Romance and Paradise define the Society Islands of Polynesia, better known as the Tahitian Islands. I had preconceived notions that French Polynesia was much like Hawaii where Western civilization had successfully invaded and left tracks of a zillion tourists. Thankfully, I was so wrong: the South Pacific is still one of the last frontiers. In fact, Hawaii welcomes more visitors in ten days than French Polynesia does in a year.
Follow me to my favorite of the 118 islands: Bora Bora. Only 18 miles in circumference and 17 degrees south of the Equator, it is known as the most beautiful island in the world.
It was the first of the Society Islands to explode through the ocean and its jagged mountains, like its sister islands, are now covered in a mixed topography in shades of dense green jungle. Bora Bora distinguishes itself from the other islands by the string of coral that encircles the island producing spectacular colors in a lagoon where robin's egg blue deepens to azure, then a peacock blue to laser blue and finally, lapis: each drawn with a line of demarcation and all appear to be lit from below the water leaving it with a fluorescent sheen.
Renaissance's R4 delivered us to the only portal to get to Bora Bora. The legends and people of the South Pacific hypnotized Marlon Brando, Paul Gauguin and James Mitchner, Melville, Darwin and Somerset Maugham who all fell helplessly in love with the islands of enchantment. Although, Bora Bora has basically not changed since Robert Lewis Stevenson beheld it, there is a lot more to do.
The most exciting was the Lagoonarium. After an outrigger canoe ride of a half- hour, you can snorkel with black-tipped sharks and lemon sharks along with exotic tropical fish and sting rays. The black-tipped sharks and the nursing sharks are quite safe and only about 6 feet long; however, we were warned not to get too close to the lemon sharks (they really are a lemon yellow color). The fish ranged from stunning multi-rainbow colors to big, fat, gray uglys. The sweetest were the sting-rays that slither up your side for a pet; they liked to be kissed too. All this marine life just moved over, under and around you like you were just another sea urchin. Being in the water is a part of island living; every day we snorkeled, swam and rode canoes, outriggers or catamarans. We explored the lagoon and bays of Bora Bora and languidly spread out on the soft, champagne colored sand (no chairs) for a nap. Friendly Tahitians cracked open coconuts for us to eat and we often snacked on sweet pineapple or mango freshly picked.
A one- hour Waverunner tour with a guide will wake you up after lazing on the beach. It's like riding a motorcycle on water and requires concentration and a tight grip on the handles, especially over a wave. Last as usual, I arrived at the motu (tiny islet) and flopped in the water. But on the return, I was a terror on waves, slicing and zig-zagging like a racer.
This day ended with a lovely sunset sail on a catamaran as I watched the sun melt into the horizon painting the sky a gold-dipped rose.
For More Information:
300 Continental Boulevard
El Segundo, CA 90245
To Get There:
Fly Hawaiian Airlines from LA in co-operation Renaissance Cruise Lines.
Call 800-973-3352 to book reservations.
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