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Our Next Stop in Bora Bora: Sofitel Private Island

Our Next Stop in Bora Bora: Sofitel Private Island

The next four nights in Bora Bora were filled with wild, barefoot adventures and expeditions to underwater worlds. We had a very successful (but mostly relaxing) first four nights in Bora Bora, and I think at this midpoint in our trip we were ready to get a little dirty, or in this case wet and sunburned.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Bora Bora is comprised of islets (i.e. mini islands) surrounding one central peak, Mt. Otemanu. The only method of transport around these island shallows is by boat, and as you cruise around the islands you realize just how small this paradise really is. You can get from any resort destination to the next in no time, all while being blown away by the lush mountainous scenery you’ll see en route.

We cruised over to our next Bora Bora abode and in less than 15 minutes we found ourselves on our own perfect little private islet amongst the handful of islands that make up this oasis. Enter: Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island .

An adventurous (but still romantic) change of pace. Sofitel Private Island is a small, intimate hotel on an equally as small and intimate island. Did I emphasize enough that it’s a PRIVATE island? Having an island essentially to ourselves (aside from a few other guests and some very friendly hotel staff) was quite a treat. And although this place is just as suited for days of lounging around in the sun as any other place in Bora Bora is, we didn’t do much of that at all.



Every morning before breakfast we peeled ourselves out of bed, jumped in the ocean and then proceeded to sprint up (and down, and back up again) the stairs that lead up to a breathtaking viewpoint at the highest peak of this small island. This served as a little morning cardio / alarm clock for us, and we made a 4 and a half day routine out of it. After breakfast, our days followed with just as much activity as they started with, as we took to the waters to explore the divine coral gardens just a five-minute kayak paddle from our water hut on Sofitel Private Island.

While we were staying at Sofitel and with the help of the friendly concierge we arranged one of the most memorable parts of our trip, a shark and stingray tour. If you happen to find yourself in Bora Bora (regardless of your accommodation) this tour is a MUST. Having done a similar boat tour in the Bahamas I figured I’d probably already maxed out on possible shark and stingray experiences and this probably wouldn’t be much different, but I was surprised by how unique this experience is to Bora Bora. We did the half day tour, and the morning unfolded as follows.

At 9AM a boat picks you up at your hotel (or private island in our case) and you jump around to a few other hotels to pick up others who have also booked this experience. This was actually a really fun way to see more of the island and get a glimpse at some of the other Bora Bora hotels. We took notes of our faves. For next time. ;)

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Once you have your group all together you take off for a half day of underwater excursions. You start at a remote coral garden location that you couldn’t possibly remember in case you wanted to come back on your own boat for round two. The coral garden here is an absolute color show.

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The coral garden serves as a nice little warm up for the next stop: the rays. These friendly creatures swarm the boats as you approach, and are anything but shy. Anyone will a little nerves about being in close quarters with stingrays will be comforted to know the water is shallow enough here that you are wading about waist deep, feet firmly on the ground and your boat is waiting nearby if you decide you’re too chicken.

But the truth is these guys really aren’t interested in you if you aren’t bothering (or feeding) them. They’ll glide around you in circles and then they’ll be on their merry way. Stingrays are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures and I’ll jump at any opportunity to spend time in their presence, but I did find this part of the tour to be quite similar to the ray feeding experiences I’ve had in the past. The next stop, however, was like nothing I’ve done before. SHARKS.

Okay, so I did swim with nurse sharks in the Bahamas, but let’s be real. Nurse sharks are just biggish fish. I think you can get more injured from a paper cut than a nurse shark. Our next location on the tour was an area of relatively deeper water that was infested with REAL shark-sharks. Black tip reef sharks, to be exact, about 4-5 feet in length. They almost immediately surrounded our boat, swarming at the surface of the water, clearly ready for the food that they know comes along with these daily tour boats. And making it that much harder to jump in. And then a few meters below us circling the seabed are the big guys. “Lemon sharks” (7-11 feet long!!!) surrounded by posses of bright yellow fish, which is presumably why they’re named lemon sharks. I was relieved to be able to see even the lemon sharks as clear as day despite them lurking a ways below us. Shout out to Bora Bora for having impossibly clear water, I genuinely appreciated it the most while giant ocean predators were lurking below me.

