No longer just a haven for honeymooners, these idyllic islands also offer endless options for adventure junkies and solo travelers.
A light warm breeze brushes my skin as I place my paddle in the crystal clear water with conviction. Determined to follow what lies beneath, I paddle 50 meters or so before I surrender to my poor form. The dark mass below moves quickly. “He’s getting away,” I yell to my friend who is swimming next to my stand-up paddleboard. It was pre-race day and we are on a mission to capture the perfect underwater photo chasing stingrays around a turquoise lagoon in Bora Bora, Tahiti.
With its idyllic scenery and beautiful white sand beaches, French Polynesia is best known as a honeymooners paradise. What many people miss is the fact that Bora Bora is the ultimate destination for those looking for an adventure. Being an active person who happens to be single as well, I was a bit nervous that I would run out of things to do, but my experience was quite the contrary. From feeding sharks and stingrays, to endurance paddling, swimming, snorkeling, diving, and jet skiing, Bora Bora is an ocean lover’s dream.
IRONMANA Liquid Festival
Every December, hundreds of Tahitians as well as international competitors flock to Bora Bora for the annual IRONMANA Liquid Festival, a four-day festival celebrating water-based sports such as traditional Tahitian outrigger canoeing (Va’a-1), Stand-Up Paddleboard, Surf Ski, and an Open Water Swim. The shorter distance sprint races, as well as a cultural education program (where the athletes teach the community swim, paddle, SUP techniques), takes place the first three days, and on the last day, athletes who are ready to take the challenge tackle the grueling 34 miles paddling around the island of Bora Bora in the premier endurance race.
True to the laid back island vibe, the guiding concept of the IRONMANA Liquid festival is less about competing against each other, and more about pushing your own limits through mental and physical endurance activities. It is a great way to submerse yourself in local Tahitian culture and partake in their national sport rich in Polynesian Heritage. The first Austronesian speaking peoples of the islands of Southeast Asia used va’a’s (outrigger canoes) to migrate to Polynesia, New Zealand, and beyond.
If you can’t make it during the IRONMANA Liquid festival, the company behind the event, Kainalu XT, offers personalized fitness holidays throughout the year for the professional athlete, families, group fitness, and adventure seekers. They cater to your every need while pushing your physical boundaries. For more information visit www.kainaluxt.com.
Swimming with Sharks and Feeding Stingrays
One of the most adrenaline inducing activities on Bora Bora brings you face to face with nature in the form of resident reef sharks and stingrays. Contrary to popular belief, they are relatively docile creatures that are just as curious about us as we are about them. We ventured out by boat to a shallow reef where, on cue, about 30 stingrays and a school of black-tipped reef sharks appeared. (Apparently they are accustomed to the humming of the boat motors). Standing in chest deep water there was a false sense of security hiding behind a simple white rope as our guides sectioned off a triangle shaped area to feed the sharks. The colorful corals and abundant reef fish added to the vibrant palette of the underwater masterpiece. The stingrays were quite friendly, acting like excited puppies waiting for a treat. There is nothing like a stingray swimming up to you, trying to give you a hickey to get the endorphins going. They don’t have teeth and suck in their food, so if you are not alert, beware of coming home with more than just a photo! We each had a chance to feed the stingrays and as soon as our fish supply was exhausted, the rays and sharks slowly melted away into the emerald abyss until the next meal delivery.
The nation of Tahiti is comprised of four island archipelagos. Tuamotu Atolls, Marquesas Islands, Society Islands, and Austral Islands. Bora Bora is part of the Society Islands and one of the most frequented by travelers– for good reason. I have traveled to many beautiful places in the world but this truly is a little piece of heaven on earth. It is only eight hours from Los Angeles. Air Tahiti Nui flies direct to Papeete; www.airtahitinui.com
Internal flights are run by www.airtahiti.com
WHERE TO STAY
A member of The Leading Small Hotels of The World, this boutique resort sits on its own island, Motu Tevairoa. If you truly want to get away, this is the perfect hideaway. Over water bungalows dot the entrance to the resort, and the garden bungalows are just as inviting with a large private lanai, outdoor jacuzzi and open air shower. Everything is crafted using local materials to create the most authentic Polynesian environment. The serene Manea Spa is the only hotel with an on-site Marquesian tattoo artist for those who would like to take a permanent souvenir home from paradise by embracing the oldest art form in the Tahitian culture.
Designed by Tahitian architect/designer Bruno Hervochon, all guest rooms reflect authentic Polynesian décor while still offering contemporary amenities and creature comforts of home. If you are transiting through Papeete, (most international flights route through PPT) this hotel is close to the airport, has a sleek infinity pool, and a very modern, spacious design. Located on the sunny west coast of Tahiti, there is a beautiful view of the island of Moorea where guests can catch the unbelievable Tahitian Sunsets.
A starting point for one of the Ironmana events, the Sofitel is near Matira Point where many of the festivities for the liquid festival take place.