We started the long day of travel from Puerto Rico to Bora Bora on a Thursday and touched down in the capital of French Polynesia: Papeete on Friday. From there it was supposed to be a quick trip over to Bora Bora. Papeete is the hub of French Polynesia. You fly in and out of there to get to any island that you are going to, and there are a lot to explore! For this leg of the trip we were headed to the St. Regis in Bora Bora with the crew from Beachbody for our annual Elite 10 adventure. Each year that we earn this excursion we extend the trip and try to explore the areas around where the trip is. When we arrived in Papeete things did not go as smoothly as we planned and everyone was confirmed on the flight to Bora Bora but me. There was a strike on Air Tahiti so flights were canceled and delayed all day so a couple others in our party were delayed and put on stand by for a much later flight. After traveling for 24 hours this is unwelcome news and with the strike it was tough to get anyone to see a different point of view and help us out. They were just not willing to budge in any way. What I always try to remember when I face a little adversity is that these things always work themselves out. In situations where I have grown really impatient and allowed my emotions to take over I have always regretted it. There is no need to play the victim or to behave badly because when things work out later, in my experience, I have always felt like an ass. Long story short, we made it. Everyone got on the plane except myself, the co-owner of Beachbody and his finance and we took a private helicopter to Bora Bora. It was as cool as it sounds and truly an experience I will always remember. I have always wanted to ride in a helicopter and I had been talking about it for a couple weeks before we left for this trip and I got to do it twice during our week in Bora Bora. Watch what you put out into the Universe because it is likely coming right at you.
The St. Regis, Bora Bora:
Let’s talk about the St. Regis. If you want luxury in a picturesque setting then you really have to look no further than this hotel. There are beach bungalows of varying sizes as well as over water bungalows with views of Mt. Olemanu (which looks like a smaller version of the Matterhorn) and Mt. Pahia. These are the main peaks on Bora Bora and you can see them from everywhere. We stayed in an over water bungalow over the amazingly clear turquoise water. There is a huge deck as well as a little dock where you can jump right in the water from the back of your bungalow. While we were there the current was crazy so we only got to enjoy this a few times but it was an awesome place to be none the less. It was cool to be able to hear the water every night when we went to bed. Around the bungalows there are small black tip reef sharks, rays, and an assortment of fish to check out. The St. Regis is a pretty big place with a couple restaurants, a spa, and lagoon that is stocked with local fish and fed from the ocean that you can snorkel around in and interact with the wildlife. They have a Napoleon fish which is also known as a hump-head wrasse and these things are awesome and huge! You get around the grounds by grabbing one of the bikes that is laying around a pedaling yourself to where you want to go. In my opinion this was one of the coolest things about the resort. It was really fun and convenient to ride the bikes around, jump in the water at the beach, and take pictures. When I thought about Bora Bora I seriously thought we would just be laying around on the beach or on our deck, but actually, there is a lot to do and we were busy the entire time.
WHAT WE DID:
At first glance the Shark and Ray feeding seemed like a tourist trap that would be weird and Amy and I had no idea what to expect. We love sharks and rays and anything having to do with the ocean so we were excited to check it out. It was AWESOME! In French Polynesia when you go anywhere, you go by boat. When we pulled up to the shark feeding spot there was a swarm of sharks converging on the area. We anchored and they just said,”jump in”. So I did. There were 40-50+ Black Tips ranging from 2-5 feet in length swimming around. Amy and I are both shark junkies so this was really a cool experience. We were able to just spend time int he water with them and take pictures. They do not really care that you are there and no attention to you. At times they are totally surrounding you and some come right at you but swim away quickly when they get to within a foot of you.I never felt threatened or sketched out. This experience totally put me at ease in the ocean and reinforced my passion to swim with and learn more about all different kinds of sharks.
From the Black Tip site we headed by boat to feed the rays. The guides pick them up and let you pet them if you would like and there are black tip sharks snaking their way quietly through the crowd as well. All in all a really fun experience that is capped off with a traditional Polynesian lunch at a motu (small isalnd). The food here was the best was the best thing we ate the whole time. It was simple food and really flavorful. The best part is that you are cruising around all day in a boat on the crystal clear waters with the picturesque mountains and lush countryside surrounding you. If you end up on an adventure to Bora Bora definitely do this.
