08/15/2008, Bora Bora
There are lots of great places to snorkel in Bora Bora. The Bora Bora Nui beach has many lovely coral heads and fish in crystal clear shallow water (one of the reasons we rate it as the number one place to stay in Bora Bora if you are choosing a hotel). You can also have a lot of fun snorkeling the edge of the bank just north of the start of the marked channel that leads around the south of motu Toopua from Povai Bay. Charlie's Charts says the snorkeling south of motu Piti Aau is the best, we don't agree but there are some nice spots out there.
The award for best snorkeling spot in Bora Bora, in our opinion, goes to the back side of the Sofitel Motu island. This area is flush with gorgeous coral heads, flooded with fish, has shallows and spots that are 10 feet deep as well as moorings to tie up to. It is a protected area, so no fishing or anchoring is allowed. This combined with the regular fish feeding going on makes the fish very friendly and unconcerned with snorkelers. The only down side is that the location is not a secret. Best to visit early, late or during mid day because the tours seem to come en mass in the morning around 10AM and in the afternoon around 1PM.
08/14/2008, Bora Bora
Today we took the dinghy out to explore the outer reef area on the east side of the lagoon. The motus running along the east side are connected to the barrier reef for the most part. However in the south end there is a big gap between the Piti Aau motu and the outer reef. There are many interesting coral formations in this area.
One large coral island rises up above the water just behind Piti Aau. You can approach carefully by dinghy and explore the island and its tide pools. There are lots of fish and many colorful clams in this area.
As we were getting ready to leave a Polynesian family arrived on their power boat. The wife tossed a danforth onto the rocky island (helping mother nature make sand of it) and they all came ashore. We said hello and then they headed off into the coral shallows. I wondered what they were up to and then I saw the wife prying clams from the coral with a big steel bar as the son followed along with a floating plastic box to house the harvest. I was pretty fond of all of the colorful clams on the reef. There are a lot of them at present however so hopefully the harvest is sustainable.
Once away from the coral island we headed through the submerged coral to explore the bank behind the reef to the south. There are some buoys here in the sand flats that we saw a tourist boat leaving from. As it turns out this is one of the shark feeding spots. We saw lots of little black tip sharks and several rays patrolling the grounds to ensure that all of the scraps had been cleaned up.
There were many other interesting areas to explore by dinghy on the southeast side and we had a wonderful day of it.
08/13/2008, Bora Bora
We moved the boat down to the southernmost anchorage on the east side today. The trek from the Saint Regis to the bottom corner of Motu Piti Aau can be made in two ways. We took the Motu side route but you can also go back north to the marked channel and pass over to the island side. The island side is deep water (40-80 feet) until you get down to Piti Aau. The Motu side is about 10 feet and you need to stay close to the hotel over water bungalows (but out of the buoyed swim barriers) as you go. The charts in this area are very out of whack. Our track took us right over several charted reefs that supposedly dry at low tide. We never crossed anything but white sand and though we saw 8 feet as we edged toward the middle of the lagoon, there was nothing less than 10 feet closer in on the motu side.
Once you pass the Intercontinental you can just eyeball your way down. Closer in to Piti Aau at the end of your trek you will come across some coral heads. You can zig though these and head straight into the anchorage or you can head back toward the big island into deeper water and come in farther south where the approach is a little less littered with rock.
The Piti Aau anchorage is gorgeous. It is mostly white sand on a very large 8 foot shelf. The bay in the southeast of Bora Bora's lagoon is bordered on the north and east by Piti Aau, on the south by a 2-3 foot white sand bank, and on the west by Bora Bora. All of this of course is inside the barrier reef. You are pretty protected ocean wise.
The bay does get shallow closer in to the Piti Aau motu, so you can't get too close. This leaves room for a bit of chop and wind when the trades are up. It still has our vote for best anchorage in Bora Bora.
When dropping the hook you do need to check the weather and your swinging room. There are enough rocks around that you could easily get your chain wrapped around one in a wind switch. Of course you can lie to 60 feet of chain and still be at 6:1.
We moved all the way into the anchorage. There are two boats, an old sail boat and a power boat, that are on permanent moorings up in the bay. If you draw 5 feet you can easily anchor in front of them. Until you know your way around you should enter during high sun and keep a good eye out because some of the rocks have less than 5 feet of water over them.
We put our hook down in about six to seven feet of water close to the rise. The wind was predicted to blow strong from the east for the next few days, but I still snorkeled around to make sure we could swing a 360 if need be. We spent the rest of the day settling in to our new spot, meeting the neighbors and snorkeling about. It was beautiful.
08/12/2008, Bora Bora
Today we decided to continue our hotel tour (after eating lunch aboard!) with a visit to the Le Meridian. The Le Meridian is the oldest hotel in the area and it looks it. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you want the Ritz, go to the Saint Regis or the Bora Bora Nui, or perhaps the new Four Seasons (there is no Ritz). That said the Le Meridian reminds me of the old Polynesia, which I am only acquainted with through Walt Disney.
The main buildings are big and open with high pandana covered roofs. The bungalows are smaller and more reserved but still charming. The lagoon is big and beautiful and things look a little less perfect and a little more natural (after all the Le Meridian had first pick of the east side motu spots). But in my opinion, the best thing about the Le Meridian is the turtles.
The Le Meridian has a sea turtle sanctuary where they rehabilitate and raise sea turtles. Some are in pens to protect them as they recover but many are loose in the enclosed lagoon. You can swim and snorkel with them if you are careful not to disturb them. Teaching them not to fear man may not be the best thing for their long term survival. Humans are one of the turtle's deadliest predators, but I suppose you have to raise awareness somehow.
