Monday, April 4, 2016

French Polynesia Stories

Last week Simiao and I were on vacation in French Polynesia.  Ever since I first saw a picture of the ring-shaped islands in the Pacific, I'd always wanted to visit.  Is the water really so electric blue?  Are the little islets really so close together that I could swim from place to place?  Are there really coconuts all over the place that I can just pick up, crack open and drink the water from?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "yes."  We spent 2 afternoons in Papeete, 2 days in Moorea, and 4 days in Bora Bora.  All of the locations were charming, but we preferred the natural beauty of Moorea and Bora Bora to the city in Papeete.  Initially I'd wanted to stay in the over-water bungalows, but unfortunately those were all spoken for 3 months in advance so we stayed in garden units instead.  In retrospect, not only were the garden units less expensive per night, but the 30-second walk to the lagoon was so convenient that I think I'd stay in the garden units next time I visit too.  What's more, in one case, the garden unit included a private plunge pool which I think is a nicer feature than ocean adjacency.

A Lemon Shark on a snorkeling tour we booked in Bora Bora.  The black fish are triggerfish.  These sharks have attacked divers in rare occasions, but don't normally pose a threat to humans.
Mt. Rotui on Moorea appears on the French Polynesian 50 and 100 Franc coins.  The mountain is a former volcanic peak, and the ring-shaped reef around the island marks the original maximum extent of the volcano.  The dormant volcano is slowly eroding into the ocean, but the ring-shaped reef keeps growing and will ultimately be the only remnant in the distant future.
Spinner dolphins on Dr. Poole's dolphin tour.  Intriguingly, while our hotel donated to his research it did not advertise or help us book his tour:  the hotel gets a kickback for booking the penned dolphin experience at the Intercontinental.  I highly recommend contributing to his research by patronizing his tour.  Fun and educational, we found Dr. Poole's tour to be one of the highlights of our trip.
The welcome party at the Sofitel Private Island on Bora Bora.  The best feature of the private island is that both the best reef for snorkeling and the best place to see rays in the lagoon are actually easily within swimming distance using flippers from the island, though weaker swimmers might prefer booking a tour.

We saw no fewer than five octopi in Bora Bora.  Incredibly, they could change their patterns and shapes on demand to suit their camouflage needs.  They could change from a dark red to blue-green and would alter the white spots to look like whatever rock they were hiding on. 

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