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Hoopster95

MARINA/French Polynesia Mar 4-19,2018 REVIEW w/lots of photos

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Do you have to bring your own snorkel gear if you book an Oceania excursion?

 

Specific to Oceania excursions I don't know, however I assume since they are contracting local companies I would think the chances of providing 50 people on an Oceania excursion with 50 sets of fins would close to slim and none in my opinion. Perhaps someone who did strictly Oceania excursions in FP can comment? Now having seen these operations, Larry's advice to bring my own equipment was probably the most important of the entire cruise.

 

We plan to stay at the Hilton Moorea and the Papette Intercontinental. You mentioned they offer free snorkeling at the Hilton, so does that include equipment?

 

Both of these resorts is what we did. Great snorkeling at the Papeete Intercontinental as well. They do have equipment for guests.

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I did one Oceania Excursion that included snorkeling and they only had masks and snorkels. No fins.

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Hey GC- check out post 37 for the thorough review, with videos, of the Marina PH suites.

 

Hoopster has the spa deck covered in post 49 but no photos of the hot tub. I can tell you that there is no T pool...but Hoopster might have a photo in his collection.

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Hi Hoopster95,

 

It shows that the Marina has the same T Pool on the forward Spa Deck, rather than a hot tub (or is it two?).

Do you happen to have a photo that would show the hot tub(s) on the Spa Deck, and perhaps give a sense of the size?

 

And do you remember if there was a "Sanctuary" area on the Marina, as there is on the Riviera?

 

Hi GC,

 

Sorry for the very poor photo, but here you can see there are two hot tubs

 

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As far as the Sanctuary, it's on the deck plans and located here on deck 14 as noted. I never once even looked at it during the day as it was not an area I was interested in. In the morning it was closed off for yoga classes, so I have no clue of the furniture and ambiance inside.

 

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Hey GC- check out post 37 for the thorough review, with videos, of the Marina PH suites.

Thx cruise buddy :D

 

...but Hoopster might have a photo in his collection.

Might? ;):evilsmile:

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The next couple of stops were primarily a self-promotion sales pitches of a specific product and salesman.... kind of like a private bus tour in mexico stopping at the "favorite" road side vendor for the "best deals". Of course, I guess in the French Polynesia "Oceania and/or Paul Gauguin" way, this was done a little higher end I guess to make it look a little bit more like a learning portion of the excursion to understand their industry and way of life.

 

Tahitian Pearls.... everyone has heard of them. now we headed for one of the main producers for a short stop.

 

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I stepped off our boat with trepidation... I just knew that my GF (or me!) would be donating too much money in the next 1/2 hour or so

 

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Giving credit to the owner operator here, this set up was actually really good. They explained fully how the pearls are farmed and produced. I am so not a jewelry kind of guy, however very surprisingly to me, it was actually interesting to hear and see how this process works.

 

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The owner's right hand man was showing how the shells are "inseminated" so to speak, as well as pulling out several pearls. There was also a lengthy explanation on the pearl prices with regard to colour and clarity, something I just couldn't wrap my head around as there were pearls worth $100 and others worth $1000.... I could barely tell a difference

 

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So with the "explanation" part finished, now comes the sales pitch. Of course in order to get into the seating area, you have to go through the middle of their little sales hut.... and also to get back to the boat. Of course they had a very large selection of various pearls, necklaces, chains, etc etc varying in price, there was something for everyone (except me lol! typical man right?)

 

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I almost choked when I looked at the price tag of some of the jewelry on this particular table.... these were prime pieces.