Was I scared? I mean yeah, you could say it was a thrill. But mostly I felt like I was suddenly in a scene from Blue Planet with David Attenborough narrating my every move as I immersed myself in pure shark pandemonium. Knowing that these creatures also aren’t out to get you, but that they could possibly take a portion of your finger off if they really wanted to added a little extra adrenaline to the whole experience. I managed to prevent fear from getting in the way of what was one of the cooler experiences I’ve ever had while traveling.

If the fish/rays/sharks are what make most of this experience so epic, the tour guides definitely take the cake for what makes the rest of the day so fun and memorable. These locals are nothing short of Bora Bora legends, appropriately adorning island thongs and channeling Disney’s Moana as they sing and play songs on the ukulele throughout the tour. They’ll have you crying from laughter while on the boat at their jokes and banter, and internally screaming while you’re in the water as they proceed to pick up rays and cradle them like babies, or you know, grab large sharks by their fins and follow them to the bottom of the ocean. Still impressed by their ability to dive down meters at a time holding their breath for minutes on end… and I was mesmerized by how they so clearly connect with the underwater life. We really got the impression that this tour was run by a very authentic local family business and these guys are really at home with the island. They were respectful to the sea life all while essentially putting on an impressive show for all of us, jaw-dropped tourists.

The half day ends at a gorgeous sandbar (extra shallow lagoon water) where you gorge on fresh fruit and let your heart rate return to normal.


I almost insist that you add this to your itinerary on any future Bora Bora trips, and a huge thank you to The Sofitel for setting this up for us!

As for the Sofitel Private Island, we fell in love with this lush little islet we got to call home for 4 days. With only a few huts lining it’s shores and a few tree houses perched around the edges, it really does feel like you are living on your own island. It’s peaceful and romantic, and while some may see its small size as an opportunity to kickback and relax, we took it as an invitation to explore.


It’s also very conveniently located just across the lagoon from the main Sofitel Bora Bora resort, and a quick boat ride whenever you please will give you full access to this resort’s dining, pool, and beautiful property. The private island itself also has its own restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and not without some amazing seafood options we didn’t tire of.

On certain nights of the week they host a romantic dinner show on the beach, and I couldn’t think of a better way to end this trip than eating lobster and drinking champagne on the beach with Zack, watching traditional Polynesian dancers perform as night falls over the magic of the mountains and lagoon.

Coming from what is the biggest resort on Bora Bora to what might potentially be the smallest gave us a feel for two very different resorts that both have beautiful Bora Bora in common. I personally loved getting a diverse experience in a place that I had expected to have very little variation between resorts.

Sofitel Private Island is a place that offers the full spectrum of Bora Bora magic one could hope for, and we may have overheard Sofitel’s plans to re-design the private island hotel, so we might just be marking our calendars for 2020 when we’re (fingers crossed) going to be back to re-experience this place that stole our hearts all over again!

Massive thank you to Sofitel Private Island Bora Bora and all their wonderful staff for having us! Be back in 2020 for round two.


  1. Chelsea Atkins

    16 January

    Hi Helen! Love your blog/Instagram. When you edit your photos in Lightroom… do you use presets?

  2. Kate

    6 January

    Hi Helen! How do you pay for all of your trips? And on the videos that you and Zack make, how do you do the extreme zoom out shots?

  3. Nadja

    5 January

    wow, I‘m absolutely in love with the pics and you guys are so beautiful together! May I ask which cameras you use to take the pictueres? All the best, Nadja xx

  4. Jessica

    31 December

    oh my gosh what theme is this on wordpress!! I love the style of it :)

  5. Mile High Dreamers

    29 December

    But seriously, is this real life?! Epic as hell. While I’m sure Ben would be diving in with those sharks without thinking twice, I legit had anxiety while reading this post haha. What a badass experience. My favorite part was definitely how much respect the islanders have for these animals though. We definitely don’t see that enough.
    Love the way you guys get down on the travel!

  6. Ina

    29 December

    Hi Helen! I love your blog, keep up the good work! I wonder what camera and lens you used on these pictures?
    What is your + Zack’s favorite camera?

  7. Tanya K.

    29 December

    Love that you started a blog! I know it’s really time consuming. Bora bora looks amazing and I hope to experience it one day. You and Zack captured it beautifully! What camera do you use for your photos? Xoxo

  8. Holly

    29 December

    Where’d you get your striped bikini? You look great in it!

