R3 ~ Cruising in TAHITI
Fourth in a series of
South Seas adventures
by Linda Coffman
Bora Bora & Beyond
Bora Bora Lagoon Sharks ~
"You want to do WHAT? Feed
Let's back up a moment here... I recoiled in horror
just as much as the next person watching the movie "Jaws." However,
"Sea Hunt" was my favorite television show as a child and there was
no way I'd pass up the opportunity to have my own real life marine adventure
Black tipped lagoon sharks aren't tame and there is a certain amount of risk
involved, but I wanted to see them up close and in the water.
Outrigger canoes left the Bora Bora dock and motored across the lagoon
to the reef where, once anchored, guides began
stretching a line under water. Our instructions were to take a place and grab hold, staying behind the line. Oh yes... keep our legs UP and
don't splash around. Once in place, the guides began chumming and sharks quickly encircled them. What a thrill to have them swim right up
TO us and then turn away for tastier morsels of bite-size food.
Leaving the sharks sated, we proceeded to an
area with friendlier creatures--stingrays. Like their cousins in Moorea,
the rays here were affectionate and playful. Yet another stop yielded the
best underwater sights of our trip. The abundant coral was teeming with
hundreds of colorful fish.
Afternoon participants in the Snorkel Safari Ray
& Shark Feed reported disappointment. Like earlier in the week,
there were more hungry sharks, rays, and fish in the morning than
afternoon. What you see in the lagoon relies on the whim (and appetite)
of the marine life. For a tamer excursion, and one where you're assured
of making finny friends in a fenced-in area, the Lagoonarium is reached by
outrigger canoe. A less satisfying (but drier) tour on a Glass Bottom
Boat allows guests a peek at the underwater world without the fuss of getting
A beach shuttle transported guests via Le Truck
and bolder passengers signed up for parasailing, either solo or two-by-two,
and helicopter tours.
Circle the Island
Viewing Bora Bora from the vantage of the
lagoon was fascinating... so many pristine motu* beaches and craggy
mountains. Circling the island on a personal water craft (waverunner)
was exhilarating! Our guide instructed each operator on the controls,
we donned life jackets, and were off for a two-hour ride all the way around
Bora Bora. Following our leader, we marveled at the ever-changing
color of the water from gin clear to deepest green and blue. During a
swimming break, we scooped up the finest silky sand, pure white and
dazzling. Stopping again on a motu, our guide shared the traditional
island refreshment--the sweetest coconut juice and meat I've ever tasted.
- a small islet either in the lagoon or connected to the barrier reef
surrounding the larger islands, or atolls
This experience was one of the highlights of
our cruise through Tahiti. I'm not much of a dare devil and was
initially tentative about the ride. Once underway I discovered it was
smooth riding on the two-person waverunners and the sights were spectacular.
One-hour tours are also available for those guests who want a taste of the
action but don't necessarily wish to circle the island on the longer ride.
"menu" at Bloody Mary's
Since 1979, Bloody Mary's has been the place to
spot celebrities vacationing on Bora Bora. We just missed Kurt Russell
and Goldie Hawn (so we were told). The island's most famous restaurant
features the freshest seafood and lobster served in a kick back casual
atmosphere. Under the thatched roof, diners wiggle their toes in
the sand while seated on lacquered tree stumps. Directeur Général
Rick Guenette assisted us in making our selections from the seafood bar and
we enjoyed our meal accompanied by--what else?--a signature Bloody Mary.
The atmosphere is outstanding and fun and lucky R3 passengers can tender
ashore for an early dinner. Don't miss a peek at the bathrooms--the
ladies' retreat has a charming "waterfall" sink and the
gentlemen's has something else. Don't ask! The last scheduled
tender returns to the ship at 10:30pm.
Circle Island by Le Truck
The traditional Tahitian form of public
transportation is Le Truck, a brightly painted open air cabin mounted on the
back of a flatbed truck. For our tour, Le Truck was festooned with
palm fronds and deep red hibiscus flowers. We circumvented Bora Bora
on the 19.2 mile road built in 1943 by the United States Seabees.
Until 1946, 5600 GIs were stationed on the island and remnants of their
"friendly occupation" remain in the form of 7" cannons and an
ammo bunker, still used by locals as a refuge during storms.
