Mention Bora Bora and the images of aqua-centric luxury over-the-water resorts comes to mind.
Rarely do travel brochures show pictures of the main island settlement where the local population actually reside.
Due to Bora Bora’s unique geography and international reputation, the tourist resorts can be indescribably expensive. Therefore, during our one week within the various French Polynesian islands, we decided to have the “over-the-water bungalow” experience at the quiet and less glamorous Huahine Island instead of pricey Bora Bora. Not only did we saved some money, but we had an incredible adventure exploring the main island of Bora Bora by moped. It was truly memorable and I highly recommend this easy to arrange experience.
Bora Bora is a 30.55 square kilometer island in the Leeward group in the western part of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The main island is surrounded by a lagoon and a coral reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, the highest point at 727 metres.
Our flight to Bora Bora, using the Air Tahiti Air Pass, landed at the airport located on a small motu (islet) north of the main island. We took the free shuttle ferry provided by Air Tahiti to Vaitape, the arrival point of the ferry from the airport, and is the only town on the island. Our accommodation on the Island, Oa Oa Lodge, provided a 5 minutes shuttle bus ride from the ferry port to the lodge for our one night stay.
Oa Oa Lodge was conveniently located in the main village. There is a good marina restaurant next door to the lodge. Most of the other guest appeared to be experienced European divers staying close to the water edge with ease of access to all the boats docked nearby. There is a sizable cool pool behind the restaurant for the guests. The staff was very friendly and helped us to locate the moped rental shop in town.
Riding our moped counter clockwise, our first stop was the famous Bloody Mary’s restaurant. Started in 1979 as a 5-table restaurant, it has grown to a large restaurant catering to the rich and famous. Large wooden signs show who has dined here. The open air restaurant provides a fun and comfortable ambiance. Flip flops are encouraged, especially since the floors are covered in sand, making you feel like you never left the beach. The handcrafted table and seats are made of wood, and interesting local art is scattered around the restaurant.
Next stop was the Matira Beach with soft, downy, powder white sand. The water was incredibly blue and warm. There were only a few locals on the beach, and a few others cooling off in the shallow water.
Continuing our exploration, our next stop was just past Anau at the trail head to the American Cannons trails. We paid 500 francs per person to the people who live nearby and maintain the trail. We hiked to Hiro’s rock, two American
cannons, and a military pillbox. The trail was easy to navigate and sweet tiare flowers lined the paths and the views to the outer motus of Bora Bora was stunning.
Exploring by moped allowed us to stop whenever we noticed interesting local sites. I had to stop when I noticed a colorful display of beach pareos (Tahitian word for a wrap around skirt). They had such a colorful selection of both factory or hand-made wraps, some prints and some were tie-dyed. For $10 USD, I purchased a large purple pareos with tiares flowers that would come in handy to either wear alone or over a bathing suit.
After pareo shopping, we passed by a display of fresh fish for sale. Tempting prices for such fresh catch but unfortunately, the moped does not have a cooler storage compartment.
Next we stopped by a local church and watched some boys play football in a grass area next to a river.
Being avid hikers, we could not resist an attempt to check out the hiking trail to Mount Pahia. We knew this to be a challenging hike since we did not have sufficient or the resource (a guide is recommended as the trail is unmarked and can be difficult to complete). But we could at least find the trail head and scope it out for future reference.
We parked our moped by a local farm house and walked through local neighborhoods, with taro fields, fragrant papayas, banana trees, a man painting his canoe paddles, and flower fields.
As expected, the trailhead is very difficult to find, involving dirt roads through private properties, and thick jungle-like bushes. We finally found a good viewpoint at lower elevation and debated whether to continue. But after one more hour of steep and unmarked trails, we turned back.
We hopped back on our moped, and just before arriving back to Vaitape, we found this peaceful spot to enjoy sunset on this magical island.
Mid-morning the next day, a free shuttle catamaran ride delivered us back to the Bora Bora airport. The Bora Bora airport, on a motu, with a view of the shimmering blue water and Mount Otemanu, is so gorgeous that we had to take more pictures.
On the plane, our camera captured once again, the beautiful island and lagoons of Bora Bora.