of Sunday: we were on the lookout for a bathroom, and couldn’t find anywhere open that had one, pretty much anywhere on the island.  We were told the public wharf had restrooms, but when we got there we were told they are closed on Sundays.

We finally found a place selling gelato that had a restroom we could use.  We were very happy to pay them back for using it by buying some fabulous ice cream.  Sandi had the strawberry cheesecake, and I ordered a double, mango and passion fruit.  So good.  The guy who owns the place was there and told us he had opened only a couple of months previously, that he was from Italy, and was the Italian Chef at the Pearl Beach Resort.  He said that he and another chef realized there was nowhere on Bora Bora to buy good ice cream, so they opened this place.  I highly recommend it.  Iorana Gelato in Viatape.

We finished with a ride past Matira Beach, rated the best beach in the entire world.  I can see why.  We stopped probably three times just as we rode along it.  Fabulous.

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When we got back to our place naturally we had to go for a swim to cool off.  I hadn`t planned to snorkel, but once we were out I decided I wanted to.  Sandi wanted to too.  Was I glad we did.  Moments after we got out to the first coral we saw a lone eagle ray swim past.  They are so cool to watch.  Sadly, I didn`t have the GoPro with me, so no pictures this time.

We are heading back to Matira Beach to watch the sunset, so we will have more photos to post later.

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Index of all posts of our French Polynesia trip October 2016

Day 8 – Travel to Bora Bora

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Our flight to Bora Bora left at 5:30 pm.  We had to be out of our room at 11:00 am, but stayed at Relais Mahana for the day.  So we got into the water early for some more snorkelling before we had to pack up.  Sandi enjoyed the sheer volume of the fish in the lagoon, and checked out the clown fish again. I went in search of some rays and was not disappointed.  I swam out across the deep water that is closer to the beach to the far side where it starts to get shallow again and came across an eagle ray, probably 30 feet or so below me.  Following that one were three more!  I probably watched them for 20 minutes, just glide along the bottom.  Sandi also got in another loop of the lagoon on the stand up paddle board.

Then it was time to pack.  We set our wet gear out in the sun, and in a few hours it was completely dry. From there it was beach time to enjoy the weather and the view for the rest of the afternoon. We saw the wedding party, although not the wedding itself.  We had a great lunch at Chez Tara again.

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The flight landed just as the sun was setting.  Pretty awesome.  We had a ferry ride into town where a bus picked us up and took us to our place.  The rooms are getting progressively smaller!  Martine works for Jacques, our host, and met us at the gate to welcome us and show us around.  She is very enthusiastic about Bora Bora.  Our room is right on the beach!

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We were tired from an early start (more sunrise photos) and the lagoon time, so it was over to the restaurant directly next door for some dinner.  They make pizza for about $17 each which we will be checking out, but for dinner I had the special which was a paella and Sandi had a risotto.  Expensive, but very large portions.  Mine had 6 full fresh prawns (heads and all).  We pretty much collapsed after that.

Bike riding tomorrow.

Index of all posts of our French Polynesia trip October 2016

Day 7 – Today, We Drive

Today we rented a little red Fiat Panda for a drive around the island.  We had a few goals, some of them domestic like changing money and washing clothes, neither of which we were able to do, and others more exciting like more snorkeling and checking out the sacred blue eels of Huahine.

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Our resort is on the southern end of Huahine, the airport is on the northern end, and the main town, Fare, is just to the south-west of the airport.  When I rented the car, the agent told me to be sure to go to Fare this morning because they are having a public market.  For those who don’t know, I am all over a public market, so that changed our plans a bit because we figured Fare would be where we ended up for lunch.

The road network is like a figure 8.  Huahine is 2 islands, so our original plan was to drive around the entire outside of the island, but the market meant we would do more of a classic figure 8.  We started out going around the southern tip of the island, to the East.  There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language, or any language probably, to describe the views we had of the island.  Put it this way, we killed a fully charged battery on the camera by the end of the day, taking pictures and video.  We had to switch batteries on the GoPro too.  Breathtaking might come close if I could only choose one word.

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The road network includes small spurs to different areas, so we ventured out to a couple, and both times were rewarded with beautiful scenery.  Ultimately we arrived in Fare and checked out the market.  It was fun.  We tried a deep fried crab thing that we both regretted pretty quickly.  Not because of the taste, just too much batter, and it wasn’t fresh.  We also bought some little pies.

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From Fare we continued toward Maeva and further to Faie where we would look for the eels.  In Maeva there is a great museum of the history of the Marae.  We stopped and went through it and learned a lot about the history of Polynesia and the cultural alliances and differences that stretched from New Zealand to Polynesia to Hawaii. The museum has both inside and outside exhibits.  They have everyone take their shoes off before visiting the inside museum as it is in a replica of an original meeting place right down to a carpet of woven palm leaves.

Before heading to Faie we drove out one lonely road, and had two stops, one at another Marae that was right next to a gorgeous beach, and then to the end of the road where a former Sofitel resort stands, now in disrepair.  The beach provided some great snorkelling and a very relaxing break from the driving.  I chose this particular beach because it is directly across from a Motu island that has one of the original places we were considering staying at.  As it turns out, the people who owned it closed their B&B business, so we couldn’t book it.  Subsequently someone else has started operating it again.  We saw where we could have stayed, and again the setting was stunning.

