After more rustling of thatch last night than lapping against piles (neither description figurative, I hasten to clarify) we woke to another brilliant morning. They do a very good breakfast buffet here at the Bora Bora Le Méridien, I must say; but we had to rush a bit to meet our guide for the day.
Mana was a very cheerful local man who arrived in a modern outrigger motorboat and afterwards dipped into several neighbouring resorts – all of them featuring over-water bungalows, with a couple of fancier versions on two levels with even their own raised pools, which seemed a bit superfluous given there is an expanse of warm, shallow turquoise water right there.
Anyway, once our complement of 12 guests was on board, we buzzed down to the south of the lagoon, Mana plinking away on a ukulele while steering with his feet, the views of Mt Otemanu changing constantly but always impressive. The colours of the sea were sensational: luminous turquoise in the shallows and brilliant blue in the deeps, right next to each other. Beautiful.
First stop was for a snorkel with stingrays and, speaking personally, a bit of an ethical dilemma à la Jean Lafitte SwampTours. Because these stingrays had no stings, the barbs having been removed from their tails – a twice-yearly exercise, apparently, since they grow back like fingernails. Mana said it wasn’t painful and, coward, I didn’t ask any more questions, but I did wonder about the rays that had no tails at all, or truncated ones.
Next came the coral gardens snorkel, where we were given bread to feed the fish: not a natural food, but they certainly seemed keen on it. There was a good variety of species, the water was very clear and warm, there was plenty of time to cruise over the reef playing with underwater cameras, and everyone enjoyed themselves.
Last snorkel of the day was with the sharks, and there was a lot more shrieking this time – quite unnecessarily, as no-one got ate or even nibbled, though the sharks did get remarkably close. They were black-tipped reef sharks, the biggest a bit over a metre, with some lemon sharks prowling down on the bottom, one of them a twelve-footer. Not scary at all, and fun to photograph although they glided through the water so fast that I ended up with more than the usual quota of photos with part of a tail fin disappearing out of the frame.
Lunch was on a tiny motu where another group was enjoying local entertainment: background music for our yummy buffet, eaten off plaited palm plates which, afterwards, Mana demonstrated how to make. Then, how to open a brown-husked coconut and make coconut milk from the grated flesh, and finally how to tie a pareu in a variety of ways. It was a professional and funny presentation, and on the way home he serenaded us even more musically. Excellent tour – although I’m still a bit dubious about those rays.
Having made a pathetic effort to do justice to the restaurant’s expansive buffet, we slunk back to the bungalow to luxuriate in the lapping water and tapping thatch, the peace and comfort – and the free wifi, natch. Then, the drums! The drums! Duly summoned back to the beach, we watched the dance performance – the usual swivel-hipped affair, done with grace and smiling enthusiasm, plus a bit of hesitant audience participation; before returning to the soft lap and rustle.