From island history and lore to explanations
about culture and daily life, the narrative by our guide Jeff (an American
expatriate) was interesting and thorough. His knowledge and ability to
answer questions was impressive. Our varied stops included beaches,
churches, temple sites, and a refreshment break at Bloody Mary's. One
stop in particular was riveting--Jeff pointed out holes in the ground and
encouraged us to toss hibiscus flowers from the windows. When we did,
land crabs scurried out of their underground homes and snatched the flowers
for lunch. Islanders often trap the crabs (known as roadside clean up
crews for their foraging habits) and raise them in a cage--fattening them up
for a special treat.
Le Truck was a fun way to get an overview of
Bora Bora and Jeff and his wife (she is the guide on the other Le Truck) are
exceptional hosts. Immediately across the street from the pier were
unique little two-seater vehicles for rent. Looking like a cross
between a golf cart and VW Beetle, I knew Mel would rent one of the
fluorescent colored "cars." Slightly more comfortable than
the rental mopeds, Mel's broke down out island and he caught a ride with a
tour operator to the nearest hotel for a replacement. With guidebook
in hand, he had no trouble navigating the island and finding a scenic
watering-hole at the Hotel Bora Bora.
For those who missed the Sunset Lagoon
Catamaran in Raiatea, the "Va'a Rahi" followed in R3's wake
and offered similar sunset excursions around Bora Bora.
Beyond... a wrap up of odds 'n ends...
Bora Bora, motu in paradise ~
SCUBA Diving - Renaissance doesn't offer
organized dives, but dive shops are numerous throughout Tahiti. I'm
not a diver, but some of the SCUBA enthusiasts on our cruise related that
their dives outside the reefs of the various islands were better than most
had ever experienced. Topdive on
Bora Bora received high marks from several passengers, especially for the
night diving. Another diver recommended Tahiti Sport in Papeete as an
excellent source for last-minute equipment purchases or emergency repairs.
With numerous merchants throughout the islands
touting the quality and value of their pearls, purchasing black pearl
jewelry can be confusing at best.
A flyer I picked up in Bora Bora, contains the
- There is no official appraisal organization
or office entitled to accredit the world pearl market.
- Don't buy pearls from peddlers who will
always tell you the pearl comes from a family farm. The risk is
- Purchases made in places of high tourist
density are not always good value for the money.
- Some conferences are held for
tourists. Check if their aim is education or if they are intended
for concealed business.
- Pay attention to whether recommendations are
- If you buy unset pearls, you must know that
a jeweler in your town can drill and set it onto the jewelry of your
Sounds sensible... so who can you trust to sell
you a "good" pearl? I wouldn't even begin to make a
suggestion. However, it seemed disingenuous to me that so many
merchants seemed ready to confide that everyone ELSE selling pearls should
be viewed as unscrupulous.
My preference leaned toward "natural"
pearls--those created as a result of nature's irritation, without
"cultured" intervention. Similar to what we call
"freshwater" pearls, natural pearls are unique. I was drawn
to the unusual shapes and varied colors as well as the idea that the oyster
had created it on its own, with no help or instigation from man. How
to buy them or the exquisite cultured pearls? I was fortunate that
fellow passenger Winnie Lee took me in hand, oversaw my selection, and
bartered for the best price. If you're serious about buying pearls,
attend the onboard pearl lecture and deal with a reputable jeweler.
Getting There & Back
What can you say about a seven-plus hour
flight? Under the best of circumstances, it's not the most comfortable
way to travel and Hawaiian Air charter flights were typical of overseas
flights. In Los Angeles we checked in about two hours before departure
time and were assigned seats in the center of the plane. Whenever
possible, only four of the five seats were occupied, leaving the center seat
empty. Some passengers had arrived for check in as early as four hours
before departure in order to get the advantage of more legroom in bulkhead
and emergency row seats. I'd highly recommend upgrading to Business
Class if you can swing it at all. I took advantage of the lengthy
flights to catch up on sleep.
Meeting new people is one of the pleasures of a
cruise and we were fortunate to share our voyage with a great many congenial
people. Our fellow R3 passengers were generally seasoned travelers and
repeat cruisers; however, we ran into a few grouches here and there (and
some extremely annoying slow-poke couples who popped up on every tour)
. Sure, we occasionally overheard the usual minor complaint but, by
and large, I'd say the majority of guests were delighted with our elegant
ship, the beautiful islands, and the friendly reception we received in
We hope someday to return...
Back to R3~1st in
Series Cruising in Tahiti
in Series Cruising
in Series Cruising
And finally... a special note of thanks to Brad
Ball of Renaissance Cruises
for making this dream of a lifetime come true. Mauruuru roa!