Bora Bora, Polynesia

Back in the mid-90’s, we spent a week here at Club Med and were very much looking forward to revisiting the property and reliving some very fond memories – what a huge disappointment…more on that momentarily.


Bora Bora’s lagoon is three times as large as the land portion of the island. A thick coral bed, known locally as the Coral Garden, is a protected submarine area southwest of the island. The diversity of the South Pacific marine life can be observed in natural habitat without donning scuba gear. There are more than 700 tropical fish species living in the reef. The manta rays, moray eels, dolphins, and sharks live in the shallow water at least part of the time, and we saw several of each through the crystal clear waters.


There’s only ONE road that circles the island, approximately 18 miles – we rented bikes several years ago and had a great time exploring. This time, we rented a small car and unlike hundreds of passengers who each paid over $200 per couple for island tours on stuffy busses, our out-of-pocket was $125, including fuel, plus we had air conditioning!


Bora Bora has three administrative districts. Nunue, the western side of the island, was once home to the island’s Royal Family and is currently the most populous at 2,400. Vaitape is the administrative center and main port. All public services are based in the small village. Just off the pier (behind Banque de Tahiti) is the grave of navigator Alain Gerbault – he was the first French sailor to circumnavigate the globe on his own. He lived in Bora Bora during the 1930’s. Most of the island’s luxury hotels are in the district, clustered around the southwestern Bay of Pova’I near Matira Point. The area is filled with small restaurants & shops, and about a mile down the road is the world famous Bloody Mary’s (see photo). The luxury huts you see on stilts can be booked for a mere $15,000 per week…that’s per WEEK. The prices are ridiculous, and one of reasons why the majority of hotel properties are now closed. Economic pressures around the world combined with the expense of getting here limit the hotel guests to only the most affluent today. We would never be able to afford such a trip. Granted, the closer your ‘hut’ is positioned to shore, the less expensive but we were told even the cheapest accommodations are over $1K per night. Our visit here back in the 90’s was paid for by my company as a result of an incentive contest. Club Med was a beautiful property then, and as I mentioned, we were looking forward to reliving some of those memories. As we approached the main gate in our little rental car, we were surprised to see it closed & obviously in disrepair. The adjacent gate was unguarded, and thought we’d just drive in on our own and look at the little condo we once stayed in. What a shock – as we rounded the corner the once lush, trimmed gardens with hammocks swaying between trees were now an accumulation of debris - the once tournament tennis courts were barely visible, obscured with weeds and other overgrowth – the condos were boarded and smeared with graffiti and green mold. The pristine beach we spent countless hours strolling was now littered with bottles, cans, & fish skeletons. It was like a bad dream – a nightmare.


Bloody Mary’s, a small restaurant & bar opened in 1979 & world renowned setting (with white sand floors) for unique specialty drinks, was by far the nicest facility on the island. Widespread deterioration prevails throughout – the pictures you see are very deceptive. While nothing can dispute the natural beauty of the lagoons and topography, the residents who remain today have grossly neglected their surroundings. For those contemplating a trip to Tahiti, our last island (Moorea) is highly recommended – comparatively easy to get to (via Papeete & ferry boat) and reasonably priced.


Our next stop is Rarotonga, located in the Cook Islands and approximately 500 miles west of our current position. The Captain has warned us that we may not be able to stop (on Thursday) because the recent typhoon (Gaary) has left behind some very unsettled weather. If we are unable to dock, we’ll then have 5 more days at sea before we reach Auckland. We were also told that the Super Bowl won’t be beamed to us ‘live’ – that actual game time on the ship would be 2:30am. The current plan is to tape the game and then have our Super Bowl party at 7:30am – a breakfast tailgate party! I must admit…I’ve never watched a football game while drinking my morning coffee! The plan is to switch from coffee to Bloody Mary’s and just have a good time! Regardless what time it may be, it’ll be a fun time I’m sure!