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Bora Bora

Written by Cathy Siegismund
August 2001


   

Bora Bora is another one the leeward Society Islands in French Polynesia.

We arrived in Bora Bora on Saturday, August 11. As we sat in Seattle planning for our cruising adventure, we often thought of Bora Bora as the epitome of the South Pacific. Maybe it was from Michener's quote, or those fantastic travel posters showing the island from the air, but we were very excited as Bora Bora became more clear on the horizon.

Approaching Bora Bora


Photo by Vernita Lytle

Felicity approaching Bora Bora

We decided to check out the Bora Bora Yacht Club. We had heard mooring balls were there and free of charge as long as you patronized the yacht club. Several moorings were available, so we grabbed one. We relaxed for a few hours, and then blew up the dinghy for a trip ashore and dinner at the yacht club.

Bora Bora Yacht Club

For those of you used to the more prestigious yacht clubs, you may be surprised at the more relaxed atmosphere in Bora Bora. They cater to cruisers and offer a dinghy dock, a place to dump trash, a hose on the dock to fill up with water, showers, a book exchange, and a restaurant and bar.

Bora Bora Yacht Club

We had hoped for our 'Cheeseburger in Paradise', but cheeseburgers were only served at lunch. We had a rather overpriced steak dinner and some cocktails, but did enjoy the decor of past cruisers burgees and a lovely sunset.

Burgees and flags of past cruisers who have visited the yacht club

Lovely sunset from the Bora Bora Yacht Club

On Sunday we hung out on the boat and did some chores. I did laundry, which guaranteed a rainy day. Monday, we headed into the town of Viatape to check in with the Gendarme.

Ken tying up the dinghy at Viatape

We ran into Drew and Vernita, who were anchored on the southwest end of the island. They joined us for lunch at the yacht club where we finally got our cheeseburger in paradise.

Vernita, Drew, Cath and Ken in the Bora Bora Yacht Club

Cheeseburger in Paradise, at the Bora Bora Yacht Club

Drew and Vernita helped us move Felicity off the mooring and down through a rather hairy path through the reef to the southwest corner of the island to a tiny bay off the Hotel Bora Bora.

That evening we joined Drew and Vernita and Milo and Kim (Eleftheria) for drinks at the famous bar on Bora Bora, Bloody Mary's.

Walking to Bloody Mary's

Bloody Mary's

Milo, Kim, Drew, Cath and Ken at the great bar in Bloody Mary's

The bar has a long list of famous patrons and though touristy, was a fun stop. We added our boat cards to a wall of signed dollar bills and business cards.

Felicity and Layla boat cards

We spent another few days in our secluded bay. Ken, Drew and Vernita walked around the south end of Bora Bora and got some great views of a motu and our little bay.

Layla and Felicity nestled in our secluded little bay

Motu off the south end of Bora Bora

The weather had settled after a few days of winds from the south. We decided before we started around to the other end of the island, we would check out the Bora Diving Center which was a few hundred yards behind us on the beach.

Ken and I signed up for two dives. The first was just outside the pass on the reef. The visibility was fantastic, at well over 100 feet, with water temperatures at about 80 degrees even at 85 feet. We saw black tip reef sharks, a great Napoleon fish, which is a giant wrasse, lion fish, eels, lemon sharks and lots of other reef fish.

That same day Vernita, on Layla, also signed up for an introductory dive, which she enjoyed, despite the fact they took her outside the reef as well, with really no instruction. You can tell they don't have our litigation system in French Polynesia!

All three of us also signed up for a manta ray dive for the following Sunday. Friday we moved back to the yacht club and took the dinghy into town to run errands. We went to the post office, made phone calls, Ken got a haircut, we had lunch with Drew and Vernita, and we went to the grocery store where I paid the exorbitant price of 710 CFP for 6 eggs. That is a little over $1 USD/egg - yikes.

Bora Bora is very expensive even for French Polynesia, but it is still a wonderful place. The island's peaks offer a different and lovely view from every angle, the water is clear and warm and you can reach many anchorages all around the island without leaving the lagoon.

Mountain on Bora Bora

Saturday, Ken and Drew undertook climbing one of Bora Bora's peaks. Vernita and I were skeptical, and were pleasantly surprised when we got a call on the VHF that they had reached the summit. We spotted two tiny waving specks with the binoculars and they got some outstanding pictures of the island.

The hike was completed without any permanent damage, but they were pretty sore and Drew did try to cut off his finger with his machete.

Ken at the summit of one of Bora Bora's two peaks, at 2070 feet

Bora Bora Summit Panorama (84kb download, Java required)

If you want to view the hike picture gallery, please be patient. There are a lot of pictures in it, but they were all so beautiful, I couldn't bring myself to edit out very many of them.

See more pictures in the Bora Bora Hike Picture Gallery

Sunday, Ken, Vernita and I were picked up on the boat by the Bora Diving Center and taken around the north end of the island inside the lagoon where there is a narrow channel in the reef. This is an area very rich in plankton and therefore, brings in many Manta Rays... in fact, this is the only place in the world where Manta Rays live inside the reef year-round. The visibility is not great, due to the plankton, but we were treated to an hour dive surrounded by 6-10 foot manta rays. It was spectacular. I think this was the clincher for Vernita - I suspect she'll be getting certified in New Zealand.

After returning from our dive, we had lunch at the yacht club with Drew, and were joined by Matt and Debra on Aeventyr, and Paul and Suzette on Altair. That would be four Seattle boats out of the nine on the yacht club's moorings.