  9. Lauren

    28 December

    Hi Helen!!!

  10. Brooke

    28 December

    hi Helen! I know you have your fitness routine, but how in the world do you stay so fit and perfect with the amount of alcohol you drink? That sounds a little condescending and I definitely don’t mean it that way- I just want your secret!

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi Brooke! No offense taken. I actually don’t drink THAT much, especially heavily. I am not opposed to a glass of wine or two and drinking on occasion, but after college I’ve tried to limit it as much as possible both for health and productivity reasons. Other than limiting alcohol consumption, for me it’s mostly diet as I tend to be inconsistent with exercise throughout the year. I eat very healthy, no dairy at all and very little meat. I’ve always loved healthier foods but I definitley indulge now and then to stay sane. Hope this helps! I plan to do a blog post soon about diet and health so I’ll hopefully get more specific with it there. Thanks so much for your support! x

  11. Jay

    28 December

    Favorite blog, favorite people to follow! Makes me want to travel and adventure! Camerawork= dead. You two = perfect. Any tips for someone who wants to start adventure blogging after 3 spinal surgeries (currently bedridden).
    Love & light
    Xox
    Jay

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi Jay! Such kind words, thank you so much for so much love! I’m so sorry to hear you’re currently recovering and unable to get out there, but don’t let that stop you from starting a blog! Maybe being on house arrest can lead to more productivity on the backend of getting a blog set up, because that part of it (which is considerably less fun that the adventuring part) can be time consuming and involves sitting indoors anyway. I am wishing you the very best for 2018 and beyond, and sending you all my love for a speedy recovery! xxx Helen

      • Jay Jonson

        30 December

        Oh my goodness thank you for replying! This is exactly what I needed to hear and my heart is full and inspired. Thank you for your kindness, response, compassion, and encouragement! Light & love always -J

  12. Pablo Rodríguez

    28 December

    Hello Helen! I follow both of you on IG and I really like your job! The next time you come back to Costa Rica and need some help don’t think twice in asking me! Greetings and happy new year!

  13. Shelby

    28 December

    Love that you created this blog and love your writing!! I’ve followed along on IG for a while and am obsessed with everywhere you guys travel! Bora Bora looks like a total dream… it is just so so far away from the east coast. Do you have any suggestions of warm, tropical places closer to the east coast you’d recommend?

    xo, Shelby
    @prettyinthepines

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi Shelby! Thanks for your support, Bora Bora WAS a dream. Since you’re on the East Coast you could explore the Bahamas if you haven’t already, a quick trip from Miami.
      Sending you my love back! xx
      Helen

  14. John G

    28 December

    Great blog! Do you guys take these pictures yourself, or do you travel with a photographer? Also, do you ever wear the same bathing suit twice? Must have to pack a lot.

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi John! Thanks :)
      We tend to take our own pictures, although sometimes we will travel with a photographer for more demanding projects. We enjoy the creative challenge that comes with setting up our own shots! And as for your bikini question, I have amassed quite a collection over the years, yes. But the best part about bikinis is they take up very little real estate in a suitcase.
      Thank you again for your comment! Happy New Year xx
      Helen

  15. Nicole

    28 December

    I’m loving all the posts and tips, Helen! :) I’d love to see a post about your house decor!

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Thank you Nicole! YAY so happy to hear that, because home decor posts are what I am the most excited about coming up. Look out for those!
      Thanks for your support xx

  16. disicouture

    28 December

    Bora Bora is on my bucket list since forever! <§ This private island looks like heaven on Earth. Beautiful pictures!

    http://www.disicouture.com/

    xoxo
    Edisa

  17. Wayne

    28 December

    Helen, I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before, but your skin is flawless!!! May I ask, what do you do to protect it when you’re visiting Hawaii, Bora Bora, and other tropical locations?