Our favorite turtle spent most of his time playing with (tormenting?) a damsel fish. Damsel fish are famous for being very territorial and will often go after creatures much larger than themselves who get too close to their layer (i.e. SCUBA divers). The turtle would swim boldly into the damsel fish layer and then paddle away as the fish nipped at his flippers.
It is fun to just walk around these resorts and look at the architecture and the landscapes. Most of the large modern resorts have really worked hard to create an idyllic setting. Beaches, trees, endless swimming pools, flowers, lagoons, Koi filled lily ponds and bridges with wandering paths all work together to create quite an impression.
08/11/2008, Bora Bora
There are really no designated anchorages on the east side of Bora Bora. The entire area along the eastern motus is good with few exceptions. For good or bad the whole run of motus on the east side is either developed or being developed. The first opulent resort you run into on your way south is the Four Seasons (opening in September of this year). Next (a stone throw) is the Saint Regis. The Le Meridian follows and they must feel crowded as they were alone here for almost 10 years. Following that is the Intercontinental Motu and then some smaller spots such as the Eden Beach and a place I don't know the name of at the end of Motu Piti Aau.
Today we decided to move down between the Saint Regis and the Le Meridian. Our primary reason is that the bay allows you to get fairly close to the palms and has good protection from the chop farther out in the lagoon. The wind is hanging in the 20s and we wanted to find a good spot for the conditions. The bay is also beautiful with views through the rivulets to the barrier reef and the ocean breakers crashing beyond. The bottom is all beautiful sand and 8-10 feet deep almost all the way in.
We also picked this spot because we wanted to visit the turtle sanctuary at the Le Meridian and look up our friend Eleonore at the Saint Regis. Eleonore worked at the Nui when we were married there and she handled everything for us. We owe her quite a debt and we looking forward to seeing her again at her new hotel.
The Saint Regis has been open about two years and is our favorite of the hotels on Bora Bora after the Nui (perhaps that is a sentimental judgment although I don't think so). Service at the Saint Regis is certainly excellent.
The Saint Regis has a lovely dock and I have seen charter boats tie up there to take guest ashore for the Polynesian dance shows on Wednesday nights at 8PM. They have a wonderful beach bar restaurant, a great sushi place and a nice proper restaurant and bar with views of the sunset and tables out on the dock.
We shared a drink with Eleonore and caught up a little before she had to get back to her busy schedule. It was wonderful of her to take time out to see us and update us on the latest in Bora Bora hospitality. We had lunch at the Beach Restaurant and it was wonderful. The prices are of course astronomical, at least for us, due to the weak dollar. The food was excellent but at a price for two that easily cleared $100 sans booze (with desert though, of course).
We walked around the grounds admiring the lovely beach, gardens and spa. As we crossed over one of the bridges to the small islets that for the base of the over water bungalow network we saw an interesting sight. Three eagle rays were playing in the current flying in formation but staying stationary over the ground below. We watched them for some time, enchanted. We also spent some time on the barrier reef, which the Saint Francis adjoins and has a nice walkway to.
After a full day we returned to the boat only to find our private anchorage invaded by three charter yachts. It is said that if no one anchors there, no one will anchor there, but if someone anchors there, everyone will anchor there.
08/10/2008, Bora Bora
I have never considered myself a Trekkie. Geek yes, Trekkie no. I loved the cheese of the original series but could never buy into the Next Generation or any of the other spin offs. I also gave up TV back in 1985 so I more or less missed the wave.
At a company I started with some friends in the 90s we began naming computer servers after Lord of the Rings characters. Frodo, Bilbo, Pippin, Gandalf and the like. Then I hired a guy named Rob and he took things to a whole new level. We had a new data center coming up with lots of machines to name. Rob went the Star Trek route. I could keep up for a while with Kirk and Scotty, but then machines called Data and Quark started to show up. Rob was a sharp and fun guy. I decided maybe I'd better give the new stuff a try if for no other reason than to keep our servers straight.
Well as expected the new Trek is Sci Fi cheese with a lot of Triungulating Retrogamma Xeno particles, but it is fun. Hideko and I have watched little else when we are alone aboard since we left the US. We finished the three seasons of The Original Series (TOS), all of the original series movies, all seven seasons of The Next Generation (TNG), two of the four next generation movies and we just finished all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine (DS9). We are now starting into the seven seasons of Voyager (the hard core geeks will chastise us for not starting Voyager contemporaneous with DS9 season 4 but hey, they're in the D quadrant!). We have only the four seasons of Enterprise awaiting.
I suppose we will not be able to dodge the Trekie appellation much longer. I guess even Geeks need a break from paradise.
08/09/2008, Bora Bora
We set sail from For Lauderdale with a good sized collection of DVDs. We have movies, TV series and various other diversions to keep us busy on passages and rainy days. Cruisers love DVDs. Almost everyone has a laptop and thus at least one way of watching movies. While there's nothing wrong with exploring paradise it is nice to watch a cheesy Hollywood production now and again if just to get a taste of home.
While not surprised, I am disheartened to see how many places around the world sell stolen property. Movies are the property of the studio that created them (or whoever they've sold the rights to). Just because it is easy to copy a movie these days does not make it ok to steal. Large otherwise reputable stores are involved in some countries. "Would you like and original or a copy of that movie? The original is $30 and the copy is $5". Statistics show illegal DVD production as an important source of funds for many criminal organizations that are also involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and assorted violent crimes (mpaa.org).
I am surprised how many people, in particular those who know better, are willing to involve themselves in theft of intellectual property. Movies, navigation software, books, music, you name it. Stealing denies the property's creators of revenue they need to stay in business or, in the best case, just makes the rest of us pay more. Why otherwise wonderful people do this I can not understand.