We and Layla then motored to the north end of the lagoon, where we dropped the hook in a beautiful area of 11-foot deep turquoise water with another stunning view of the Bora Bora peaks.

Another view of the mountain on Bora Bora

We enjoyed the first day in our lovely anchorage, but the next day the weather started to turn. We then ended up spending about four days in pouring rain and strong winds. I am however, beginning to suspect that bad weather in the tropics is caused by me doing laundry. I did laundry by hand, put it on the clotheslines we've strung around the boat, and within 24-hours we have wind and rain. I guess I need to stop doing laundry. :)

We spent the next four days hanging out with Drew and Vernita on Layla, reading books, playing games, and watching movies.

Vernita treated us to a Thanksgiving dinner in August. We were all getting a bit of cabin fever, so it was a nice surprise. She made turkey with all the trimmings, pie, and we watched Christmas DVDs and listened to Christmas music.

Thanksgiving in August on Layla

Finally, we had a break in the weather and we moved further down the island to the northeast tip. We wound our way through a very narrow break in a reef to get to a small bay near several luxury hotels. We explored this end of the island, where there were a number of nice shops and galleries and a very shallow area inside the reef where we watched kite surfers.

Ken is very interested in trying to pick this sport up in New Zealand. The board is quite small and the kite has inflatable battens and folds up into a little bundle.

It was a rather deep anchorage, dropping the hook in 80 feet of water. However, it was close to some nice shops, restaurants and great snorkeling. Layla joined us, and the following day so did Paul and Suzette on Altair and Wendy and Garth on Velella. It was rather funny that we were all from Seattle and nestled in a tiny bay on Bora Bora. Paul, Suzette, Drew and Vernita joined us for some of the best snorkeling we've seen yet. The fish were good, we saw a sting ray and a large porcupine fish. However, the coral was the best we've seen so far. There were pinks and blues and lavenders. Everywhere we looked there were large clams embedded in the coral with purple, blue, burgundy and neon yellow lips. The coral looked like a topiary sculpted into beautiful shapes. Scattered around the coral where hundreds of sea urchins with black spines and neon blue bodies. We had a fantastic snorkel out near the reef, and then drifted back over the coral towards the boats while dragging the dinghies.

Anchorage in the southeast corner of Bora Bora, with Raiatea in the background

That night we caught up with Velella who we hadn't seen since Moorea.

On Monday, Drew, Vernita, Ken and I rented scooters to circumnavigate Bora Bora.

The Angry Hornets

Wendy, Garth, Paul and Suzette rented bikes the same day, and we ended up leap-frogging with them around the island.

All through French Polynesia we had seen these huge oversized mail boxes. We finally figured it out on Bora Bora. They don't deliver mail to your home, but they will deliver baguettes.

Baguette Box

View of the Bora Bora peaks from our scooter adventure

Bora Bora played an important role in WWII and there are still a number of gun emplacements remaining from the war. During our scooter around the island we stopped at one.

Paul was the first to find and pose with one of the old cannons

Drew, a WWII buff, also posing

Garth and Suzette in the nearby munitions storage building

The view from the gun emplacement

   

Ken and Suzette next to the large old cannon

Drew and Paul in the lookout

We continued our circumnavigation of the island, stopping at art galleries, souvenir shops, dive shops and grocery stores. We also stopped in town to run errands.

Church overshadowed by Bora Bora's impressive mountains.

Small log house - except all the logs are made from palm trees

We also stopped at a small pareo shop to look around. While we there we were all bemoaning the fact that we hadn't had any good pamplemousse in quite some time. As we said this we looked up and discovered the pareo shop was under a very large pamplemousse tree. The proprietress gave us permission to take some. Ken scampered up the tree and with the help of Garth managed to pick some of the more elusive pamplemousse.

Garth helping Ken pick pamplemousse

Later that day we finally met up with Gwen Dugan, the sister-in-law of Tom Cloward a co-worker of mine from Onyx. Gwen had received some mail for us, and we hope to be able to spend some time with her and her family before we leave Bora Bora.

The night before we started heading back around to the town side of Bora Bora, Layla hosted a Mediterranean Night potluck. We all dug in our stores and recipe books and ended up having a fantastic Mediterranean feast. We had a great time catching and stayed up into the wee hours talking with Drew & Vernita, Nick & Jen, Paul & Suzette, and Wendy and Garth.

Mediterranean Feast aboard Layla

We are all starting to feel the need to begin preparing to leave French Polynesia. It is a wonderful place, but after four months, we're starting to think about the rest of the journey ahead of us on our way to New Zealand. Ken and I have made our project lists, which included scrubbing the bottom of the boat, engine maintenance, cleaning the boat above and below, inspecting the rig, and all the other projects that you must do prior to a passage. We have moved the boat back around to the town side of Bora Bora and have begun working through our projects.

We plan to leave Bora Bora in about a week, and head for the Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga and New Zealand. It is quite a bit of ocean to cover in a little over two months.

This isn't to say we've stopped having fun or anything. Ken and I signed up for a ten-dive pack with Top Dive and have been enjoying diving. Jason and Tam have finally made it to Bora Bora. They had a family emergency occur while in Tahiti and had to return to Seattle for a few weeks. Everything worked out well for them, but we have missed their company over the last month.

Drew, Vernita, Jason, Tam, Ken and I all went to dinner the other night at Bloody Mary's. It was September 2, and we realized it was just about one year ago that we all sailed out of Seattle to begin this adventure. We've all come a long way in our new lifestyles, but look forward to continued adventures as we explore the world in our small boats.

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