The islanders in French Polynesia say Bora Bora is where God vacations. In ancient times, the island was called “Pora pora mai te pora,” meaning “created by the gods” in the local Tahitian dialect. Well, I am not God or even a very godly person, but I dropped anchor there several times back when I went through my nautical phase of life.
Bora Bora is magical and mesmerizing; the fusion of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu’s volcanic peaks and a lagoon mixed with multicolors of sapphire, indigo and turquoise symbolizes paradise. And if that is not enough to stun you, the island is encircled with palm-smothered motus (islets).
It is a dream destination; just the name itself – Bora Bora – sounds enticing, soothing and romantic. My yearning to visit the island goes back to when first saw the film “Mutiny on the Bounty” with Marlon Brando back in the early ‘60s. Though the film was shot in Tahiti rather than Bora Bora, I still drooled into my popcorn at the beauty of Polynesia.
During one of my visits, I paddled a small canoe to Motu Tane, unaware that it was a private island. Strolling along its powder white sand, I was accosted by Paul-Émile Victor, an older gentleman wrapped waist down in a colorful sarong. He greeted me in French, and although I did not understand the words he spoke, it was clear that I had trespassed on his private hideaway. Just as I was making an apologetic retreat, he started speaking in very good English.
“Where did you come from, monsieur?” he asked.
Once I told him I was from the Cayman Islands, I ended up in his small bungalow, drinking Hinano beer. It turned out that Victor was a retired very famous French polar explorer and author who chose the refuge of Motu Tane in Bora Bora as his personal paradise. We had lots to talk about, and much in common. He was intrigued with the Cayman Islands since it was one of the few places he had never visited and I was charmed with his tales of living alone (with his wife Colette) on a secluded eight-acre island. Several beers and many tales later, I begged him to allow me a return to his island some day. Through the reminiscences we shared, we became friends, developing a connection with one another through our experiences traveling the globe. My wife and I returned a few years later and spent a month with Paul and Colette.
Vaitape is the main town on the big island of Bora Bora; about half of the islands’ 9,000 people live there. Vaitape hosts those coming and going between the main island and the airport, cruise ships, resorts, private vessels and the motus. The town is lined with cafes, banks, a post office, supermarkets, service stations, doctors, dentists, pearl shops and even more pearl shops. Keep your wife away from the pearl shops; I learned this lesson too late and a melted Visa card later.
Tahitian pearls come in a range of colors, from white to black. They can contain various undertones and overtones of green, pink, blue, silver and yellow. The most valuable of these are of the darker variety, as the naturally dark tones of the Tahitian pearl are a unique quality among pearls. A true black Tahitian pearl is extremely rare, and largely considered one of the most beautiful kinds of pearls in the world.
The cultured Tahitian pearl comes in various shapes, sizes and colors; shapes include round, semi-round, button, circle, oval and teardrop. Because of their darker hues, Tahitian pearls are commonly known as “black pearls.” At the Bora Bora Pearl Company’s Pearl Museum there was a black pearl necklace selling for around $90,000. Yes, I remind you again, keep your wife away from the pearl shops.
Bora Bora is a fairytale island which nowadays lures movie stars and honeymooners, but all the glitter is not free. For example, the luxurious InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa will run you around $1,300 per night.
I recently heard from some of my Tahitian friends that Motu Tane is on the market for $50 million. Well, if Bora Bora is where God vacations, he must have lots of money. If not, he should try Little Cayman for his next holiday.