$3800 and $3500 US. If I saw my GF getting even close to these I would immediately distract her

 

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In the end, my efforts were fruitless! I failed. You see, pre cruise she had already decided that she was going to get Tahitian Pearls somewhere along the way, so why not here in Taha'a where she has a story behind the purchase? I'll give her lot's of credit actually as she has purchased some very very nice things from all over the world as we have traveled (not trinkets) and her collection of very beautiful, very useful and memorable mementos is excellent. This is one of the highest quality pearls you can buy... so only one was afforded for today on this really nice chain (IIRC around $1000?). She nightly during the cruise and many times since at home, it's actually a really nice piece

 

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Thankfully the boat was filling with fellow cruisers and it was time to go. But there at the end of the GF mentions to me another set of ear rings on the table, murmuring how nice that would be as a Birthday present and I quickly nudged her saying "look honey, the boat is leaving. Quick!". {--- Sigh---} :evilsmile:

 

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It was a short but very scenic boat ride over to another pier (labelled C on the map) on the north-east coast of Taha'a to visit one of their vanilla farms. Vanilla and pearls are major industries for the locals, and thus the top two areas they would want to bring tourists to only to educate about the products, but obviously to sell.

 

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It was a short 10 minute walk from the pier, down the street and up a long driveway to the vanilla farm area.

When we arrived it looked more like a typical Caribbean/Disneyland set-up with hundreds of other tourists already there in various groups.

 

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We were led to the back of the property where they explained the growth and production of the vanilla. Rows and rows of vanilla as well as other agriculture.

 

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They also had rows of coconuts sprouting new palm tress (approx 1 foot high), several rows of very large grapefruit and breadfruit plants amongst others

 

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Once one group of tourists was done, the next group was ushered over to the next area.... and so on and so on. When we were there I estimate perhaps 4 separate groups (25-35 people each group) so quite crowded. I suspect this farm is the main vanilla farm "attraction" that is set up for not only the ship, but also other land tourists.

 

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After about another 15 minutes of further education, we were ushered over to their "sales" tent where all the products they spoke about were on display and for sale such as the vanilla... also clothing, jams, pastes....

 

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And especially this is the first time we were introduced to Tamanu Oil... only found in French Polynesia. It was described to us as an all purpose healing oil for all sorts of things such as burns, abrasions, cuts, you-name-it. Personally I didn't think anything of the validity of that statement then or at other stores we saw the product (ie. Bora Bora as well), however near the end of the week I heard another cruiser at a table next to us explain how their best friend got cut by coral two days before and had a very nasty gash on the shin... for those of you who don't understand coral cuts vs. falling at home on gravel, dirt, etc, coral cuts are brutal! It can take weeks to heal and it's very dangerous if any of the live bacteria infects your leg. Anyways, in those two days of applying the Tamanu oil, it seemed to have almost fully healed whatever ugly cut this person had, and they were amazed of the validity of what they were told about this oil. Be forewarned re cost... I believe the smaller bottles on the top were 2600 xpf (over $30) and the larger glass bottles were 5300 xpf (over $60). This stuff is not cheap by any means.

 

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They also served snacks and refreshment there, including fresh pineapple juice, coconuts pieces, plantain, and the best snack EVER.... breadfruit chips. Denise, correct me if I'm wrong.... we could've stood there for hours devouring that plate, so so good!

 

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This stop was not long at all.... maybe about 45min tops. We walked back to the pier to get back onto our transport.

 

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All in all, and like the pearl farm, it was not a bad stop at all at least just to learn a little bit and have a snack break at the very least. While a touristy stop, they did not hold us hostage there nor pester you to buy like so many Caribbean shop keepers do. We had maybe 10 min to shop and then we left. Everything we've done so far occurred before lunch. Now we were off to our final stop.... the motu lunch and beach break. We were having a great time and a great day

 

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Referencing the map, D was our last and longest stop of the day.... a motu in the middle of the ocean between Taha'a and Raiatea. I believe I found this to be called Atger Motu as there were two islands somewhat close together that match exactly where we were by photo, and the Atger Pensione is on one of those motus.

 

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The above photo is not indicative of our initial introduction to the island, as our boat actually stopped a good mile off shore first. It turned out that communication was extremely poor here at this part of our day. My GF and I were the only ones to actually experience what everyone was to experience.... a coral garden snorkel/swim all the way to the beach on our own.

