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. ;)
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.
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.