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Explore Bora Bora, Polynesia

Bora Bora, Polynesia

Explore Bora Bora which is a volcanic island in the Society Islands archipelago of French Polynesia.

It is perfectly possible to spoil oneself in one of the incredibly luxurious high-class resorts and spend the savings of a lifetime in a few days. Nonetheless, a bit of planning ahead can allow enjoyment of the majestic scenery with a tighter budget. Keep in mind that in any case Bora Bora is a tremendously pricey destination. Everything (catering and activities) ranges from “expensive” to “indescribably expensive”.

Bora Bora is an island in the Leeward group of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, an “Overseas Country” financially assisted by France in the Pacific Ocean. The island is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, the highest point at 727 meters. The original name of the island in the Tahitian language might be better rendered as Pora Pora, meaning “First Born”.

The products of the island are mostly limited to what can be obtained from the sea and coconut trees, which were historically of economic importance for copra.

The history of Bora Bora shows that the island’s first settlers back in the 4th century were Tongan people. The first European explorers who visited the island were led by James Cook. However, prior to this island of Bora Bora was already sighted by other explorers.

Today the Island of Bora Bora relies largely on tourism and because of this seven luxurious resorts were built over the past few years. Hotel Bora Bora was the first to build bungalows that stand over the water using stilts which are now a given of every resort on the island as these bungalows provide spectacular sights of lagoons and mountains.

The climate in Bora Bora and the surrounding Islands is considered to be tropical.

The main languages that are spoken by people in Bora Bora Island are French and Tahitian although most inhabitants that interact with visitors have good comprehension of the English language. Most tourists that visit the island are Americans, Japanese and Europeans.

Shopping

The rich culture has influenced the shopping market greatly. Travelers have their choices of art galleries, studios, shops that are set up in traditional and modern settings. They also have an abundance of jewelry and black pearls.

The Polynesian island in the south pacific is ranked at the top of the list when it comes to most remarkably beautiful in the world. Best time to travel is in May. The best way to arrive is to take an international flight to Tahiti, and then a less than an hour flight to Bora Bora.

Locals

There are close to nine thousand people living in Bora Bora. These people have a firm grip on the culture, myths and traditions that have been handed down from the Polynesian gods. They have traditional songs and dances for the island. They love to share their culture with the visitors. The pace is laid back with a relaxing atmosphere. They live by a philosophy ‘aita pea pea’ which means ‘not to worry’. The main languages that are spoken in Bora Bora are French and Tahitian. English is also spoken in many hotels, resorts, markets, and tourist locations.

Air Tahiti flies several times a day from Tahiti. Flights are quite often full, so it is not a bad idea to make a reservation.

The airport is located on a small motu (islet) north of the main island. Transfer to the main island or to accommodations located on other motus is done by boat. The major accommodations have counters at the airport. For the accommodations located on the main island, you will need to take the (free) ferry to Vaitape. From there, small buses will usually pick you up. Air Tahiti operates a free shuttle boat transfer from the airport to the main village, Vaitape, by “Bora Bora Navette”.

The way you get around in Bora Bora depends greatly on your accommodation and its location. Several resorts are actually located on motus and not on the main island, hence the need of boat transportation to get anywhere. Boat transfers from those motus resorts to the main island or between the resorts and the airport are usually provided. Accommodations located on the island generally also provide a transfer to and the Airport ferry quay.

On the main island, there is only one sealed road. Public transport on the island is limited, consisting of a single bus that goes halfway around the island and back approximately every hour. Taxis are also available.

Operators of activities and restaurants sometimes (but not always) provide a transfer to and from the accommodations – be sure to ask when booking.

Renting a bicycle or a small buggy can be an option if you plan to have your freedom on the main island, but the road is sometimes very narrow, and in bad shape.

The island of Bora Bora is actually a volcanic caldera. This geography has produced a lagoon, well protected from waters by the surrounding motus (islets). The lagoon, and the tropical underwater life, including sharks and rays, provides fantastic opportunities for many forms of water-based recreation, ranging from swimming, through snorkeling and to scuba and other options if you truly want to immerse yourself in this unique environment.

In addition to the sights under the surface of the lagoon, the dominating and unusually shaped peak of Mount Otemanu which reaches 728 meters above sea level, and its smaller neighbor Mount Pahia are also worthy attractions. The combination of the beautiful lagoon and these impressive peaks provide an almost endless supply of opportunities to take travel photos which will leave your friend back home cursing you for sharing them.

Very few go to Bora Bora for the historic relics. However, if you have seen enough of the lagoon, you might want to take a peek at the few WWII remains and the archeological Polynesian relics in one of the tours of the island.

