Islands of Bora Bora, Rangiroa & Fakarava
4/14/16 - 4/16/16 32 °C
Thursday, April 14th – Bora Bora
When island hopping it is always interesting to wake up to a new port. This morning we woke up just as we sailed into the picturesque harbour at Bora Bora. Surrounded by sand-fringed motus (islets) and a deep turquoise lagoon protected by a major coral reef just off shore. Bora Bora is well known for its scuba diving. It's also a popular luxury resort destination where some of the guest bungalows are perched out over the water on stilts. Bora Bora is very expensive and some of these remote luxury resorts charge over $10,000 a day just so you can get away from it all yet have every convenience known to man – go figure. At the island's center is the long dormant volcano Mt. Otemanu that rises 2200 ft. high.
Bora Bora Harbour
Bora Bora is a common destination for honeymooners and celebrities, some of which have reportedly stayed at those out over-the-water villas. The island is a high-end playground dependent on tourism.
After tendering ashore several of our group decided to board one of the local truck/bus conversions that is the local form of tourist transit, and head several km out of the main town square over to a local beach at one of the local resorts.
The Bus/Truck - local Bora Bora Transportation
Like most of the beaches in Polynesia the sand is actually finely crushed coral but still comfortable to walk on. Here we enjoyed a couple of hours of lounging in the bath tub warm ocean water just inside the lagoon. David brought his snorkeling gear and did an exploration of the rocky coast line at one end of the beach. There were a few fish but nothing terribly exciting. Even with the bath tub warm ocean it was a welcome relief from the 30+C local temperature with the usual high humidity.
Hut on stilts out over the water at the beach
At the beach just inside the coral barrier reef
Afternoon at the beach
Beautiful Bora Bora
After our beach trip most of us migrated back to the ship by mid-afternoon. There is a fair amount to do on board the ship and many nooks and crannies to just curl up in and read a book. As you can see from some of the pictures the ship is far from crowded.
Deck 14 of the Marina
Pool deck of our ship - notice the crowds
Marina deck with Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the distance
As the afternoon wore on we caught sight of the quite regular afternoon rain squall off in the distance. By the time we were getting ready to pull up anchor around 5:00 pm we were inundated with a heavy rain squall for about 30 minutes. As usual it cleared up just as we headed off towards our next destination, the island of Rangiroa.
Summer showers approaching
Rain squalls passing behind us
As the summer squall passes we depart Bora Bora
This evening our group had reservations for another of the specialty restaurants, The Polo Grill. Once again we were all delighted with the quality of the food and the service – 5 star all the way. After dinner most of us headed off to the Marina lounge and theatre at the front of the ship. This evening’s presentation was a lively rendition of the hits from a number of the more popular shows of the past 25 years. Although not as slick as some of the shows on the larger ships it was a good evening of entertainment. None of our group are night owls so most of us were tucked in bed by 11:00 pm or so.
Friday, April 15th – Rangiroa
As I peeked out our balcony door around 7:15 am I was alarmed to see us approaching a rather narrow channel at a fairly rapid speed. The shore was close on either side of our ship and there was a very significant current running as we approached a narrow pass and channel in the coral reef that surrounds this massive lagoon. I could almost throw a stone to the shore. Usually ships of this size proceed VERY slowly when they are this close to land. Once I realized where we were I knew that they were travelling at this speed in order to be able to maintain steering control of the ship as she passed through the narrow gap in the coral reef with the fast running current. It was truly an idyllic sight as we entered the massive lagoon. It is almost like a massive inland lake in the middle of the ocean.
The endless horizon on the South Pacific
Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Tuamotu Islands, and one of the largest in the world. Rangiroa’s lagoon is roughly 80 km long and 30 km wide. It is so large that the entire island of Tahiti could fit inside it. The atoll consists of about 415 motus (tiny coral islands) and sandbars comprising a total land area of about 170 km². There are approximately one hundred narrow passes in the coral reef that surrounds the lagoon. Most of these passes are only large enough to allow recreational craft trough and those passes exposed to the ocean swells can be very tricky to navigate. Very few are large enough to allow a ship of our size to pass through into the massive lagoon. The width of the strip of land that surrounds the atoll is generally only 300 to 500 meters wide and its circumference totals roughly 200 km. The lagoon has a maximum depth of about 100 feet. The lagoon is so large that it has its own horizon. On account of its shallow depth, the currents that come in and out through the passes and with the winds can sometimes create interior storms.
If you look at the map we have included, you can see the little fringe of land around the massive atoll. Note the scale in the bottom left of the map.
Map of Rangiroa
Only two islands, located on the northern end of the atoll, are permanently inhabited with a total population of roughly 2500 residents. Pearl farming is done in more than 30 atolls of French Polynesia and is the main activity for numerous families in the Tuamotu archipelago. In Rangiroa, there only few farms but they are large and take up about 1,000 acres of water surface in the massive lagoon.
The atoll of Rangiroa is also known for its vineyards, which are unique in the world. The vines grow on the edge of a lagoon beside coconuts, and produce two harvests per year. The winery is located in the heart of the village of Avatoru. The grapes are brought to the winery by boat.
