As a Travel Writer, I have seen how marvellously the A-listers in spite of working really hard, have had this wonderful knack of loosing themselves and relaxing in discreet luxury. Many of the jet-set brigade today own holiday properties in some of the world’s most stunning backyards. From the icy slopes of Aspen to the beaches of Fiji, the ultra rich have left no stone unturned to ensure that their vacations are absolutely top class.
How about holidaying in the Private Island Paradise of French Polynesia? Yeah, I am talking about the Tahitian island of Bora Bora - Overwater Bungalows, star-lit Tahitian night sky, sparkling blue lagoons, romantic sunsets…
If my memory serves me right, the fashion of owning island resorts was pioneered many decades ago by the irresistible Marlon Brando. Legend has it that in the year 1965, Marlon fell in love with Tahiti while shooting for his film Mutiny on the Bounty and went on to buy the stunning Tetiaroa atoll. Following on the footsteps of the great Marlon Brando, celebs like Leonardo Di Caprio, Johny Depp, Nicolas Cage, Mel Gibson and co. have all become owners of private islands.
Bora Bora is a perennial favourite of the A-Listers, primarily for the element of privacy that it affords and the fact that Paparazzis find it difficult to penetrate inside their private lives. A vast majority of the hotels have their own private islands and no wonder all these comes for a prize - would you believe that the stunning St. Regis hotel reportedly charged the celebrity couple Nicole and Keith $17,000 per night!
Leaving aside the element of exclusivity, Tahiti is by far the largest island in French Polynesia, all of 118 islands that are well spread out. Each of the islands are little specks of paradise, many of which are still uninhabited.
In the minds of travellers Tahiti conjures up images of a far away island, which is not just isolated but secluded as well. Secluded, it might be, but certainly very reachable - an 8 hour flight from Los Angeles is all you need to embark upon, to be able to vacation in perhaps one of the world’s most beautiful locale.
Tahitian islands are scattered in two principal segments - the one to the Northeast is popularly referred to as Tahiti Nui while the Southeastern ones (Tahiti Iti) is smaller in size and consists of Mount Orohena, Mount Aorai and the Queen of Tahiti - Le Diademe.
Papeete, the bustling capital city of Tahiti is the commercial hub of French Polynesia and the city’s Faa International Airport being the only aviation hub, your journey to Tahiti begins from Papeete. While a vast majority of travellers try to escape to their chosen island paradises, thereby spending very less time in the capital city, Papeete is in its own rights a touristy delight with its vivacious city vibes, wide boulevards and the harbour, which is a beehive of activity.
If you are looking for authentic Tahitian souvenirs, walking along the streets of Le Marché neighbourhood could be a very rewarding experience - Tahitian Vanilla Beans, the indigenous Monoi oil and multi-coloured Pareos are simply too good to be missed. As you amble past Le Centre Vaima, the magnificent Robert Wan Pearl Museum draws your attention. Further ahead is the Vai'ete Square and the best time to be here is after sunset and td the entire neighbourhood with its waterfront promenade comes alive with all guns blazing - epicurean food ranging from French crepes to steak frites. Try out Les Roulottes to savour some of their specialities.
Tahiti is all about celebrating life and many a traveller has fallen in love with Polynesian culture and their rhythmic dance forms. One great venue to catch up with Tahitian dance traditions is the Inter Continental Resort, where every Friday and Saturday local artists demonstrate their unique dance performances. First time visitors would do well to book a tailor-made Circle Island Tour that takes visitors along the historical trail - the house of James Norman Hall, the Museum of Tahiti, Point Venus, the Paul Gauguin Museum as well as the breathtaking Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens.
Bora Bora, is ideally located about 160 miles northwest of Tahiti and is around 2,600 miles south of Hawaii, which was discovered way back in 1722, and thanks to the ingenuity of the Tourism mandarins, Bora Bora has evolved as one of the most beautiful island on Planet Earth.
