Society Island Escape
A stress-free charter in one of the world’s most exotic locations was just the ticket for this happy group
Sunday was more leisurely, departing Baie Hurepiti for the anchorage abreast Motu Tautau on Taha’a’s west side. There, on the tiny islet to the north, a wooden sign decorated with shells announced the Coral River also know as Coral Garden, “Jardin Corail.” Lugging our snorkel gear, we followed a trail to the end of the pass, then floated back down with the current, over a kaleidoscope of corals and fishes. Rarely does so little effort deliver such breathtaking rewards, as we drifted over giant clams with thick blue lipstick, orange anemones, lavender corals and brilliantly colored fish. Several of us drifted down twice, while others kayaked and paddleboarded in the shadow of Le Taha’a Resort. Our dinner there that night was elegant, with an exotic and somewhat eclectic buffet of seafood and other delicacies.
On Monday, it was time to knuckle down and sail. Our prior passages had been just about 6 nautical miles, as we meandered around patches of coral and shallows under power. But the iconic profile of Bora Bora beckoned in the distance, so we battened down the hatches and shot through the pass, with massive waves breaking on either side.
The 20-nautical-mile passage was leisurely as the twin peaks of Bora Bora grew closer. Finally navigating around Pointe Te Turi Roa and through Passe Teavanui, we picked up one of the funky milk-jug moorings at Bora Bora Yacht Club in Vaitape.
The Moorings 4800 had plenty of deck space for toys, so we deployed our armada of kayaks and paddleboards, before cocktails and then hopped the free shuttle to the legendary Bloody Mary’s. As you enter beneath the magnificent thatched roof, a colorful spread of the day’s bounty serves as your menu. Seated on coconut tree stumps with our toes in the sand, we fancied ourselves on the set of “South Pacific” as we enjoyed the dinner and lively ambience, before hustling to get the last van back to the boat.
A highlight of our trip came the next morning when Tepeva Natua of Bora Bora Lagoon Safaris picked us up. We sped off, first to a spot on the southwest corner of Bora Bora, near Motu Toopua. As Natua and his granddaughter anchored, a swarm of sharks and rays surrounded the small boat. Then Natua eased into the chest-high water and began feeding the melee. Once the frenzy had subsided, we followed suit, tentatively slipping into waters churning with black tip sharks and stingrays. Natua showed us how to avoid the stingers, as the velvety wings of the rays brushed by.
After that close encounter, we zipped to another spot, just outside Passe Teavanui, to swim with lemon sharks. Then we circumnavigated the island, taking in every angle of Bora Bora, heading to the southeast corner below Piti uu Uta and Piti uu Tai. We jumped into a natural aquarium, bursting with vivid fish. Wrinkled like prunes from so much time in the water, climbed back aboard for the trip home. With a little energy to spare, we taxied into Vaitape for souvenirs and pearls. After drinks at the yacht club and dinner aboard, we rested up for an early morning departure to Raiatea.
Our southeasterly course for Raiatea’s southern shore put the wind on the nose, and it soon piped up. We reefed and had a stirring jaunt to Tehurui, squeezing through Passe Toamaro and hugging the motu to avoid the coral bombs to the east and north, before picking up a mooring.
Our destination was Fare Vai Nui, an out-of-the-way but celebrated restaurant. We piled into the dinghy and puttered ashore, where proprietor Jean-Jacques pointed for us to side-tie to a utility boat, then disappeared, leaving us to climb up and over the rails and scamper up to the dock. It was not your usual warm and friendly Polynesian welcome, but the sensational cuisine and reasonable prices made up for it. The setting was eclectic, with a mix of traditional furnishings and art, adjacent a courtyard with a small pool. Here we celebrated Barbara’s birthday with a fabulous meal and plenty of good French wine. Perhaps celebrating a bit too heartily, at one point eliciting a “hush” from one of the other diners.
Wind that whips through the valley and around the southern point of the island buffeted the boat all night and howled through the rigging, which shuddered with each gust. I could only image this would be a great anchorage on a hot night, or if mosquitos abounded. As skipper, my sleep was uneasy but the rested crew woke early to paddle and snorkel around the motu.
“The coral structure here is amazing, among the healthiest I’ve seen,” said our resident biologist Laura.
We had been cautious to bring only coral-friendly sunscreens on our trip, without harmful chemicals like oxybenzone, and were glad not to be adding to the decay of the reefs.
The Anapa Pearl Farm, our next stop on our itinerary, was just 2 nautical miles away as the crow flies, but through impassable waters, so we ventured back out into the ocean and sailed back up the island to re-enter the reef at Passe Rautoanui at Tevaitoa. We’d arranged for a tour and were awed by the delicate surgery it takes to culture the gorgeous black Tahitian Pearls. After a fascinating demonstration we of course bought a few, then snorkeled around the pearl farm. An intricate web of lines, strung with nets full of oysters, filled the undersea world, vanishing eerily into the shadowy depths. Thousands of oysters would stay suspended there, for years, as their hidden treasures developed.