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Archive for February, 2009

Day 20: Shark Bait Feb 27

catch-of-the-dayFor those of you who seek an activity that is a little more edgy and exciting, I suggest a shark feeding excursion.

Earlier, Captain Arii had attacted small black tip sharks within the reef area.  These are a smaller, less aggressive type of shark that generally avoid human contact.

Here, he looks on as swimmers float on the surface and view sharks on the lagoon bottom. Catch of the day takes on  a whole new meaning!

 My underwater photography skills are non-existent. I have neither the specialized equipment nor the techical know-how. My disposable waterproof camera produced murky blue-green impressionist images that only I would recognize. Normally, my camera is an extension of my right arm. This is a time to leave it behind and be fully present. Just float, breathe, and observe.

picture-188There is some controversary surrounding the way this activity is conducted by some operators. Some tours take participants into the water and hold them at a distance before bait is thrown out, causing a feeding frenzy. Animals in the wild are unpredictable and they probably haven’t read the script. I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for shark bait.
When I am selecting soft adventure activities, I consider interest level, fitness level and safety. I don’t believe in forced fun or undue risk. With me, there is never any pressure to exceed your comfort zone. Overall, it must be enjoyable and memorable, not extreme or dangerous.

Note: the Tahiti Virtual Tour continues on through Day 26 / March 9.

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Day 19: Turtle Sanctuary Feb 26

le-meridien-ow-floor-window-2One of my favorite resorts is Le Meridien Bora Bora for two very special reasons.

The tropical themed overwater bungalows feature a double size window in the floor that I call “aquarium tv” and a private deck with direct ladder access to the water below. You can enjoy the view from the dry comfort of your unit or slide directly into the water and become part of the scene. 

The resort blends traditional Tahitian styling with French chic. The chef provides some of the best cuisine on Bora Bora.  While you dine at the edge of their internal lagoon, you can see turtles freely swmming by. You can also don mask and fins and join them in the warm water.

turtle-sanctuary-4Le Meridien has a turtle sanctuary where baby green hawksbill sea turtles can mature in safety. This is the only facility of its kind in French Polynesia. There are educational presentations by staff members and you can even “adopt” a turtle. While you can’t take one home with you as a pet, guests may aid in efforts to nurture and return these animals to their natural habitat through their ongoing conservation program.

I hope you saved a couple of bread rolls from dinner to take back to your bungalow. Break them into small chunks and feed the fish from your terrace. Or flip the switch on the external night light under your floor and watch the show.

Tomorrow, you become the bait for something a little larger.

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Day 18: Hail Otemanu Feb 25

bb-thalasso-view-otemanu-21Most of the major resorts are located on the islets surrounding the actual island and therefore have the best views of the island itself from different vanatge points. Two towering volcanic peaks dominate the skyline. Here, you can see Mount Otemanu from the Bora Bora Inter-Continental Thalasso Resort.

Life will center around your resort as your home base for your stay. So, once again, location is very, very important. Your choice will definitely color your experience.

I recommend that you get some expert advice on this. Your vacation time and money are very valuable. You need to maximize both based on your needs and desires, without obliterating your budget, to have a truly extraordinary experience.

Transfers are included for all off-site activities. Some local restaurants will provide transfers for guests with confirmed reservations. Some resorts will also offer a shuttle service to the village. When you are in Vaitape, the central hub of the island, you may do a little shopping. Or rent a vehicle to circle the island on the coastal road. For history or archaeology buffs, there are marae and WWII relics to explore along the way.

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Day 17: My Blue Heaven Feb 24
Photo Courtesy of Tahiti Tourism

Photo Courtesy of Tahiti Tourism

The main island of Bora Bora is surrounded by numerous motu. In fact, the airport is built on one of these islets and is only accessible by ferry to the main village of Vaitape or by private boat from the individual resorts. A helicopter transfer is also available to the neighboring private island resort of Le Tahaa. Due to the geography, pre-arranged boat transfers are a must. You cannot take a taxi or rent a car to cross the lagoon to your accommodations!

Bora Bora’s captivating beauty is world-renowned. It is where the rich and famous have come for decades. It is one of the top 5 honeymoon destinations for couples.