We have only been Scuba Diving for a little over a month and had 9 recorded dives up to this point. We actually pushed to get our PADI certification because we were going to spend 3 weeks in French Polynesia. We booked a private 2 tank dive through Top Dive. Amy, another couple, and I boarded our boat and headed out into the lagoon. There were really rough seas that day and we had only done shore dives up to this point but we are all about the adventure so we just hoped for the best. The first dive was outside the main channel and was absolutely amazing. It is known as a shark dive and there were a few snorkeling boats out there when we got there. As I mentioned before, the seas were really rough so we just geared up and jumped into the rolling ocean before any of us got sea sick. In fact, most of us just face planted into the ocean and got under water as quickly as we could. Once we went below the surface everything was good. The water was crystal clear and it did not take long to for the resident lemon and black tip sharks to show up. There is a lot of wild life to look at and the coral is in pretty good shape. The black tips stay near the surface and the lemons (which are much bigger) cruise along the bottom. There was a group of 3 Lemon Sharks cruising around together and a couple swimming around the perimeter of the group during our whole dive.
I love sharks. I used to be terrified of them but over the last year I have made it a point to learn more about them. This trip I made it a goal to get in the water with them. I must admit that I had a little anxiety about it due to the amount of shark week and Jaws movies I have watched but they are truly awesome animals. It is really cool to be around them and watch them swim. After we got out of the water and back on the boat (which was still rough) we drank juice, ate cookies and fresh coconut and cruised back into the lagoon.
For our second tank we did a drift dive. The current was CRAZY. We were told to get in one at a time and sink straight to the bottom and perch on some sand and wait for the group. In the current it was easier said than done. The first entry did not go well and we got separated, luckily in pairs, so we all re-boarded the boat for a second attempt with a better plan. We went in groups of two with the dive master. She got two people down then came up for the second two. We hit the bottom and grabbed some rocks until we were all together, gave the OK signal, and off we went! This was a really fun dive. The current was so strong that we were flying along the bottom. When we came upon this cool little under water canyon we all grabbed onto some rocks and watched some eagle rays effortlessly gliding against the current. We ended the dive right under the boat where we were able to swim with more fish until we were low on air and then head up. All in all it was a great dive experience and really wet our appetites for more.
One day we all headed into the main island of Bora Bora and took a jeep tour. They loaded us all in Land Rovers and we headed out to explore the hills. They were not kidding when they said we would be doing some off-roading. The jeeps have bench seats in the bed with a roll cage and no seat belts. There were some really steep passes that definitely got everyone’s hearts pumping. The views were amazing and the guides told us a lot about the history of Bora Bora and it’s involvement in the second world war. I had no idea that a lot of the infrastructure was built by the United States and that there were huge anti aircraft guns pointed out into the ocean. We went and saw some of the decommissioned giant guns and the bunkers and stomped around in the hills for a while. It was a cool way to kill an afternoon and a great way to get some panoramic views of the lagoons and small surrounding islands. The guides were fun and knowledgeable even if some were not the best drivers.
There are a lot of fun things that you can do at the St. Regis. We took a helicopter ride around Bora Bora that lasted for about 20 minutes. It was a really cool experience. The pilot flew us around the reef so we saw panoramic views of the main island and all of the smaller islands surrounding it. The coolest part in my opinion, Amy may have a differing view on this, was when he looped through the two peaks on Bora Bora, Mt. Pahia and Mt. Olemanu. This was Epic! It was like being on a roller coaster. Then we cruised right back to the St. Regis and landed on the heli-pad.
The Spa at the resort is also amazing. It is located on the lagoon with the peak of Mt. Olemanu looking on in the background. The treatments are great and it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon getting pampered. The staff is really professional and it is a really relaxing experience. I recommend the Tahitian Hot Stone Massage. I got one right after we arrived, after 24 hours of traveling, and it was a perfect way to put me in vacation/relaxation mode.
If you want to be more adventurous with your time you can rent Jet Skis and take a guided tour of the lagoon. You go all the way out to the outer reef where you can see the huge waves crashing. We love being on the water and I enjoyed watching the water change color under the jet ski as we went from shallow to deeper then back to shallow. It literally goes from clear to a deep turquoise to a deep deep blue as you get into the deep water. There are so many different shades of blue and it is so clear! Pictures and words just do not do it justice. There are also Stand Up Paddle boards and Kayaks or just grab a coconut water and lay in a beach chair and read.
This concluded our week in Bora Bora. It is a really fun island and there is no shortage of things to do. My absolute favorite was the diving. I love being under water and seeing all of the life that is there. Be sure to bring your certification card and get in touch with Top Dive ahead of time to book your dives. My second favorite was the shark and ray feeding for sure. This was so fun. Seeing that many sharks and being able to interact with them was magical.When everyone was saying their goodbyes and getting ready to head stateside we were heading to Tikehau. The pink sand atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Thank you for reading and please stay tuned for part 2 of our Adventure in French Polynesia: Tikehau!