Thursday, July 19, 2007

Travel review: Bora Bora

I want to write some posts about my trip in Curacao this june, and also one about my recent weekend in Venice, but not before i write about another great place, visited last year, in my honeymoon: Bora Bora.

I went in Bora Bora for my honeymoon, during the month of july, last year, and we stayed there for 9 nights (after 2 nights in Tahiti).

Bora Bora is a small island in French Polynesia, Pacific, at 40 minutes by plane from Tahiti. It's beauty consist in natural, fantastic landscapes, combining the perfect shades of blue from the ocean with the esmerald color of the mountain Otemanu, that stands in the middle of the island.

Bora Bora island is possibly the single most famous island in all the world. The legends, mysteries, and romance associated with the words "Bora Bora" bring an almost mystical presence to the island.

Bora bora is truly an experience worth having. A wonderfully relaxing place to be as well as a great island for you to experience, your Bora Bora vacation will never be forgotten.

What to do

In Bora Bora you can't get bored, that's for sure! You can choose from a large variety of activities such as:

* Relaxation: lying by the beach (at your hotel, or at Matira beach, the only public beach in Bora Bora), motu picnics, private lagoons sightseeing, helicoptere rides, submarines underwater adventure, traditional tahitian dance shows and many many other things to get away from the stresses of life.

We only went to the hotel beach, and that's because we stayed at Le Meridien, situated on a private islet (motu in polynesian), with a perfect sand beach facing Mount Otemanu). We didn't do any private lagoon sightseeing or motu picnics, although i am sure romantic, seemed quite expensive and not that interesting to us.
The helicoptere ride was also pretty expensive (400 euros for 15 minutes), but it was worth it, because we could see the entire Bora Bora lagoon from above. We shared the helicoptere with another couple; there were 3 seats on the back, and one in front, near the pilot. My husband was the lucky one to seat in front, so he had a better view and could film the entire ride.
The submarine was another thing not to be missed. Pretty interesting, we even came across a couple of scuba divers under the water. We waved at them, and they responded back...nice!
As for tahitian dance shows, Le Meridien organized 2 shows on the beach during our stay, with traditional dances and music... very enjoyable. One night they even organized a teaching class, to learn us how to dance polynesian-style. It was only for men, but my husband will kill me if i publish a picture from that evening :).

* Water sports: jet ski rentals, scuba diving (one of the best places in the world), snorkeling (almost every wear you can spot lots of colorful fish and even rays), aqua safari, parasailing

In this section, we did everything. We rented jet skis for half a day, and we had a guide who took us to some good snorkeling spots... the highlight of our holiday according to my husband. Scuba diving was also in the plan, it was my first time and i was really scared, but i survived and i enjoyed it very much. Parasailing was another first, great views, but you can easily get sick from all that balacing in the wind... Aqua safari seemed nice and easy, but i found it quite dificult to breathe underwater, with the huge helmet on (although feeding the fish was nice, and also the pictures from that adventure are great!)

* Adventure: 4x4 safaris (on Mount Otemanu, enjoying the beautiful panorama views, seeing the canons from Second World War), bugster rides, deep sea fishing, hiking & climbing

Deep sea fishing and hiking or climbing are not our thing, so we skipped those activities. 4x4 safari was nice, on top of Mount Otemanu we even catched some rain. Also i did some good shopping on this ocasion, bought a pareo from a local artist that lived in the mountains, and a beautiful carved black pearl from the Pearl Farm that we visited.
Bugster ride was extremely fun, considering Bora Bora is a mountain island, with bumping rodes.

* Animal encountering: a visit to the lagoonarium, shark & ray feeding (an experienced not to be missed), Le Meridien Turtle Sanctuary (learning more about this endangered specie, see a feeding session)

Now, this chapter is more related to my blog specific... From the finest of Black pearl shops and unique arts and crafts stores to general merchandise, Bora Bora is a shoppers paradise. You don't have to worry about not having things to spend your money on, that's for sure. Here is a list with the must-shop things in Bora Bora!

* Black pearls
From the first day on Bora Bora you will enchanted with the beauty of the legendary Pacific pearls. You will soon learn that they are several categories of black pearls, different forms, sizes and colors, and the price always reflects the quality. An A quality pearl, in a size larger that 12 can easily reached thousands of euros.
Besides sticking to a budget, the only thing harder is to choose among the thousand of shiny, beautiful pearls.

I was fascinated by the black pearls, and i had several buying sessions. First, on Tahiti, at Pearl Market, i bought some loose pearls as presents for mom and some girlfriend...oh! and for me, of course. I promised that that's it! Then in Bora Bora, another Pearl Market... By now, i was obsesed with them, because everybody wears pearls there. So i decided that loose pearls are not enough... the result: one beautiful pearl, 14mm diameter (a large i.e. expensive size), mounted in white gold, with a dolphin around it. As waiting for the tax free form to be filled in, i realized that a bracelet will look wonderfull: puff! a 17 pearl bracelet (pictured above) magically appeared in my shopping bag!
On our last day on Bora Bora, it was time for the 4x4 safari. The inocent me didn't know at that time that the last stop was the Bora Bora Pearl Farm, to learn all about raising pearls... and that's how i discovered the art of carving pearls... and i must tell you, it looks so nice with a casual outfit (the 14mm one is kind of elegant).

* Art craftsPainting by local artists, reflecting in beautiful colors the amazing island of Bora Bora or other hand made art items, you must chose what you like. Don't forget to buy a wooden carved Tiki statue, to protect you back home from evil spirits.

* Pareo
You can say that pareos are the tradional costume in French Polynesia, so it's a must to buy such a nice (and usefull too on the beach) item. You can chose from a variety of models, but a real pareo is one hand-painted by one of the local artists, using only natural, special, colors.

Sleep & eat

Where to stay

The Island of Bora Bora has different styles of lodging available. Depending on the kind of accomodations you desire, here you will find all the choices to suit you: plush lagoonside resorts, quiet family pensions, places to stay if you're on a tight budget, or camping facilities of the island...

We stayed at Le Meridien, and it was great. We had the over the water premium type, with a great view. The glass floor was amazing, at night you could see lots of different fish. We loved everything about the hotel, the restaurants, the beach, the pool, they all were perfect.

Of course, some other great hotels are on the island:
* Pearl Beach Hotel
* the new Intercontinental and St Regis resorts

Where to eat..

Because Bora Bora is rather well touristed, it has a number of eating and dining establishments. Dining locations can basically be divided between the restaurants at the various hotels and pensions, and private, non-hotel related dining.

Cuisine ranges from basic island staples like fruits and fish dishes to world class French and international cuisine, prepared by a variety of chefs, some imported directly from Paris! As with all islands in Tahiti Polynesia, the food is usually delicious, but you may have to sample different restaurants before you find one that suits your taste and budget.

All in all, a great holiday, perfect actually. I can't wait to get back there some day (but till then, i have another hundreds places to visit :) ).

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