 

Everyone was told we were snorkeling at this point as anchor was dropped, and that the currents were quite strong so to be very careful... and yes they were very strong. There were a few less mobile people with us, a couple who need assistance getting off and on, and yet a few others without fins (or their own snorkel gear at all). A few of us got into the water first and tried to snorkel a bit, however we were in deeper water (maybe about 10-12ft and there were no corals... just sand at the bottom for the most part thus nothing to see really. I immediately thought this was a really poor spot to stop and snorkel. By this time (5min) I witnessed many just turning around in the water and struggling to get right back onto the boat... they were all holding on to a long rope at the back of the boat as they were being pulled away by the current. I thought we were all going back onto the boat and moving to another spot.

 

I continued to snorkel a bit to allow others less mobile to get on, however my gf then started swimming away from the boat towards me with one of the locals on the boat with us... the plan was we were going to swim all the way ashore! Turns out our pals D&P did not hear this, nor did anyone else on the boat, so I assume the tour provider assumed everyone else was scared of the currents and just wanted to motor into shore safely on the boat instead.

 

Turned out to be a really fun swim and snorkel to shore. The current was very very strong.... no fins? Absolutely do not go. If you are not a good swimmer, also do not go. The first 10mins or so was a decent work out to be sure. As we made progresses, we abruptly reached an area of many corals.... ah the coral garden as described! And within these corals the current was still there, but maybe only 25% of the strength out in the open. It also become very shallow.... so again if you are not a good swimmer and especially spacially aware of your legs/arms when swimming especially when being pulled aside by currents, this swim would not be a good idea for you. You a very close to large coral at all times here as you weave in and out of growth throughout the swim to shore.

 

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Incredibly, our tour leader would step on some of the coral to gain his bearings of what's ahead.

 

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We saw a stingray up ahead and decided to follow it for some time in & out of the pathways. We spooked it within maybe 6-7 seconds and it instantly sped up and took off out of site from us.

 

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Yay... victory... We made it! This was a very memorable 30-40mins or so of swimming/snorkeling that GF has fond memories of this day. An awesome way to get some well needed exercise before lunch.

 

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Here on the motu we got to spend about 3 hours total, absolutely perfect time to chill out, have some lunch, and chill out some more!.... or snorkel, collect shells, walk around... anything you want. We had this part of the island to ourselves at this time.... totally awesome

 

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Ah.... this is the life

 

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They had a nice table/tent set up for a buffet lunch in the shade of the palm trees, a great reprieve from the sun for a little bit.

 

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Besides typical local faves such as fresh grilled fish, totally delicious coconut bread, chicken fava (in spinach), we also had our first taste of a french Polynesian local favorite that is served everywhere on every island as a staple meal... Poisson Cru (raw fish) normally made like a salad mixed with coconut mild and garnished with some veggies. VERY good!

 

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The boys from the tour serenaded us the entire way on the boat to & from the mainland... and also here during lunch. Most of the private tours had some level of local music and/or dancing, many of the locals are very talented musicians. It was awesome listening to the local music.

 

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We had at least another hour of enjoyment here, most of it GF and I spent enjoying in the warmth of the water and snorkeling.

This will give you somewhat of an idea of how close to the top the corals have grown in about 3-4 feet of water. If you try to stand up on the sand, the current will pull you slightly and you will wobble... sometimes taking a step back. That's where you can get into trouble as some of those pathways between corals are only 3-4 feet wide. Many times we would float over the corals missing them by only 1 foot in order to get to the other side and a larger area to manouvre

 

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Our time on the motu came to an end... collecting all of our things, everyone headed back to the boat and we raced away heading back to the Raiatea pier. Goodbye for now Taha'a

 

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I was able to snap a couple of nice images of Marina docked from our vantage point of the boat as we motored into the bay.

She's definitely a beautiful ship.

