For a view of Tahiti from a different vantage point, the luxurious and intimate mv Paul Gauguin,which was designed specifically for French Polynesia, sails through the Society Islands on a 7-night cruise itinerary part of the year. Unlike larger cruise ships, this vessel blends well with the environment rather than dominating it with sheer size. Ports of call include the islands of Tahiti and Raiatea with overnight stays in Moorea and Bora Bora. The European staff is gracious and accommodating to your vacation needs and wishes.
This small ship has an upscale yacht-like ambience with a maximum of 330 passsengers. As a 6-star luxury product, it features all oceanview staterooms ansd suites, gourmet meals with pouring wines and spirits, shipboard activities and entertainment with a local emphasis, plus 24 hour room service.
The unique rear watersports platform offers complimentary watersports such as kayaking, windsurfing and waterskiing. Snorkeling equipment is provided for guest use throughout the voyage and comes in handy during the stop on their private Motu Mahana, next to the island of Tahaa neighboring Bora Bora. And the onboard Carita Spa of Paris is an oasis of pampering.
This is truly a seamless way to travel through these idyllic islands. It is one of those rare experiences that warrants repeating just for the pure pleasure of it. Many passengers do return for a repeat performance. Out of decades of worldwide travel experience, it remains one of my personal top 3.
Luxury for Less: You can experience the Paul Gauguin for yourself on the September 26 – October 3 Society Islands cruise at very attractive discounted fares. Rates expire August 15 but I anticipate that space will be gone before the deadline! I recommend that you act quickly to get this travel steal.
I will discuss other sailing options in August: yacht charters in the Tuamotus Atolls and freighter travel in the Marquesas Islands.
The Pearl Resorts of French Polynesia are laid across the Society Islands, Tuamotus Atolls and the Marquesas Islands like a strand of pearls. I will take you to the latter two collections as this tour progresses there next month.
The Bora Bora Pearl Resort has two outstanding features. As a truly polynesian style resort, it has garden and beach bungalow suites that are a unique alternative to the classic overwater bungalows and villas.
These units have interior bedrooms with outdoor bathrooms incorporating natural materials: palm, bamboo, driftwood, coral and shells. The bathroom area is open to the air but enclosed for privacy within a private garden courtyard. Some have a small plunge pool or jacuzzi. The garden units are set in a lush tropical setting while the beach suites front onto the beach with views of Mt. Otemanu. I prefer these to the overwater bungalows at this location.
As an aside, for some unexplained reason, there is a 18 hole miniature golf course in the gardens for guest use. I noticed this as I walking back to the the spa. Quite amusing. I haven’t seen this at any other resort in Tahiti.
The Manea Spa at the Bora Bora Pearl is one of the finest here. I will just give you a quick sneak peek for the time being.
The resort also offers a weekly yoga class and more extensive one week 6-session workshops offered as scheduled. Classes last approximately an hour with mats and props provided. The emphasis is on basic yoga poses for stretching and relaxation. There’s nothing quite like yoga on the beach!
The Bora Bora Inter-Continental Thalasso Resort has taken things to another level. It was designed in a very hip, contemporary style with public areas (restaurants, bars, pool) deliberately facing Otemanu. The beautifully appointed spacious 3 room villas perched over the lagoon waters all have stunning views of the main island and lagoon as well.
This is the first hotel in the world to have cold deep ocean water pumped up to the surface to air condition the entire facility. Not only is this cutting edge in terms of technology but it is also environmentally friendly at the same time. This is the same source for the water that is used in the Thalasso spa treatments at the elite Deep Ocean Spa, the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Thalassotherapy treatments are based on the benefits of sea water and marine elements. The marine climate, seawater, marine mud and seaweed are all employed for their preventative and curative properties. Water drawn from the depths of the Pacific Ocean is particularly rich in minerals and trace elements. It is heated to near body temperature so essential nutrients can be absorbed by the body.
This world class destination spa offers an extensive menu of treatments, a veritable ocean of well-being. I would begin with the special jet lag massage and go from there. Hmm, the foot reflexology sounds good too.
Excuse me while I slip into a spa robe. See you in the tea lounge later.
Continuing our fish theme, tonight we boat transfer over to the mainland and visit one of the most famous restaurants in French Polynesia.
Bloody Mary’s is a not-to-be-missed institution on Bora Bora. Take a moment to read the wooden signs on either side of the entrance listing the names of famous people from all over the world who have dined here.
As you will step under the thatched roof, you will be entering a polynesian fantasy world. Take off your shoes, place them in the conveniently located cubbies and feel the sand floor under your feet. Just inside you will see coconut-tree stump bar stools and the dining area beyond.
Fresh seafood is brought in daily by local fishermen. A hostess will show you everything that is available from an iced display. You may choose fish, lobster, even steak or chicken for the chefs to prepare on the grill. Enjoy a tropical cocktail as you wait for your meal to be delivered to your table.
You will get very relaxed. Just keep track of how many drinks you have or you may not be able to find your sandals at the end of the evening.
Good thing there’s a designated boat driver to get you back to your resort!
For 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 attracted 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 technical 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.
There is some controversy 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.
One 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.
Le 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.
Most of the major resorts are located on the prime real estate – 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.
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.
Airports 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.
Lone Surfer at Dusk
Each 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 Tahiti Adventure Getaway. If you would like more details or to join me on the next one, the direct link is http://www.islandgetawaystravel.com/TahAdvGetaway.htm
But don’t worry, we’re not leaving these idyllic islands just yet. I can’t resist taking you out to Bora Bora – very briefly – before we venture out even farther to the Tuamotus Atolls and the Marquesas Islands.