On to Faie.  We were expecting to find some lunch and then check out the eels, but each of the villages are so tiny that there weren’t any options for food, so we continued to the spot where the eels are.  Lucky timing for us, a tour group stopped at the same time, and were met by a local young mother who brought out some fish to feed the eels to bring them out into the open where we could see them.  What a treat!  They are huge; probably 6 feet long and the larger ones were maybe 6 inches around.  I jumped down into the creek with another person along with the woman feeding the eels to touch them.  Quite the experience.

From there we headed back to Fare to get gas in the car before returning to the resort.  Since we hadn’t had any lunch, and when we got to Fare all the lunch places were closed, we bought a baguette and some brie for a snack back at the resort.  I think we’ve had bread and brie every day we’ve been in French Polynesia!

Dinner was a buffet, and included a performance by a local dance company of traditional Polynesian dance.  They were very good.  I was brought out of the crowd to join them in a dance, and afterward they set up chairs so that couples could take pictures with the dance group.

Yet again another wonderful day of new, and in some cases unexpected, experiences.

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Index of all posts of our French Polynesia trip October 2016

Hiring Guides for Hikes

This goes back to our hike to Mt. Temehani on day 2. In our planning we read a lot about hiring guides for hikes on the different islands. We are both comfortable in nature and have done some hiking ourselves so we took that all with a grain of salt.

When we talked to Edouard about hiking to the 3 waterfalls on Raiatea not only did he discourage us because the views weren’t as nice as Mt. Temehani, he said the trail was not well marked and we could not find our way.  That suggested he didn’t think we would hire a guide.  When he sent us on our way up Mt. Temehani it was with the idea that the trail was easy to follow.  Of course, he didn’t mention in advance that we would run into fences that said we were trespassing on private property.

The main thought here though is from our cab ride a couple days later. The driver asked us what we had done and when we said we climbed to Mt. Temehani he asked which guide we used. When we said we did it on our own his reaction was hilarious.  He couldn’t believe we’d done it on our own.

I suppose it’s a matter of getting some good advice to begin with, having a bit of confidence and deciding that you only live once.

Update: I read a post after we got home about a group doing some hiking on Bora Bora. The author is an experienced hiker and for one hike in particular he was adamant that you hire a guide given how challenging the hike is. So clearly you need good advice regarding the challenge of the hike and the local conditions. I am glad we had good advice for ours.

Index of all posts of our French Polynesia trip October 2016

Day 6: Snorkeling and Great Food

Again we started early, chasing the sunrise.  That meant an early-morning walk with our flashlights.  Today though, it is quite windy and overcast.  Sadly, there was a big cloud in the way of the sunrise, but we managed to see a sliver of the sun anyway.  After our walk back we had breakfast on the beach, omelettes this time, and then had a morning exploring our lagoon.

Graham: We started on stand-up paddle boards, and were out for probably an hour.  That was followed by some snorkeling, where Sandi got to see the Clown fish.  We actually saw probably a dozen or so, including a real-life Nemo and Marlin pair, with the tiny Clown fish staying close to the anemone and the larger fish protecting it.  There were so many other varieties of fish to see too; nothing big though, no sharks or rays here yet.

For lunch we went to Chez Tara, which had excellent reviews.  We sat in the sand, at the water, and ordered prawns in a coconut curry sauce, and crab in a coconut ginger sauce.  The prawns were amazingly good!  The crab was good too, but a lot of work for not a lot of meat, so I wouldn’t order it again, but we could get very fat on that prawn dish.  They have a prawn with garlic sauce dish that we may return for.

We had a quiet afternoon napping.  We awoke to strong winds and the resort staff clearing the beach.  It is overcast and the threat of rain is on the wind.  Sandi has joined a weaving class.

For our day tomorrow we have cancelled our reservation for a guided island tour, which we were back and forth on either the land tour or the water tour.  There are lots of these tours, and the one we had reserved came highly recommended by our travel agent.  In fact, both the land and water tours we were looking at were very highly rated.  As it turns out though, in all of these islands, there is only so much to do, and often very little differentiates one tour from another.  Since we’ve already done the water tour on Taha’a the tour here did largely the same thing.  And we’ve got a great lagoon at our resort, so we won’t be doing any tours.  We’ve decided to rent a car instead and will be driving the whole island ourselves, looking for spots we want to stop at based on the guide books.  One in particular, has blue-eyed eels!

Also, for Saturday, I think more snorkeling is going to happen.  A guest here we’ve spoken with briefly just reported a possible manta ray sighting.  I will be asking at the front desk about the rays that are in the area and where to find them.

Sandi here:  I spoke to a man from Norway this afternoon and he told me that the sailboat that has been parked in our bay since we arrived is a couple who are sailing around the world for 3 years.  They are halfway into their trip and have stopped here to get married!  26 guests have joined them for a wedding on Saturday.  He didn’t say where it would take place, but I sure hope it’s right here on our beach.  There is a lot of wine being trucked in by very blond people this afternoon, so I think there will be somewhat of a party here over the next few days.

As for the weaving class, I have created a palm leaf serving tray of sorts.  I arrived late and of course, everyone is speaking French, so I didn’t even know what it was supposed to be at the start.  I finished and then the leader undid my last few steps and ‘fixed’ it.  It’s now much better and I’ll be set for the next time I need to make myself a serving tray out in the wild with only palm leaves at my disposal!

Index of all posts of our French Polynesia trip October 2016