Bora Bora Lagoonarium. A certified diver acts as underwater guide as you swim and come face to face with the turtles, sharks, sting rays and numerous other fish which call the lagoonarium their home. As the “…rium” name implies, this commercial aquarium is a captive, enclosed zoo-like environment, preventing free movement beyond the confines of the establishment. For those that are not into diving, there is a little submarine. Numerous travelers have voted this as an all-time favorite.

There are comparatively more activities in Bora Bora to keep you occupied than in other islands of French Polynesia. Being practical while lazing under the sun in a white sand beach, a good book will be in every case a very useful item to bring. As weird as it may sound it actually sometimes rains in Bora Bora (and sometimes even a lot). The vast majority of the activities take place outdoor, and there are no cinemas, libraries or museums to visit, so even if large resorts do lend books and games, bring some good reading with you.

Water Activities

The tropical sea sometimes reaches 30C, making it perfect for various water activities. Swimming in the lagoon in perfectly clear warm water has the advantage of being free and can be very enjoyable. The beaches of Bora Bora are not huge by any standards, nor are they crammed with people. The most famous beach, Matira Beach is at the southern tip of the main island.

You do not have to pay a lot to enjoy Bora Bora. Just like swimming, snorkeling is possible in many areas close to the shore, and even in Matira Beach you will be surrounded by multicolor tropical fish in seconds and in shallow waters. Just remember to get out and put on sunscreen from time to time as the sun is strong and you will get burned badly if you stay in the water for an extended period of time.

Jet ski tours around the interior island are well worth the effort as they allow to appreciate the scenery from various viewpoints, although they do inflict noise and pollution.

Kite boarding is getting popular at the Southern tip of Matira.

Scuba Diving is fun.

The island is about 20 miles around, and bikes and small cars are available for rent at various sites. It is well worth the investment to ride the perimeter of the island.

The Jeep tours are well worth a trip. You’ll have a good time climbing through some rough trails on the island, and you’ll get some breathtaking views. In addition, you’ll tour the American WWII ruins, such as gun emplacements and bunkers. A few of the Jeep tour companies have exclusive access to steep mountain roads to magnificent views, where tourists and other companies normally are not allowed to enter.

It is possible to access the summit of Mt. Pahia by foot, although neither the staff at City Hall nor the Gendarmerie will tell you how if you do not have a guide, as even adept hikers have gotten lost or been injured. Make sure you are well-provisioned, as the 600 m elevation gain takes place over a relatively short distance, and be sure to identify the trees or rocks with white-red-white striping that will show you the way. Some of the latter sections can be precarious, so make sure you keep your grip and be courteous to those who may be downstream of falling rocks unintentionally loosed by your foothold. The rope climb at the end is exciting! If you want more, head south along the uncommonly-traveled trail for iconic views.

Travel Information

If you decide to travel to Bora Bora no need to panic about accommodations and adjusting. There are many activities that are cost free, like swimming in the lagoons, swimming with dolphins, shark and ray feeding, and enjoying the famous sunset. Most destinations are aquatic oriented, that may also include scuba diving and snorkeling. Besides the water activities there are many other activities like parasailing, deep sea fishing which is one of its kind in the world since Bora Bora is home of over 500 species of marine wildlife. There is also family hiking and climbing trails. On the relaxation part the island is filled with natives specializing in ritual massage services. There are also private lagoon cruises, bus tours, and many Motu hangouts. The island also offers flight seeing, along with helicopter tours.

The rich culture has influenced the shopping market greatly. Travelers have their choices of art galleries, studios, shops that are set up in traditional and modern settings. They also have an abundance of jewelry and black pearls.

The island of Bora Bora is heavily influenced by the French culture hence the rich local and French cuisines. They also have a wide selection of international restaurants.

What to buy

Taking into account the costs of everything in Bora Bora, which sometimes defy imagination; it is a perfectly sound choice to forget the common sense of the traveller and buy as much as possible (including groceries) before getting there. Keep that option in mind if you want to self-cater.

The “specialty” of Bora Bora is Black Pearls. Commonly known around the world as Tahitian Black Pearls, the pearls of Bora Bora are indigenous to the remote lagoons of French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Today, the Tahitian Black Pearls has become an exotic gem sought after by celebrities and pearl aficionados alike. The Most popular place to buy and make your own Black Pearl Jewelry is The Farm at the Bora Bora Pearl Company.

There are not a lot of restaurants in Bora Bora. Some visitors might be a little surprised by the service (speed over quality…). Outside they have a pair of big boards with the names on all of the famous people who have eaten there.

Explore Bora Bora where a popular form of accommodation on the island are the overwater bungalows. Many of the resorts offer this type of accommodation due to there being more water mass than land. Some overwater bungalows feature a glass-bottomed floor and are designed in traditional Bora Bora island houses.

Official tourism websites of Bora Bora

For more information please visit the official government website: 

Watch a video about Bora Bora

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