Bora Bora has romance written all over. The village of Vaitape is much preferred by visitors as they get to immerse themselves with the local Tahitian lifestyle and shop at the well stocked boutiques. For those with a penchant for adventure, exploring Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu on a Jeep Safari could be ideal.
Embarking on a 4x4 Island Tour, which is all of 3.5 hours offers spectacular natural vistas of Bora Bora - marvel at the World War II American cannons, discover the fauna and flora, mingle with the locals and if you are open to cultural immersions, very likely, you will be offered home cooked food and garden fresh fruits straight from the family kitchen garden or plantation.
For diehard snorkelers, Bora Bora offers some of the most stunning snorkelling sites. Even learners and novices can participate in this exciting watersports using state-of-the-art masks with great visibility. The guides are pretty adept in training novices and as you follow their instructions, first in shallow waters, then onto average depth and finally onto the deep waters where you can have a date with a bewildering variety of underwater sea life. Snorkelling tours are of 3 hours duration with 9 a.m. departures.
Many travellers come to visit Bora Bora with the dream of holidaying in Private Overwater Bungalows and the hotels here have designed their properties in such amazing “Hideway” patterns that the discerning romantic traveller finds it too hard to ignore. To lure the sensitive visitors, 5 star Hotels & Resorts have come up with all inclusive honeymoon packages. Sofitel Bora Bora for instance offers overwater bungalows, round-trip international air fares from Los Angeles, all transfers (inclusive of inter-island air ), free daily breakfast for two, dinner on the beach, 4x4 Jeep safari, snorkelling excursion, a minibar replenished daily and a gamut of other romantic add-ons. In your efforts to seize the element of Romance while vacationing in Tahiti, do not ever miss out on a dinner at perhaps one of the world’s most outstanding Sea Food Restaurant – Bloody Mary’s. Inside the restaurant’s hallowed interiors, many legends from Hollywood and beyond have dined here - Jimmy Buffet, Julio Iglesias, Steven Bishop, Commander Cody and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, to name just a few.
It all began in the latter part of the 1970s, to be precise - 1979 when a Polish nobleman Jerzy Hubert Edward von Dangel was on a visit to Bora Bora and fell in love with the island. Being a showman, he decided to set up Bloody Mary’s that served speciality Tahitian seafood while the interiors were every bit aboriginal Tahitian to the core - thatched roofs, wooden tables, white sand flooring and coconut stump stools. This iconic Seafood restaurant is best summed up by Rick, who oversees the day to day operations thus: “This is the old Tahiti right here. This is a big Fare Tiurai (the baraques or carnival type huts built for the Heiva Festival each July). All we’ve done is add the varnish.” Try out the culinary spread - Crabs, Steak, Chicken, Shrimp etc... along with signature cocktails. Bloody Mary’s is open on Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat and is closed from Dec 3 - Jan 8.
Traveller’s Fact File
In terms of accommodation, Bora Bora is one place which is renowned for water bungalows. These magnificent floating villas with their signature glass floors offers a peek into the mysterious sea life below. What is more, most high end properties possess their own private islands, popularly referred to as “Motu” in the local parlance. Outstanding hotel chains like St. Regis, Conrad, Four Seasons, Inter Continental etc... have carved a niche for themselves in Bora Bora. Hotels room rates range from $400–$2,000 per night at the low end. The average cost of vacationing for a week in Bora Bora hovers around $11,000 for two.
Bora Bora being located to the northwest of Tahiti, is about an hour’s journey by Air from Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti. The airport is located on the small island of Motu Mete. Flights to Bora Bora are limited (four per day), which is perfectly in sync with the island’s “Restricted Tourism” policy. Visitors first touchdown at Papeete from Los Angeles, which takes around 7.5 hours and thereafter to Bora Bora.
According to the directives of the French government, it is mandatory on the part of the visitors to have their Passports to be valid for six months. Passport related services are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of State.
For further information and reservations, please feel free to get in touch with Tahiti Tourisme.