Arriving at the Polynesian island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean known as Bora Bora is a "coup de foudre" for most visitors. If you're not familiar with this French expression, it means "love at first sight". And there's a good reason why. Known as the Romantic Island, Bora Bora is an absolute delight for all five senses. The tiny island is only 30.55 m2 in size, but it brims with life and joy.
With its blue and green lagoon, and the majestic Mount Otemanu -- the tallest peak on Bora Bora at 727 metres high -- reaching into the sky, its lush valleys covered with hibiscus, perfect white beaches, charming people…. it's paradise on earth.
Speaking of hibiscus, here's a tip for you. If a woman puts an hibiscus behind her left ear, she is married or in a relationship. If she put it behind the right ear, she's signalling that she's open to a relationship and single. You'll almost certainly be offered one of these delicate, attractive and sweet-smelling flowers traditionally worn by Tahitian girls and women while you're there. It's best to pay attention to which ear you put it behind because you are sending a message.
A little bit of history
Pora Pora - the ancient name of Bora Bora, means "first born". It apparently comes from legends that described this island as being the first to rise out of the sea when Tamaroa, the supreme god, fished it out of the waters. The letter B does not exist in Tahitian, but when the explorer Captain Cook sailed in to the island and asked the islanders the name of the land, he misheard the P for a B. Initially called Bola Bola, it is now known worldwide as Bora Bora.
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Commune with the wildlife and the ocean
The ocean is obviously a significant feature of life and geography in Bora Bora and there are various ways to get up close and personal. There are plenty of options for boat tours around the island. Go for a romantic sunset cruise on a catamaran sailboat, see under the water on a glass-bottomed boat or enjoy a day out snorkelling. If you're not confident in the water, there is the safe option of the Lagoonairum, a natural lagoon in an atoll that is home to coral reefs, brightly-coloured fish, turtles, sharks and stingray. Guided tours are available. There are also companies offering tours where you can feed stingrays and sharks and others offering deep sea fishing trips.
Be daring with exciting watersports
One of the most fun things you can do while on the island is a jet ski tour. These tours usually last about two hours and cross clear turquoise waters, zipping in and out of little islets and stopping just often enough to allow you to take the most gorgeous photos to make you the envy of all your friends back home. The waters are warm, so bring one of your most flattering swimsuits.
If you still crave adventure on land, you can take a guided hike up Mount Otemanu.
Be pampered with flowers and plants
One of the absolute musts while you are on the island is to spend time at a spa. Tahitian treatments are totally different to those you'll get back home, as they are based on Polynesian oils, flowers, and plants grown in Tahiti. For a whole-body experience, try the body wrap in a banana tree leaf or a body wash with vanilla. If you love being gently massaged, a flower remedy massage is heavenly. Facials include masks with fresh fruits and plants, and to finish off a splendid afternoon, don't miss the deep ocean water treatments.
Eat like the locals
Eating on the island is also a treat, as the cuisine combines the freshest fruits of the sea with high quality French cooking. There are a number of top restaurants apart from the ones situated in hotels. La Villa Mahana offers an excellent tasting menu with wine pairings.
Being an island, seafood is obviously a specialty, and here, you have a wide choice of ocean or lagoon fish. One of the island's favourite dishes is called "poisson cru" meaning raw fish, which is tuna marinated in lime and coconut. Tuna features heavily on many menus often prepared in four ways: carpaccio, tartare, seared or Tahitian poisson cru. Also magnificent is the "saumon des diex", which literally means salmon of the gods. Need I say more?
Eating out on the island can be pricey, so you might like to buy some delicacies at one of their 'magasins" (French for "shops") and have your own personal picnic in a setting of your choice. The baguettes are fresh and crunchy and truly more-ish. Again, because of the French influence, the cheeses are delicious and vary varied. You can also buy good cold cuts and fruits.
Half-way between the elegant restaurants and supermarket food are the roulottes, or carts on the side of the road that offer tasty and affordable meals. The locals love eating at the roulettes, so when in Rome… do as the locals do too!
Get some retail therapy in Vaitape
You obviously didn't choose Bora Bora for the city life, but the main town on the island is worth a visit. Vaitape has some great restaurants but also some delightful boutiques and stores for shopping. The black pearl jewellery is especially nice, so pay a visit to Sibani Perle. Most of the attractions of the town lie along one street, which cutely, has no name. There's bound to be something that catches your eye in one of the shops that makes a perfect souvenir of your holiday in Bora Bora.
Have you ever been to Bora Bora?