I had the pleasure to live in
These islands were formed around 5-6 million years ago by volcanic activity in the region. The region was claimed by the French in 1842 and declared a French Protectorate, in 1946 it was re-declared an Overseas Territory of France and most recently in 2004 it was designated a French Overseas Collectivity. This basically means that it has its own local assembly and government but ultimately it is part of
The Polynesian language does not have the letter B and the true name is Pora Pora meaning “first born” as it is said that it was the first
During the Second World War
Bora Bora was the setting for the famous Rogers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” and today many visitors still visit the local landmark “Bloody Mary’s” bar which is one of the oldest business’ on the island and has it’s own dock on the breathtaking lagoon. Tourism, vanilla, coconuts, and the famous black pearls drive the local economy.
The people are very friendly and at first encounter many North Americans are unsure how to take it. It is not uncommon at all for a local to sit down beside you on the beach and start talking to you like they are a long lost friend. You will not often be harassed by merchants, peddlers, and time share bandits. In fact if you do choose to browse the local shops and booths in many cases you will just get a pleasant smile and they tend to wait for you to ask them questions. However anyone you meet will have a friend with a small Pearl Farm where you can find deals well below the cost of most of the larger jewelers and pearl exchange.
I myself made a good friend, Ray an American surfer, and diver in Huahine that came to the
Now that I have shared a little bit about this south pacific marvel let’s get to the good stuff, the diving! Where do I start? I guess I will start with the best known dive site Motu Tapu located just east of the Pass, which is the only way into or out off the lagoon. This site is anywhere from 30’ to a max 125’ though most of the dive can be done at 30-40’ for max bottom time and you really won’t see any more at a deeper depth. The site is marked with multiple buoys and is a popular spot for shark and ray feedings and snorkelers. The visibility is well over 100’ and the coral in incredible.
They have had an ongoing problem with “Crown of Throne” it is a starfish type invasive species that tends to ravish the local coral. However the locals are doing all they can to preserve this resource. When you pull up your French local guide, present on every dive as dictated by French law, will secure the boat to one of the moorings and shut the motor off. This action tends to produce an effect I call Pavlov’s sharks. Because this is a popular shark feeding location the sharks are conditioned to the sound of the boat motors and when the shut down they know it is dinnertime. You will usually see 5-10 black tip reef sharks measuring 3-5 feet in length they usually stay mid-column and will follow you throughout the dive. They have yellowish eyes and I honestly was a little afraid of them for my first dozen dives or so, but really harmless they just add to the excitement.
On the bottom are the real stars of the shows. Large lemon sharks 10-14” in length patrol the sea floor usually 3-5 of these beautiful fish can be seen at any time during the dive and make a great photo opportunity. No there are no cages, or chain mail, boom sticks or James Bond types with harpoon guns protecting you. You don’t need them. Believe me the sharks really have no interest in you at all.
It is pretty scary and I remember my first dive with them. Before we went out I was lowering my Zodiac from the davit on my ship. The bowline was caught up on some gear and I gave it a big pull, well it came free and I launched it at my head and the carabineer on the end struck my forehead and I started to bleed. I knew this was a shark dive and I have heard how the sharks will be jolted into a feeding frenzy by the presence of blood so I went to our local guide Terry. “Hey Terry I just cut myself and I am bleeding here should I still dive?” he looked at me and said in his strong French accent “are you worried that the salt water will sting you?” and I had not even considered that so I guess I looked at him with a dumb look and said “No” then he cracked a huge smile and said”Ah, you worry about a shark attack?’ at this point I had no idea how to respond so I maintained the same dumb look and simply shrugged my shoulders. Then Terry’s coy smile instantly transformed into a full belly laugh and I was more than a little ashamed of my inexperience. When he was done laughing at me he assured me I would be just fine and had nothing to worry about. Honestly seeing his reaction to my concern really helped give me the confidence I needed to proceed with the dive. If he thought it was that funny I must have nothing to worry about.
That was the first of over 50 dives I did at Motu Tapu, incidentally I was not injured on any of them nor did I see anyone else get molested in any way. However I did recount my shameful tale almost every time I led a new group of divers to the site. I think my misfortune was a valuable tool in helping people get over their own misconceptions about sharks.
Among the other residents here you will find, some of the biggest Moray eels I have ever seen in my life, some of them have heads the size of a St. Bernard, hump head Maori wrasse, napoleon fish, titan trigger fish, turtles some octopus, and if you are lucky you may even see the odd humpback whale. With the visibility as endless as it is here and the abundance of sea life you can shoot a lot of great pictures here. It is only one of several superb dive sites on the
Due to the remote location of French Polynesia, (about halfway between South America and
There are plenty of great places to eat as well though you will not recognize a single chain or franchise on the