 

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And that was it.... a great day in paradise! We made our way back to the Marina the same way we came, a simple 10 minute walk around the boardwalk to the gangway. We were back on the ship well before final all aboard time.

 

 

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We will be going in 2019 - Chile to Papeete and then Papeete to Papeete - what a great reference you have provided for me and anyone else thinking of taking this trip!! You are just so detailed - thank you so much! I look forward to reading more. I was thinking of taking a life jacket and now I definitely will. I can swim well enough but just would rather me safe than sorry. Thanks again.

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I know I have said it before, but I will say it again.... GREAT REVIEW and GREAT PICTURES. I look forward to reading more. Thank you. :):):)

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Thanks so much for the wonderful photos and commentary!! It takes me back to our wonderful times in FP. Looking forward to being there again late May. What kind of camera do you use?

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OMG - BREADFRUIT! I had never seen or even heard of this majestic fruit before our trip to FP! In chip form, breadfruit might be my favorite food EVER.

Or, it might be due to the fact that I was hungry and dehydrated and those salty pieces of heaven just hit the spot. If I didn't care so much about appearing obnoxious, I would have eaten every last one.

 

Hoopser, do you have your native photo files posted somewhere? I would love a copy of the two photos that you posted of the four of us and all of the underwater photos from Raiatea (since I am still kicking myself for forgetting my underwater camera that day).

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Once you are put on the food Allergy list by your agent, the process is seamless.

 

On the ship, a chef will be assigned to your "case" and will have left a card in your stateroom with contact information before you get on the ship.

 

After a discussion of your specific requirements and requests, along with a description of what your generic options are for each restaurant, you will begin to receive printed menus with the Grand Dining Room selections which meet your needs.

 

For other restaurants, either contact "your chef" or speak to the chef at the venue.

 

Enjoy your cruise!

 

Great info, thanks very much Jim & Stan!

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thank you so much!
Thank you. :):):)

 

Really kind words RJB ... thx to both of you :D:D

 

 

Thanks so much for the wonderful photos and commentary!! It takes me back to our wonderful times in FP. Looking forward to being there again late May. What kind of camera do you use?

 

I am a total novice. More than 50% of the photos you are seeing (especially the panoramas) are on my regular iphone6.

I also use a Olympus TG-4 underwater which also takes great "above water" shots! lol

The other shots are on a really nice Sony6000 that I have not learned how to fully use to it's full potential yet... has excellent low light sensitivity, a super quick shutter when taking moving shots (ie. like when on a bus for example) and is one of the few "lower end" cameras that has a 28mm lens so it has a way nicer wider angle than many other cameras. For example, I can fit more into a picture with the Sony than either of the other two cameras.

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Hoopser, do you have your native photo files posted somewhere? I would love a copy of the two photos that you posted of the four of us and all of the underwater photos from Raiatea (since I am still kicking myself for forgetting my underwater camera that day).

 

I will put this together for you, no worries :D:D

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Love, love , love the photos! But I can't believe a guide would think it's OK to stand on coral!

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So I ended my last installment with our day in Raiatea, however with no mention at all of our evening. The strangest thing is I've double and tripled checked all 3 of my cameras... I've got zero photos of the evening.... shocking! After some pondering, I think that is correct that I took zero pictures this night (are you proud of me Denise? lol!)

 

Raiatea sail away was to be at 11pm that night, so of course I'm not on my balcony or walking around top deck taking photos... instead we chilled out (small nap) in our room and then, as per our routine, went down to the grand Bar to have a drink and enjoy the live music. Tonight we had zero plans for dinner, so finishing our drinks around 7:30pm we gave it a shot to just show up at specialty to see if they seat us on a whim.