Our ship the Marina at anchor on the beautiful South Pacific
One other notable site in the atoll is the famous Blue Lagoon of movie fame. The Blue Lagoon is a smaller lagoon within the larger Rangiroa lagoon. It is located on the southwestern edge of Rangiroa and its shallow waters accentuate the bright blue color of the water.
Once again it was a clear sunny hot and very humid day with temperatures around 32C. Most of us took the tender boat onto the shore and explored the local area and cruised the little craft stands put up around the dock area. A few of us walked across this part of the land to the exposed ocean side of the lagoon where the shore was piled six feet high with bits and pieces of coral tossed up on the shore by the heavy wave action from the open Pacific. Perhaps in a hundred years this will all be crushed into sand by the wave action and they’ll have a beach here.
Ocean side of coral reef that surrounds Rangiroa
The atoll at Rangiroa
Local village vendors
Local wild flowers
Rest stop as we walk across the island
As the sun slowly slid towards the horizon we were all back on the ship and ready for the anchor to be raised. Once again we slid out of this idyllic tropical paradise just as the sun was setting. Our ship made a few sharp maneuvers and then once again powered up and made her way out through the narrow pass and the currents to the open Pacific as we headed off eastward for our next destination, the Island of Fakarava.
Making our way out through the channel
Making our way out through the channel
Normally our group of eight has dinner together, however this evening we have decided to each go our own way i selecting a dining venue. Hazel and I have decided to try out the cuisine in the Main Dining room. Seems strange that this will be our fifth dinner on board and this is the first time we will have eaten in the main dining room. The food is so spectacular in every venue it is hard to make a choice.
This evening the entertainment in the main theater is a multi-instrument Chilean musician. We are all looking forward to that event although I doubt we will all make it. Personally I think I’ll go back to our cabin and sit out on the balcony and enjoy the hissing sound of the sea as our ship glides through the ocean. With temperatures generally around 28C in the evenings sitting out on the balcony in the evenings is very enjoyable. The skies present a very different look as the constellations in the southern oceans are quite different from ours. Hopefully I’ll also get some ambition and upload the first section of this blog as the internet connection is faster in the evening when most people are roaming the ship visiting the various entertainment venues. Uploading the pictures in particular is fairly time consuming and then editing them into the text requires a bit of concentration, probably more than I will have after several glasses of wine with dinner.
Saturday, April 16th – Fakarava
We both enjoy the motion of ships for sleeping and this voyage is no exception. Although Marina is a smaller ship than we usually travel on the seas have been very calm throughout our journey so far.
Once again this morning we woke up around 7:30 am and as usual we immediately drew back the drapes to our balcony to check out our surroundings. This morning we are already at anchor when we looked out as the crew were just getting the ship settled in the lagoon at Fakarava. Fakarava is an atoll southeast of Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Islands. It is the second largest of the Tuamotu atolls. It is roughly rectangular with a length of 60 km and a width of 21 km. Its lagoon is wide and deep with passes at the north west and the south. It has been classified by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve with a number of unique plant and bird species.
Map of Fakarava
By 8:30 am we stroll up for breakfast in the Terrace Café. The Terrace serves up the very best omelets, eggs benedict, croissants and sticky buns that I have ever tasted on land or sea and that is just the start of their amazing offerings. The fruit tastes like it was picked yesterday and the variety of offerings is amazing. The organization of the food stations is extremely well done and there is very little in the way of line-ups. The staff are superb and always nearby should you need anything. The last couple of days we have eaten on the outside deck as the temperature is still reasonable at this time of the morning. When we have lunch at The Terrace we generally stay inside as the outside temperatures will be up to 30C by then. If there is a sea breeze, we’ll eat out on the deck.
By mid-morning we are ready for more adventure. We meet Roy and Sue, go down to Deck 4 and board the tender boat for the 5-minute boat ride into the town dock. Like most of these atolls there is not a lot to see ashore aside from the natural beauty. But we did not come here to find cheap watches or bargain shop for jewelry like you might on a Caribbean cruise. The attraction here is the beautiful pristine landscape and idyllic life of these tropical atolls. It is hard to believe that there are still places like this on earth.
Once ashore we find a peasant little village with a few nice local craft shops. Like all villages we have seen in French Polynesia it is very clean and free of garbage. This is what the Caribbean should look like.
Local vendor market
Local wild flowers
More local flowers
Classic Telephone booth just sitting by the beach
Sue & Hazel
Local island house
Local kids at play
We checked out the craft stalls and then walked along the main street for a km or so and back to the port area to catch the tender boat back to the ship for lunch. This afternoon we again explored some of the areas of the ship. The library area is one of our favourite haunts, particularly the adjacent cappuccino bar that we visit several times a day.
This will be our last port for several days as we continue to make our way east. Our next port of call will be the Pitcairn Islands. Pitcairn Island is where several of the mutineers from the Mutiny on the Bounty eventually settled in an effort to elude capture by the British Navy. Most of the 50+ residents are decedents of the mutineers. We now have three sea days to catch up on our reading and to explore the ship.
Our ship anchored in the distance