You can see from the air that Bora Bora’s lagoon offers everyone the living ocean in myriad hues of blue and green. This area is well-protected by motu and reefs providing calm, clear waters for all types of water sports and all varieties of sea life.

It is one of the favorite islands for a mermaid like me.

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Day 16: Taking Flight Feb 23

Note: If you are just joining the tour today/this week, see the Intro dated January 28 in the Archives /January. The Tahiti Virtual Tour Day 1 is dated February 2 in the Archives /February in the left sidebar.

air-tahiti-3Airports on the outer islands range from small open-air buildings next to a runway to even smaller open-air pavillions next to a landing strip. Operations tend to be very informal.

You walk up to the counter and hand over your ticket and passport. They weigh your luggage and then they weigh YOU. It’s important that the pilots know the total weight of passengers, luggage and inter-island cargo on these smaller aircraft. There is no security line, no metal detectors, no need to remove clothing. You have probably shown up in a tee shirt and shorts or a sundress and flip flops.

After the plane arrives and unloads, they allow you to walk out on the tarmac and climb the stairs. You can see airline personnel placing your bags on board.

You may take any empty seat. Trust me, snag a window seat on the left side, if possible. You really don’t want to miss the spectacular view from the air as we approach Bora Bora, one of the most famous islands in the world!

Inter-island flights are usually short and scenic. Today, it will be less than an hour from Moorea to Bora Bora.

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Day 15: Homeward Bound Feb 20

lone-surfer-at-duskEach day I was on the magical island of Moorea in Tahiti’s Society Islands, I followed an afternoon ritual of sitting outside watching Mother Nature display a light show over sea and land at dusk. The sky would gradually turn from pale blue to shades of lavender then finally the inky shades of night. One evening, I spied a lone surfer gliding home toward the shore as darkness began to drape itself around the island.

I was reminded that there comes that time when you have to go home. This would be the ending point for a one week trip to Tahiti and Moorea. As a collections of snapshots and snippets of information, this virtual tour is intended to be more of a preview than a substitute for real first-hand experience of being in these lovely islands.

Travel is very personal and subjective. For a short time, you become part of the fabric of the location. And there is also an inner journey that parallels the outer experiences.

The itinerary we have followed approximates my custom-designed Moorea Adventure Getaway. If you would like more details or to join me on the next one, the direct link is

Before we leave, I can’t resist taking you out to Bora Bora – very briefly.

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Day 14: A Little Nightlife Feb 19

Most medium to large resorts host lavish themed dinner and entertainment nights each week. These are very convenient but a little outside nightlife is a good change of pace. On several nights this week, I will have pre-arranged transfers and dinner reservations for one of my favorite local restaurants for my group guests.

Tonight, we are going to the Tiki Village,  a living Tahitian village. Members of the resident community will guide you through areas where artists and artisans work during the day and performers entertain at night. Others will unearth the underground oven where the evening meal has been prepared and discuss the local ingredients, typical of the Tahitian feast, that you will enjoy a little later.

picture-058As an interesting side note, while it is NOT possible to have a legally binding marriage in French Polynesia due to legal requirements, it is possible to have a Tahitian wedding ceremony here at the Tiki Village with a full contingent of performers in traditional dress. The Floating House  is also available for a unique overnight stay for the honeymoon or anniversary couple.

After the live pareo show and a generous buffet dinner, the show will begin. This is NOT a slick, high production hotel show like ones you may have seen in Papeete or perhaps Hawaii. You will see different styles of group and individual dances as well as the always exhilarating fire dances. Choreography may not be perfectly precise but there is a sense of fun and slight mistakes are laughed off lightly. In my opinion, the performance goes on a little too long but I think they can be forgiven for overproviding.

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Day 13: Close Encounters Feb 18

dolphin-quest-1The Moorea Dolphin Center, located on the grounds of the Moorea Inter-Continental Resort (formerly the Dolphin Quest Program), has 4 bottlenose dolphins that were born in lagoonariums and have not lived out in open water. They spend their days interacting with children and adults in a variety of programs, including local school field trip groups.

