A little piece of heaven
(a page from my Travel Journal)
I remember a quote by the late Pavarotti (bless his soul) when he first visited Pangkor Laut, an upscale resort in Malaysia. He said that when he saw the island, he wept because it was so beautiful – obviously, the resort uses that quote profusely in their ads. Well, I can definitely relate to those emotions. When I arrived in Bora Bora , I guess the excitement of being here combined with the baffling beauty of this place made me a bit teary-eyed. I just can’t believe I’m actually here – I keep reminding myself every hour or so.
Bora Bora is everything I thought it would be… and more. I’ve seen pictures of it in countless publications, documentaries and travel programmes but it’s not till you’re actually here that you begin to fathom just how magical this place is. I mean, I’ve been to many places around the world that have similar surroundings but Bora Bora just has, let’s call it, the ‘X-factor’. I think it’s a mix of the lagoon’s breathtaking shades of turquoise, aquamarine, sapphire, emerald, fluorescent green and electric blue – you could spend a day or two here just trying to get your mind around the myriad of colours; the impressive rock face of Mt. Otemanu that towers over the whole lagoon; the crystal clear water and pristine white sandy beaches; the low-rise resorts (that give the place a very exclusive feel) with their idyllic thatched roof overwater bungalows; the constant scent of frangipani and tiare Tahiti (the national flower that’s used for almost everything); and the fact that you’re in the middle of the South Pacific! I can now understand why people are willing to spend a large chunk of their life-savings just to make a trip out here. It’s really like a little piece of heaven on Earth – I wouldn’t know how else to describe it.
I arrived in Papeete on Tahiti after a six-and-a-half hour flight from Sydney on Air Tahiti Nui. It’s funny how you go back a day when you cross the International Date Line from west to east. I left on a Sunday morning and arrived on a Saturday evening. I changed the time and date on everything, including my iPod. It refused to play a song after I’d made the date change. When I brought the date forward, it worked again – guess iPods were not designed to play music in the ‘past’. Weird, eh? I must send Steve an e-mail. Anyway, we arrived safely in Papeete in the dark. I just think it’s amazing how navigation systems work so brilliantly to steer a plane precisely to a tiny dot in the middle of this massive ocean. We were greeted at the airport with garlands made of fragrant tiare Tahiti. The next day, I got up early to catch my 7:40am flight to BOB (Bora Bora’s airport code). When I opened the blinds, I was just stunned by the view. The hotel faced the airport and its runway but beyond that loomed the deep blue Pacific and the dramatic peaks of Moorea. Wow!
The 45-minute flight to BOB was quite special. You could sense the excitement of the passengers as the plane descended through the clouds. As we broke free of the last cloud, a magnificent vista awaited us: a massive multi-coloured lagoon bordered by lush green atolls, the fringes of which broke the waves from the open ocean, and a mountainous island in the middle crowned by steep lofty peaks. What a sight! The airstrip was on one of the atolls, which meant that you had to take a boat to wherever you were heading. We were met at the arrivals hall with more garlands and ushered to a waiting boat.
My luggage was taken care of and we were whisked away into the lagoon to the resort, the Sofitel Motu. The boat ride to the resort was nothing short of stunning. The colours of the lagoon and the shape of Mt. Otemanu kept changing as we sped along. Awesome. We were greeted at the resort’s pier by the lovely Rebecca and a guitarist (who also doubles as the resort’s bouncer I believe) and were served an ice-cold Tahitian beer!
The Sofitel Motu is situated on a private island in the lagoon, with a small number of bungalows scattered over the hill, beach and over the water. I opted for an overwater bungalow (I can’t imagine coming all this way and not staying in an overwater bungalow!!) and it was just beautiful.
It had a large bedroom and bathroom; a living room with a coffee table which featured a glass floor, making it possible to see the fish in the clear water below; and two decks, an upper deck in the shade and a lower deck with deck chairs and steps which led down to the water (you could go snorkelling right off the deck) and an outdoor shower. I kept pinching myself for the first half hour as I just could not believe I was here and what I was seeing. The colours of the lagoon were quite simply mystifying. I sat out on the deck for the rest of the day and just gaped at the scenery and the many fish that swam by below us.
The next morning, I grabbed my snorkelling gear and swam around the reefs for several hours. The corals weren’t too spectacular (guess I’m spoiled after seeing those magnificent reefs in Malaysia and Australia) but there were large numbers of multi-coloured fish such as the emperor angelfin, triggerfish and parrotfish. I then spent the afternoon on the deck, enjoying the view, listening to my iPod and looking out for black-tipped reef sharks; I saw quite a few of them as they leisurely swam by our deck just before sunset.
The following day, I went for an island tour which included shark and manta ray feeding. We first visited the edge of the lagoon, a shallow area near one of the wave-breaking atolls. In the distance, huge waves from the open ocean pounded on the atoll while we calmly bobbed up and down in the relative calm of the lagoon. One of the two guides jumped into the water with a bucket full of fish. We jumped in along with him and within minutes, we were surrounded by a school of black-tipped reef sharks, some up to two meters long. They swam around us for a bit, checking us out, then ventured closer. I was quite surprised when one of them swam up to within two meters of me, then made a quick turn – I discovered why when one of the guides hauled me back into the boat: I had cut my foot on the sharp coral and though it was only a small cut, the little blood that emanated from the wound was more than sufficient to make a shark gauge if I was suitable for lunch!
We then circumnavigated the island and judging by the silence, I think everyone on the boat was just absolutely mesmerised by the astounding scenery. Our last stop was near our resort in a shallow spot. As the boat anchored, about a dozen large manta rays glided by beneath us. What a stunning sight! We were soon in the water swimming around these gentle, inquisitive creatures. They swam up to me several times and hovered around for a bit, long enough to allow me to run my hands across their backs. The largest mantas had wingspans of more than two meters with tails of about the same length. This was definitely one of my most amazing experiences so far during this trip.
I left Bora Bora after four unforgettable days. For me, it was a dream come true. I sometimes still can’t believe I’ve been to this little piece of heaven on Earth.
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