 

That morning before heading out of the gangway we went down to the reservation desk to see if there were any specialty openings that evening... there were not any openings unless we were willing to eat at 9pm. During our Day 1 embarkation ship tour, the gal at Red Ginger told us to come down at any time to see if there are cancellations as often there are.... then they can seat us. So tonight we immediately walked down to Red Ginger to see if this could happen, but they had to turn us away. We then went up to both Polo and Toscana, again turning us away. Our backup if this were to happen was to give the Grand Dining room a try.

 

So here's the turn off for me when it comes to any Main Dining Room in ships... we introduced ourselves to the maitre'D and a waiter walked us down to the table. It was right across a main thoroughfare from a bussing station against a railing, the other side of the railing a larger table of 6 with people seated at an angle and elevated slightly above us. Zero privacy and horrible location. Worst thing, half the venue was empty. First world problems yes? Nonetheless, why shoehorn us into a spot just to fill a specific waiter's station. I easily had no problem asking to be seated somewhere else, but we were already seated and truthfully just unmotivated to move now with menu in hand. I certainly left my iphone in my pocket that night thinking I'd get photos on another night, thinking we'd be in the Grand Dining Room again before the end of the cruise.... nope, this was the only time so no photos of any Grand Dining Room dinner!

 

We weren't fans of the venue. It was very bland & cold feeling to us. Of course our initial introduction to this seating didn't help. Thankfully service was very good, and the sommelier was excellent. I will also point out that our meal was fantastic! The venison I ordered was totally memorable. In fact, it would easily pass for a plate served at a Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant. So in the end we enjoyed our meal and the interaction with staff, however we both commented that it was great that service was quick so that we could get out of there faster. We didn't go back as we learned that we really loved the other venues, especially the Terrace (--- foreshadowing--)

 

Tonight was also the first of the Broadway shows performed by the Oceania singers and dancers "Broadway in Concert". Being limited in sets and with the singers doing basic singing on the spot (very little movement/dancing/sets) I had no intention of photos in this smaller venue anyways, and I expected no one else would be either. By the end of the cruise, I discovered others shooting photo and/or video besides me.... just not this night. I noted that the singers, especially two of the women, were outstanding and better than many of the singers on the Entertainment rich Royal ships.

 

With the show ending, and us yawning!!!... we decided that was it for us this night... We had a huge and early day set tomorrow in Bora Bora, with a meeting for early tender tickets with the rest of our group. We retired to our room for the night.

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Day 4 - Bora Bora (March 10)

 

We were stoked with anticipation on this day as Bora Bora was definitely always premier in my mind as a bucket list location to visit in my lifetime. Not only that, we were booked on a full day prime excursion with Patrick's Bora Bora Lagoon Tour, which I learned is sometimes booked over 6 months in advance.

 

But first.... a view of 6:30am sunrise from Barista's with freshly poured Americano's in hand

 

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Remember my comment on my previous post regarding my love for the Terrace? Daily breakfast out here for this itinerary was a must in my books

 

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As we entered the bay we can see that we were not alone.... A Paul Gauguin ship was already anchored in the bay. I quietly wondered how that would affect us cruisers from the Marina regarding business of the pier and excursions, if at all.

 

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I have a decent, and growing, collection of various cruise ship photos from various ports around the world as I encounter them... this photo will fit the bill

 

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This was a great sail in during breakfast, and now with Marina slowing to it's spot it was time to go get our things and head down to the theatre for our 7:45am meeting time with our group for the tendering process.

 

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At 7:45am we entered the theatre to grab our tender tickets. Although having the 2nd colour to allow independent cruisers off the ship, there were plenty of Oceania excursions on the books for Bora Bora, so we ended up waiting a little bit longer than what we thought. But it wasn't too much of an issue. We were to meet Patrick's tour at the pier by about 9am so there was time....

 

After about a 20-25min wait, our colour was called and we headed down the stairs to the security check in area. Note to get out to the tenders is a relatively steep walk down into an industrial part of the vessel. There is one very small elevator there big enough for one person, so i feel it's a bit of a problem for anyone with mobility issues. Most of those with mobility problems (there werent that many on this cruise_) were assisted up the stairs for speed an convenience when possible

 

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The tender ride here is easily only about 5-6 minutes, very short.