The basic program, conducted with onsite trainers, is part education and part entertainment. As a participant, you may gently touch the dolphin as instructed by your guide and applaud when it performs dramatic  water “tricks” on cue. The Apnea Program even allows you to swim under water with a dolphin in tandem, just the two of you, for the length of the pool, several times. Of course, there are deliberate photo ops for each person as delightful souvenirs. And a video that is available for purchase.

I have done this myself and have to admit that it was quite thrilling. I never knew dolphins were so strong. I had to hold on tight as mine pulled me beneath the surface and along the bottom. I was surprised I could “hitchike” and hold my breath for that long. 

dolphin-quest-2People are naturally drawn to dolphins and you can see guests standing at the bridge throughout the day, observing the ongoing activities. It engages anyone and everyone who passes by, to be at least a spectator or to sign up for this close encounter.

If you prefer a more free and natural setting, then yesterday’s tour with Nani & Heifara would have served that purpose well. If you feel you need a little more direct contact, this will have you soaring. 

Generally, people are excited to have this rare opportunity but I have heard some concerns voiced for the welfare of animals that live in captivity. I can say that the dolphins seem to be well cared for and certainly have  a large fan club.

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Day 12: Captain Courageous Feb 18

stingrays-2Captain Heifara Dutertre is the owner and founder of Moorea Boat Tours and our private guide for today’s water experiences.  Together with his wife Nani, they run a small local family owned and operated business. They share their first-hand knowledge on an intimate and educational day tour for my small groups.

Here, he stands on a sandbar in waist deep water handfeeding graceful stringrays. As you wade in beside him, they will glide past and lightly brush up against you like silent gray ghosts in the water. Heifara will be happy to show you how to safely pet their soft velvety surface.

la-plage-beach-bar-1Heifara was born and raised on the island of Moorea and is very experienced with the resident marine life. He knows the best locations for snorkeling with tropical fish, black tip shark and gray reef sharks. He can take us out to meet spinner dolphins in the passes of the barrier reef and encounter humpback whales in season (July-November). Nani and Heifara will also let you know if there is an opportunity to slip over the side of the boat into the water with dolphins or whales for a more personal encounter. of course, it will be from a respectful and safe distance for both marine life and humans.

la-plage-beach-bar-21I also request a stop at a tiny offshore  islet, Motu Moea, for a little break and lunch at my favorite beach bar La Plage. This tiny open-air restaurant serves Tahitian and French cuisine.  Note that La Plage literally translates as “The Beach” and that it is only accessible by boat, only for lunch and only on certain days of the week. I know the owner and this is the way he likes it. Anyway, we have time to enjoy good food, good company and relax on the sand before we head back.

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Day 11: Under the Sea Feb 16
Photo Courtesy of Tahiti Tourism

Photo Courtesy of Tahiti Tourism

With a little instruction and practice, almost anyone can learn to float on the surface with mask and fins in one easy lesson. The warm, shallow waters around the island of Moorea are ideal for snorkeling year round, with a lack of strong currents and an abundance of marine life. There are many snorkeling spots close to the resorts and around the island. Complimentary gear is available at most resort dive shops for guest use. Tour companies will also provide all necessary equipment.



Photo Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme

Photo Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme

Scuba diving is also available for certified divers. I know that resorts often promote introductory dives and on site programs. As a certified diver myself, I advise you to enroll in  a full course in your home city at your own pace and comfort level beforehand. To be relaxed and ENJOY the experience, it is important that you are familiar with the equipment and procedures before attempting a first dive in open water in an unknown location. I have seen what can happen when a first time diver becomes overwhelmed and panics 25 feet under the surface. Be fully prepared or choose an alternative.

An interesting and intermediate option that you might want to try is snuba. This invloves walking along the lagoon bottom in a diving helmet with an attached air hose. You are fully immersed under water yet able to move slowly & breath fairly normally. The other advantage is that no formal training is required.

I will discuss scuba diving in more detail when we travel to the Tuamotus islands of Tahiti another month. The diving there is just exceptional and in a class all its own.

Tomorrow, I will introduce you to someone very special who will take us to an underwater grotto. We will have time to snorkel between submerged giant tikis (statues) and meet its resident 5 foot barracuda.  And there’s even more to see & do before we return to our home base.

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