Sunday, January 3, 2016

Over the Rainbow: Bora Bora

"Ever since happiness heard your name, 
it has been running through the streets trying to find you."


Happiness and I definitely had a meaningful encounter in Bora Bora.  

Like eating a good meal with a fine zinfandel, I wanted to savor fully this trip before writing about it. I had many delightful first impressions of Bora Bora, and it lived up to everything I had ever read about it. But of all the ports I visited, the Bora Bora afterglow—the memories and the euphoric feelings they evoke—has remained the longest.

Bora Bora, located about 160 miles northwest of Tahiti and approximately 2,600 miles south of Hawaii has long been the muse for artists, poets, authors, movies, and lovers. To say it is beautiful understates the truth. And, its charm emanates from a more sensual place, like a subtle perfume that conjures memories and hooks you into creating new ones.

So much beauty forces you to pay attention to every detail: the rich colors of the hibiscus; the turquoise blue waters of the lagoon that surround the main island; the waves that crash against the reef so intensely you can hear and feel them on the shore miles away; and the sun rising behind the famous volcanic mountains. 

The main island and its smaller siblings, completely surrounded by coral reefs, form a natural aquarium with some of the most spectacular snorkeling and diving in the world.

You can ride the 33 miles around the entire main island by bicycle. At many points I had the view all to myself; on the windward side of the island I basked in the sun as the slow lap of the waves seemed to whisper the wisdom of silence. In another spot a man burned hibiscus trimmings [not a great smell], and at another a man fished. Interestingly, the main island only has one sandy beach, so throughout the island boats are kept on elevated rafters away from the shore [see photo above]. On some parts of the main island, and also on the smaller ones, a few resorts have the famed over-water bungalows that look like mushrooms from a distance.

Music is as much a part of the Tahitian lifestyle as the ocean. One afternoon I joined a small boat tour given by a local named Mata and his son. As he drove us out to a private island he played the Tahitian ukulele while his son played the drum. The fast tempo of the Tahitian songs matched their positive attitude and playful energy. As we sat on the private beach eating fresh coconut and papaya, a rainstorm came in, threatening to ruin the day. We piled back in his boat to journey out toward the reef where the massive waves could be heard [and felt]. 
As we crossed the lagoon and I looked at the peaks of the main island, a rainbow magically appeared between them. Then, as if scripted, one of the group members started playing the ukulele version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The magic of that moment became permanently etched in my memory.

Despite the chill the storm brought to the water and air temperatures, I decided to swim with the lemon sharks in the lagoon. The visibility in the clear water allowed us to watch the sharks as they appeared to glide through the water. Although I have done shark dives in the past, this experience felt more relaxed and casual, with each moment filled with gratitude more than fear.  A little while
later our group swam with manta rays, which seemed just as playful as our guide. The ride back into the lagoon, singing songs and watching the sun set, felt like a dream. I have so many more magical memories of Bora Bora, and I hope my pictures tell the story in a way that words cannot.
Barbecue Bora Bora style