2011 January 27 – Day 23 – Viatape, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

What is not to love about Bora Bora?  Novelist James Michener described Bora Bora as “the world’s most beautiful island.” The island is almost entirely encircled by a reef and the water in the lagoon is a striking turquoise or jade green depending on the sunlight.  The entire island is 19 miles around.  In the center of the island Mt. Otemanu soars 2,385 feet high with almost perpendicular sides.  It has never been climbed. There is only one opening where a tender or small boat can enter and exit.  The ship was already at anchor outside the reef when we got up at 6:15 am to watch the sail-in so we had plenty of time for breakfast before our tour.In case you are wondering, we almost always book a tour from the ship’s shore excursion offerings.  Since we have never been to any of these places before we feel more comfortable knowing that the ship staff have vetted the tour company, made sure the transport vehicles are in safe condition, and that the guides speak English and are knowledgeable about the city or area.  We are perfectly aware that the ship charges a premium for these tours and you can walk off the gangway and hire someone to do the same thing, or even more, for less money.  But the security and follow-through has value.  Also, in the event that the bus breaks down on one of our tours and we are late returning to the ship, the captain will wait for us before sailing away.  If we just hire a cab and driver and have a breakdown, the ship will delay departure about 20 minutes and after that you are on your own to get to the next port-of-call to re-board the ship.  And we have seen that happen.  Sometimes a higher cost for things is worth it; at least to us it is.

Cargo ships come from Tahiti five times per week and bring everything the islanders need.  The population is about 9,000.  The best resort hotel rooms can run $800 per night and if you want a private bungalow on the water it can cost as much as $10,000 per night.  Tourism, obviously, is the primary economic ‘resource.’  We were taken out to the edge of the lagoon in a covered launch to an area frequented by sting rays and black-tip sharks.  The boat owner/guide brings along tuna fish to feed the rays and they are so used to him they will brush up against his legs and one that he calls his pet will actually rest on his stomach while he pets it.   This lovely lady let me borrow her flower head piece for a photo. We stood in waist-deep water and the rays and sharks just swam around us. The rays are very soft and move effortlessly through the water.  They were beautiful.  It was hard to get a photo of them as they were constantly moving. After about an hour we were taken to another part of the reef near the lagoon edge where we had an hour and a half to snorkel. I have a small waterproof digital camera that I have attached to a lanyard that hangs around my neck.  This leaves my hands free to swim  and makes it easy to take photos whenever I want.  Holland America always has a ship staff person on every tour to monitor things and make sure all goes well.  Bobby, a young man from the photography shop, was on this tour and when I was about to get back onto the launch he asked me if my camera was really waterproof and didn’t need a protective case.  I told him yes it was and he asked to see it.  When I gave it to him he immersed the camera into the water and snapped a photo of himself standing overhead.  He was a really nice fellow and we were on several tours together on the way to Sydney.Local men take their outrigger canoes into the lagoon and ‘surf’ behind the tenders as they go back and forth to the ship. When we were back onboard after our tour we spent quite a bit ot time walking the deck and taking photos of the lovely lagoon. This is an absolutely gorgeous place and I am so glad we were able to visit.  The ship stayed anchored offshore for the night and the next day we had a tour that encircled the island.



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