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi Wayne! Thank you! I wouldn’t go so far as to say flawless, but I do make skincare a priority. I wear spf 30 every single day, especially in the sunshine. Other than that, I always always wash my face at night + in the morning. I will do a skincare post soon with more specifics, so look out for that! xx

  18. Rashelle

    28 December

    Wow! Pictures look amaaaaazinggg!!!! Did you guys enjoy the Four Seasons or Sofitel best? Happy new year! :)

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi Rashelle! THANK YOU! Appreciate it so much and glad you enjoyed the posts!
      Honestly, both resorts were so different and we enjoyed them both so much for different reasons so it is hard to say one is our “favorite” over the other. The Four Seasons was very much 5-star luxury, and much much bigger so you felt like you were really at a resort and it took a while to get around. But that also means more dining options, and more facilities like tennis, private swimming lagoons, huge spa facility, etc. Whereas Sofitel was much smaller and more intimate, while also being less upscale in terms of pristine, modern rooms however the water bungalows were still so lovely. It really depends on your budget and your preference! Both give you that dreamy Bora Bora experience, so both were divine for us.
      Thanks so much for your comment and your support. Happy new year! xx :)

  19. Nathan

    28 December

    Awesome blog! You mentioned a few potential favourite hotels that you saw as you picked up other guests on the tour. Which ones jumped out at you?

    • Helen Owen

      29 December

      Hi Nathan! Yes! The Conrad looked absolutely immaculate, incredible views and a really diverse property with great beaches + jungle and the bungalows looked amazing. We also saw that the Le Meridien resort had a turtle sanctuary, which we would have loved to experience. The St. Regis also looked nice, it’s neighbors with the Four Seasons so it has a similar mountain view.
      xx

  20. @Nomadalyn

    28 December

    You have an such awesome blog! I know this takes a ton of time and effort so just wanted to show some love! Keep up the awesome work!

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Thank you thank you! Sending you love back xx

  21. Hanna

    28 December

    Helen, these pics are absolutely gorgeous! Currently planning my own Bora Bora trip right now! Also, I miss Zack’s vlogs on Youtube, any chance they might come back?

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      That makes me so happy to know! Excited for you to experience it for yourself.
      We’ve been pondering getting back into vlogging, so when the time is right we’ll dive in. Thanks for your support! x

  22. Kelley

    28 December

    This is absolutely amazing sweetness!! Bora Bora is definitely on my list. I’m not sure if you ever need an assistant but I’m also learning abilities blogging and travel is something that I love more than anything. All of these pics are stunning!!

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Hi Kelley! Thanks for the love. I might consider doing an assistant search next year, so look out for that if you’re still interested! Have an amazing New Year :) xx

  23. NattyG

    28 December

    You guys have made bora bora look incredible!
    added to the bucket list

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Yay! Thank you :) xxx

  24. Adrienne Finch

    28 December

    Bora Bora is at the top of my list it seems so beautiful. And I’m glad you’re blogging! I swiped up from IG (it’s so rough trying to figure out if people actually swipe up or not when I post videos lol so I thought I’d let you know;) The pics and explanations are awesome. Makes me want to actually keep up with my blog but it’s hard when Youtube is a bigger priority! ANYWAY, you rock, keep doing you. Xoxo. PS you and Zack are hot AF

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Hi Adrienne! THANK YOU! So honored to get a comment from you! You have to experience Bora Bora if you ever get the chance, it’s all I’ve made it out to be and more.
      I can only imagine how much more time consuming Youtube is, I haven’t wandered down that path just yet. And hi, stalking you on youtube and um YOU ROCK TOO! You’re killing it, keep being awesome. Thanks again so much for the love! xxx

  25. T

    28 December

    Amazing! These pictures are insane! I’ve been following you and Zack forever and now you’ve opened this blog and it’s so cool to read! Happy Holidays!

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Hi T! Thank you so much for following us for such a long time! That is so cool, and thanks for reading my blog! It really means a lot. Wishing you Happy Holidays and an amazing New Year! x

  26. Lily Williams

    28 December

    wow😍😍😍 these pictures are amazing and you are so pretty!!!

  27. Arushi

    28 December

    You write so well! I love the pictures, how do you edit them?

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Thank you Arushi! I usually edit the photos in Lightroom first, and then I use VSCO to add a filter them. :)

  28. Lindsie

    28 December

    All of these pictures are just stunning! Beautifully written as well. So excited you have a blog!!

  29. Zack

    28 December

    You captured it beautifully! Let’s go back!

    • Helen Owen

      28 December

      Thanks stranger! ;) Down.

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