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There seemed to be plenty of non-Ocenaia options available at the time. We were led to the other side of the pier to wait for our excursion, and I noted within another 2 tenders, much of the hustle and bustle just 10 minutes before had calmed down.... perhaps there aren't a lot of options as I thought? More on this later

 

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I was able to get a great shot of both Marina and the Paul Gauguin ship here from this vantage point

 

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Patrick's tour gathered us up and got us going to our 4x4 for our morning journey inland. In fact, here we had a choice because we were the first group to meet them.... we could either do the water/snorkeling part of the day in the morning/4x4 in afternoon or vice versa.... we chose the 4x4 first. We were later told it may have been better to do the water snorkeling first as the larger manta rays normally do not come out in the afternoon. we took note of that, and unfortunately we did not see any in the afternoon.

 

Although Bora Bora is a well known destination, it's really not that developed. here's the "main road" just outside of the pier area as we departed

 

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The views along the way were gorgeous

 

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Besides slowing down on the road to explain things as we go, our first real stop was a cliff top private art studio. There was more than just the studio... a superb view, an archaeological ceremonial area, various fauna/nuts/fruit trees. History of the island was explained along with all sorts of facts and info about Bora Bora.

 

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Of course we were also "allowed" to view the studio, needing to go right by it in order to have a bathroom break for those who needed it. Again I mention no sales pressure here, however the process was to show off the wares if anyone was interested. I later learned that hand painted sarongs were a specialty in Bora Bora with several artists producing them. At the end of the day, in a really nice high end art shop down the street a ways from the pier, we bought a couple that were beautiful as souvenirs. I regretted not buying one up at this studio as a couple of them were truly outstanding

 

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Here is the one I regretted not buying... GF and I looked at this one for a while before walking away not wanting to succumb to a spontaneous purchase, however, sometimes these one of a kind items do not reappear again. I believe they were $25-$40US here. At the high-end store later on they were surprisingly a decent $50, and just as nice quality. I also noted them at the Intercontinental Tahiti at the end of the trip for 8000xpf (about $100). Buying direct from the supplier is always the best value.

 

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It was off to our next stop on our 4x4 tour around the island. Along the way and on the road side, you will discover the odd archaeological site with some significance. As explained by our guide, various symbols mean different things, however the turtle is a well used symbol meaning a couple of things

 

"The turtle, or honu, is another important creature throughout all Polynesian cultures and has been associated with several meanings. The first being the fact that turtles symbolize health, fertility, longevity in life, foundation, peace and rest."

 

Here's a great link with Polynesian and Marquesan symbols with regard to history and tattooing with more explanation of the turtle and others. I'm trying to remember the age, and I think they are around 500AD. If anyone has this info, I'd appreciate you posting. I'm not fiding it quickly by googling

http://www.zealandtattoo.co.nz/tattoo-styles/polynesian-tattoo-history-meanings-traditional-designs/

.

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Soon we had reached a viewpoint over to one of the outer rims, and in the distance many of the upper scale over-water bungalow hotels such as the St. Regis in the distance. But first the 4x4 was put into good use as we turned the corner into a private drive and headed on up the 7% grade hill (note the sign)

 

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Just beautiful

 

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Note the island off in the distance... that's Taha'a where we were yesterday. makes sense why we departed Raiatea at 11pm to get here

 

IMG_2781_zps0wggitfr.jpg

 

 

DSC05414_zpsfu1e2fug.jpg

 

Here's a quick map... travelling from the western part of the island from the capital city of Viatape to the eastern side where the lookout is.... next we're heading for Patrick's property to get onto one of his outriggers and head over to our beach break!!

 

g-travel-french%20polynesia-bora%20bora-m-map-00-2007_zpssbfisvan.jpg

Edited by Hoopster95

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