Our destination on day 4 was Bora Bora, that famous island with its iconic profile and sublime scenery. It's also called the Romantic Island and is considered by many to be the most beautiful island in the world.
From our anchorage off Le Taha'a Resort, Bora Bora's silhouette, created by an extinct volcano with two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, stood out against the brilliant sky.
With predicted winds of about 15 knots, this would be our first “real” crossing between islands outside the reefs and we hoped for some fun sailing in the Moorings 48 catamaran.
Once again, because sailing conditions in the islands require bright daylight, we planned our departure from Taha'a for about 9 am which gave everyone time for a swim and another float down the Coral River. We were a bit delayed but got underway around 10 for the five-or-so hour crossing.
Once we were out through the channel and on the open sea, we were dismayed that the wind direction had changed and the seas were quite big and lumpy. But we really wanted to sail and with Betsy directing the crew, raising and trimming sails, we got the main up but kept motor sailing as close to the wind as we could, while trying to make our mark!
But the wind just did not cooperate and with our time limits on visibility, we ended up powering into Bora Bora. It was not a pleasant ride, and several of the crew were feeling a bit whoopsy!
Once we were inside the reef and onto the calm lagoon waters, everyone recovered and we picked up a mooring off the Bora Bora Yacht Club, where we stayed for two nights while we explored the island. It was an interesting mooring arrangement and not easy to pick up as the marker/float was an old one-gallon milk jug! But third try was the charm and Barbara, our boat hook lady, snagged it and with help from the others on the mooring lines, made us fast.
Of course, we had to go to Bloody Mary’s. The restaurant has such a reputation that it is almost synonymous with Bora Bora. A shuttle bus took us from the Yacht Club to the restaurant which has a wonderful atmosphere. With the thatched roof, sand floor and flowers everywhere, the ambience made up for the not-so-good food (in my opinion).
One of the most difficult aspects of organizing trips like this to remote places like Tahiti, is actually getting responses from tour companies to finalize excursions. Sometimes it takes days and even weeks to get a response. They are not leashed to their cell phones and internet like we are. Sometimes, there is no response and so I waited until we were in-country to finalize. Most of the time, it works out well, but is extremely frustrating! This is when I have to remember the Tahitian saying, “aita pe’ape’a” meaning “no problem” and just chill!
Although it took a while to get a response from Bora Bora Lagoon Safaris, we were able to finalize our half-day lagoon tour where we would swim with the sharks and rays! Natua, our guide and his granddaughter were right on time and picked us up from the BBYC dock. And off we went for an amazing few hours.
Tepeva Natua and his whole family is involved in the operation, with several boats run by his sons and nephews. But he is definitely the patriarch and we were really happy that he was our man!
As we approached what looked like a random area out in the lagoon and as he made his way carefully over the shallows dodging coral heads, he pointed out the sharks and rays starting to swarm around the boat! Although I know most of our crew was anxious to get in among the swarming creatures, we are all aware that this type of operation, where the animals’ behavior actually changes because of these visits, is really not ok, we all jumped in!
The black-tipped sharks circled and the rays floated around us, almost wrapping us in their huge wings. In one sense, it was really scary but on the other, it was exhilarating. Natua fondled the rays that obviously know him and they gathered, flapping around him until you could hardly see him for the flurry of spray! Below the boat, the bigger lemon sharks cruised slowly, waiting for their fish handouts!
At one stage, Natua draped an octopus on some of the braver swimmers’ heads! I couldn’t bring myself to do that!
Moving to another area, we saw a huge manta ray ghosting along the bottom. The water was a bit murky around it, but you could tell how enormous it was, gauging from the size of the divers near it. That was a first for me!
A circle island cruise was included in the tour and we sped by several swanky over-the-water hotels on the outer reef. As we circled clockwise, the light and angles on the towering, iconic island changed with every minute. At the southwest corner of the Piti uu Uta and Piti uu Tai motus, we swam in what they call the “Aquarium.” For good reason! Literally millions of all kinds of brightly colored fish swam among the coral. They were completely unafraid as we hung out among them. They completely filled the viewfinder on my little camera!
For me, those were the most magic moments!
On our way home, Natua broke out his ukulele and played and sang the old, traditional Tahitian songs, some which I remembered from my very early visits to Tahiti, when Villi Valla (sp) sang and played for us. After I had had a couple of beers, my inner tamure emerged, much to Natua’s amusement! I just couldn’t help myself!
Back at the boat, we had plenty of relaxing time and the stand up paddle boards were put to good use before a laid back evening, preparing for the sail back to Raiatea the following day.