Bora Bora - a name that is as much a fantasy as the imaginary lost city of Shangri-La. Our last stop on the Aranui freighter was that storied island and the guests couldn't wait to live out their fantasies. The day before, we had stopped at Rangiroa, another dream island where the activities included scuba diving, snorkeling, relaxing at a pristine beach or visiting a pearl farm famous for Polynesian Black Pearls. Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the world and black pearls are French Polynesia's main economic resource. They were available in prices ranging from $10 to thousands depending on the size, color and purity.
We sailed into the sunset, anticipating an early morning arrival at Bora Bora where the most popular optional activity to
book in advance was swimming with black-tipped sharks and sting rays.
Bora Bora definitely lived up to all the passengers' expectations and traveling by freighter made it affordable. The over-water bungalows that seem to be the only tourist accommodations cost more than a thousand dollars a night! We were very happy to travel off the beaten path comfortably on the Aranui. Not only did we spend an entire day in Bora Bora, we also had the luxury of a delicious barbecue lunch at a private island ( Motu Tapu) with amazing snorkeling. The entire island was reserved just for the passengers.
We were not disappointed by our excursion on a canopied boat to swim and snorkel with the sharks and sting rays. It was strangely not frightening - just exhilarating to be immersed in their midst.
After another snorkel stop, the boat captain took us for a circle tour of the lagoon and promised us a special surprise. After swimming with sharks and rays and battling strong currents at one of the snorkel stops, we were a little nervous about "surprises." He stopped the boat in a shallow area and dove overboard. When he emerged, his entire body and face were covered with very white sand. The surprise was that we would now be treated to a free spa treatment of pure, sticky sand that was guaranteed to take years off our ages and make us feel more relaxed than we could imagine. Combined with the tropical fruits that the captain offered us on floating boards, the spa treatment was the best ever!