Bora Bora and Huahine

The cruise has picked up: the sun was out, the pool bar was busy, and only a few diehards were still complaining about the clouded-out eclipse four days before. (I overheard one old fella actually telling a virgin about the life-changing totality experience she missed, and describing the glorious phenomenon in detail. “Hush!” cried those around him, but the damage was done. How can people be so thoughtless?)

 

Bora Bora was a travel destination that has been in the back of my mind since I heard the name as a child, on a list of impossible-sounding places. I wondered if they were real—Bora Bora, Timbuktu, Transylvania, Cucamonga, Titicaca—or just cartoon place names. 

Bora Bora is real, and real, real beautiful. The colorful “Le Truck” tour bus circles the main road around the island, stopping at all the sights to see: a pareo dyeing operation, the overwater bungalows once owned by Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, a lovely overlook, the fancy hotels, WW2 relics, personal family shrines in residential neighborhoods, and a pristine beach with that surreal blue, Pantone 14-5711 water. We stopped for a quick drink at Bloody Marys, and fed the red hibiscus blooms that decorated the truck to land crabs who came rushing in and out of their holes to grab the flowers.

After Le Truck, I joined a lagoon excursion. A powered outrigger canoe carried a handful of people to three snorkeling stops at coral gardens and areas to swim with reef sharks and tame stingrays with names like Diane and Beyonce.

With no time to return to the ship before dinner and the island Heiva performance, I just wrapped a pareo around my bathing suit and topped it with the wet white button-down shirt I snorkeled in. I looked a mess, but didn’t care. “You look very tropical,” said someone, kindly.

 

Huahine is known as the “garden island” of the Society chain. “Wah-heena” says the ship’s Dutch travel concierge manager, but the natives pronounce it “Hoo-ah-heenie”—and that literally means vagina. Like most of the islands around Tahiti, Huahine culture celebrates sexuality and the male and female organs that are the source of all human, animal and plant life. 

On the “Huahine Nui Safari Expedition” tourists walked the Maeva archeological site, viewed the ingenious ancient fish traps, and learned about pearl impregnation and gestation. We viewed lovely Maroe Bay from the Belvedere lookout. Our guide tried to catch a sacred blue eyed eel for a photo opp, and encouraged us to take a big whiff of harvested vanilla, drying in the sun. I purchased a few ceramic items; Huahine is the only Society Island that makes pottery, using mud scooped from the bottom of their lagoon.

Photos:

Bora Bora

Snorkle time

Huahine

Back on board

 

 

 

 

 

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Rangiroa and Motu Mahana

The M/S Paul Gauguin returned to French Polynesia, and all passengers proceeded through passport control before arriving on Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Surprise! The weather was bad and only got worse. All shore excursions were cancelled, and it wasn’t possible to snorkel “Gods Aquarium” (the lagoon). We combed the grey beaches for awhile and watched the waves until the drizzle drove us back to the ship. Rangiroa was eerie—no traditional island greeting by the locals, no popup shops on the dock. Rusted cars, ragged palms, hungry-looking stray dogs, unlike the well-fed pets that ruled the streets of Hanga Roa.

Back on board Feinberg hosted an “eclipse day in pictures” slideshow lecture comprised of shots submitted by passengers. Some were surprisingly exciting and technical taken during the partial phase between first and second contact. Not everyone saw nothing.

Onward to Taha’a. It was very windy and drizzly and flat-out miserable when the early tender boat dropped the first guests off on Motu Mahana, PG Cruises’ private islet of Taha’a. To compensate I began drinking early—something rummy in a real coconut shell—and tried to make some drawings from the bar on the beach as the wind whipped spray onto my sketchbook.

A couple of hours (and another coconut drink) later, the sun came out and revealed Motu Mahana to be what it is: paradise. Picture a breathtaking tropical island. You got it. “Les Gauguins and Les Gauguines”—the ship’s Tahitian hosts and entertainers, adorable young men and women clad in scanty pareos and maros—played ukuleles and sang while a barbecue lunch was served. There was a floating bar, the making of pandanas headbands, kayaking and jet skiing and paddling around in that bewitching blue water. 

Photos:

Gloomy day on Rangiroa

Waiting for the tender

NOW we’re talking: Motu Mahana, Taha’a