French Polynesia

Bora Bora – The Curse

Bora Bora – The Curse

I’ve been reminiscing about Bora Bora lately.  Possibly because Little Miss has hit terrible two’s and we visited child free, as a last hurrah before commencing IVF.  Possibly because we just got back from the Island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, and I finally found another destination that compares.

Either way, every new destination you visit changes you a little bit.  It changes your perspective on human nature and on the natural environment.  It changes the way you feel about your own life and how you see things.  Bora Bora did this for me however, not in the way that I expected.

I felt the tension drain from my shoulders before the plane even touched down.  Bora Bora is only a short 45 minute flight from Papeete airport in Tahiti, and from the 30 minute mark, we were blessed with breathtaking views of Bora Bora’s extinct volcanic peaks, blue lagoon and spattering of white fringed coral islets.

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View from the plane window coming into Bora Bora

It is on one of these smaller islands that form a ring around the lagoon that the plane sets down.  A boat transfer over Bora Bora’s lagoon is required to reach the mainland or any resorts.

My plan was to spend four days over indulging on good food, learning to snorkel and doing some serious relaxing in no particular order before moving on to the island of Mo’orea.

I couldn’t help but wonder who owns the secluded private bungalows we passed. Surely I’ll spot a celebrity here; especially considering I only learned about Bora Bora after watching Vin Diesel in XXX. It’s not the first time a movie has influenced my destination and probably won’t be the last.

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The boat trip from the airport to Sofitel Private Island

I was more than surprised at our welcome at the Sofitel Private Island.  The manager came over, personally introduced himself and produced a small cake from behind his back.  This was quickly followed by some very enthusiastic singing of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song at the top of his lungs.

For a brief moment, I had actually forgotten that a birthday was my justification for such a luxurious and expensive destination. Normally we travel fairly budget and I felt a bit out of place here.

The overwater bungalow turned out to be nothing short of amazing, with a ladder leading off the back deck down into the aqua blue waters.  The room was a blend of French styling and Polynesian décor and we were treated to a round viewing window in the floor under the coffee table.

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Jason swimming under our bungalow through the viewing hole in the floor!

After a truly relaxing evening of watching the sun set over Bora Bora’s lagoon, I was ready to sell everything we owned to live here in luxury until the money ran out.

F*** working long hours. F*** medical expenses.  F*** having to do IVF.  Bora Bora made me irrational, and in my mind and in that moment, those few months would have been worth giving up everything we owned for.

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A sunset over Bora Bora’s lagoon as seen from the Sofitel Private Island viewing area

After a good night’s sleep, selling our house and all of our possessions no longer seemed like such a good idea.

A bucket list item was ticked off by attempting to snorkel for the first time.  I’m not a strong swimmer, but still managed to swim around the calm lagoon waters with ease.

“The sharks don’t eat people here,” one of the staff informed me cheerfully.  “Besides, they have already eaten today.”  He didn’t really answer my question about how large the sharks were however, another visitor assured me that they are, “mostly just small reef sharks and nothing to worry about.”

The sharks indeed turn out to be small reef sharks and to my relief, they kept their distance.  Besides, they look to small to eat anything larger than a few fingers.

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About to snorkel for the first time from our bungalow over the water

You can’t visit French Polynesia without seeing a dinner and show.  I don’t usually like this kind of thing, they always seem tacky to me.

The show turned out to be pretty amazing.  There was a lot of drumming, harmonies, coconut-bra wearing and hip shaking.  The finale was a performance by an extremely fit and tanned young man, wearing not much else than a loincloth and elaborate headpiece.

All in all, it was very entertaining and nowhere near as cheesy as it sounds.

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Coconut-Bra Wearing Hip Shaking
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This guy was seriously flamboyant

Bora Bora is pretty small as far as islands go, and the road is virtually flat.  We hired some pretty cool vintage styled pushbikes and set out to explore the island.

There was a pizza shop ten minutes into the ride.  The owner spoke no English, and we spoke no French.  We ordered by pointing at vaguely familiar looking French words on the chalk board menu outside.

The journey continued and we pedalled past smiling and waving locals.  I stared wishfully at the beachside shacks, and felt humbled by the innocence of the young children that we passed as I watched their good natured banter.

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I loved this pushbike so much that I bought a similar one a couple of months after we returned

One of the young boys we passed was carrying a feathered chicken under his arm; his friend was lugging a fishing rod and bucket.  It was the kind of simple fishing rod that does the job in what I expect is a well stocked lagoon.  I’m assuming that they quite successfully took care of dinner that night.

Suddenly, I longed to live in a place such as this.  A place where children are free to roam with such innocence.  A place where young people are perfectly capable of fishing, or catching a chicken, or surviving a whole day without some kind of electronic device.

Visitors come to this beautiful island and see only the luxury resorts, but there is a community of very welcoming people here that live a very different life to the one I live back home.

To this particular outsider, it is a beautiful life.  Do they see it this way? Do they know that millions of people all over the world fantasise about visiting this place? 

Words can’t describe how beautiful Bora Bora really is.  What I can assure you is that the postcards are not a lie.  It is every bit as beautiful as the pictures, and then some more.  I knew before I left, that Bora Bora in a way is a curse.

I will be forever cursed, comparing new destinations and experiences to this one, knowing in my heart that they won’t compare.  I will be cursed, always dreaming of returning.  I’m not talking about the luxury bungalow and VIP treatment, that can be bought anywhere in the world.

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Kayaking in Bora Bora’s Lagoon

I’m talking about the breathtaking way the lagoon flitters between shades of aqua, turquoise and blue.  Shades that you didn’t even know existed before coming here.  The way the prehistoric volcano rises dramatically out of the sea, surrounded by lush green jungle.  I’m talking about breathing in fresh air that is not tainted by modern society, and the white surf that is thrown up on the horizon where the force of the ocean meets the calm lagoon.

Bora Bora has cursed me.

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Bora Bora’s beautiful lagoon
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I wish I didn’t get boat sick!

If French Polynesia is out of your reach, check out my Vanuatu page on the Island of Espiritu Santo.

For more blog posts and information on my travels through French Polynesia, check out this page: French Polynesia

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