Bora Bora is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the world. That tropical island of French Polynesia is one of the most secluded islands on the planet. As an example, Hawaii gets more visitors in 10 days than the whole of French Polynesia gets in a whole year.
The island is part of the leeward group, about 230 kilometers (143 miles) northwest of Papeete. Bora is the dream honeymoon destination, an island paradise of unbelievable beauty, and a fantastic spot for travel photography.
The island’s original Polynesian name is Pora Pora, meaning “firstborn”. The European settlers misunderstood the name and this is how it became Bora Bora, potentially confirming that French are absolutely useless in foreign languages 😢. It is called as well Mai te pora (« created by the gods ») which is clearly the right name 😎
Bora Bora is actually the remaining of the caldera of an extinct volcano that erupted 3 to 4 million years ago. That makes its world-famous lagoon and a barrier reef that with at its center with two beautiful peaks (Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia).
You’ll find below a top 10 of things to see and do in Bora, a few practical considerations, and, last but not least some concerning sustainability perspectives and information on that amazing place.
Ten things to do in Bora-Bora
-1- Chill Out
While I’m normally in my articles listing where to go when to go etc, it’ll be in purpose looser this time as this is the place to chill out and “smell the roses” (here probably “smell the Hibiscus” is more appropriate).
That chill out activity is highly recommended at various times during the day to ensure you get enough practice during your stay 😌
2- Explore the Motus
Going around the island by boat is an amazing experience. Everywhere you go the will be a dream (especially for a photographer and nature lovers) and a true Robinson Crusoe experience!
There are hundreds of beautiful spots around the island. If I have to name only one, Motu Tane is probably a not to miss spot and image! That view makes a beautiful photography print if you’re interested 😎
3- Go snorkeling
Even you’re not doing diving, just basic snorkeling is amazing everywhere in the lagoon, like with the eagle rays below as one out of many examples.
Fishes are everywhere, even at the foot of your hotel room (where ever you stay)…
4- Observe the sky
Due to the complete absence of light pollution, French Polynesia is on the top league of remote astrophotography places around the globe, despite being at sea level. This is an amazing place for stargazing and enjoying the silence (except for the wind in the coconut trees),
5- Cross the Teavanui pass
Teavanui is the only one pass in Bora Bora (it means “Big Pass”) and is located on the island’s west side. It is a beautiful place with amazing shooting opportunities!
6- Watch Tahitian dances
Yes, this is a touristic activity, but … you are a tourist, and you can’t go there without seeing and enjoying the famous Otea hip dance 😉
At the beat of drums, flutes, conch shells, and ukuleles, this is a great experience, especially if you can find somebody local to join you and give some explanation and meaning to some of the dances like the Aparima, Paoa, or Hivinau.
7- Hike the island
There are a few good walking trails in the lush tropical vegetation is beautiful and offers amazing views and landscape photography opportunities. If you wonder, Mount Otemanu (727m), the highest and most recognized feature on Bora Bora Island can only be climbed up to its shoulders but remains beautiful from everywhere 😊.
8- Enjoy endless water activities
You’ll obviously find anything you want and you’re ready to pay for in Bora Bora, from lagoon cruise, jet ski, snorkeling, up to Bloody Mary’s & Eco Shark / Ray Snorkel Cruises. Parasailing above the lagoon at sunset is a pretty cool choice…
9- Continue to chill out further
Again, you are in paradise so, don’t abuse from exhausting activities …
10- but don’t be late for sunset …
Few practical considerations
No public transport
There is (officially) no public transport in Bora Bora. When you arrive at the airport (situated on a Motu), most luxury hotels will have private shuttles to welcome you and bring you to your resort. . Il not, don’t worry, there is a shuttle to the main dock in Valtaipe.
On the mainland, a bike is a great way to explore the island. If your a photographer or nature lover, this gives you the freedom to enjoy many wonderful travel photography spots around the main island
Best time to go
The off-peak season runs from November through April, with more rain, humidity, and heat (few degrees more only, however). It is during that time cheaper, with fewer tourists. The peak season is May to September where the weather is perfect (sporadic showers) but obviously with more people and higher prices. But really anytime is a good time to visit Bora Bora!
Yes, it’s expensive … but options exist
Clearly, paradise has a price and Bora Bora is really expensive from flights to lodging to food, especially if you want the full experience of a luxury hotel and over-water bungalows.
It is however possible to travel there with some more budget-friendly approaches: Go off-season, buy food in supermarkets, and stay in small pensions or guesthouses., You’ll still have a once in the lifetime experience in paradise…
Yes, it’s expensive … but like is too short
As it is likely better to live rich than die rich, go for it, at least once your life …
Currency and Language
The unit of currency is CFP, the Pacific franc but credit cards work in most places,
While French is the official language, English is very common as tourism is the predominant activity for the local population, Tahitian language (with 13 letters and1000 world) remains used by the locals and the traditions are still very alive, thankfully.
Few more serious sustainability considerations
I try in my articles to contribute at my little scale onto sustainability majors issues awareness. So I’m going to repeat myself a bit versus some of my previous posts like some of the recent ones about the Tuamotus wonders or about Iceland.
It has been factually demonstrated that human activities are responsible for global warming. One of the devastating consequences of global warming is the rising global sea level, due to the warming of the ocean (since water expands as it warms) and the melting of land-based ice. This is a major thread for all coastlines around the planet and Bora is not an exception.
The rise is precisely measured and factually accelerating in a scary way. Last decade, the average was 2.6 times faster than during the last 100 years – last year was almost twice the last decade’s. The previsions keep becoming more pessimistic year after year, with between 15 and 25mm of sea-level increase per year. The graph on the image below gives a simple and scary perspective on the trend.
But who cares about a 15mm water raise? Well, as all the Motusnare almost at sea level, the island lagoon and Motus will be gone in 50 to 100 years leaving just the volcanic mountains in the center. The Tuamotus archipelago by then will be fully gone…
Okay, only a few people live there plus wealthy tourists, so why should we bother?
Well, Polynesia is just one example out of many like Seychelles, Maldives, and many others. So, most of the most beautiful beaches and places on earth will just be gone, as well…
Still don’t care because you’re not really a beach person? Well, in an average/optimistic scenario, between 200 and 250 million people around the globe will have their feet and houses in the water in the next 50-100 years.
As those are in some of the current or future global economic drivers (e/g China, Indonesia, US, western Europe), what do you think this will do to the world economy and geopolitical stability?
Take a minute to look at this very simple, educational NASA video that does a better job than me at articulating why we should all bother, for our kids and their kids…
So, will our grandchildren be able to see some of these wonders, you think?