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posted Dec 16, 2011, 6:05 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 16, 2011, 6:06 PM ]
We arrived at Papeete airport in Tahiti just before midnight on 01 December, shuttled to the Sofitel, and checked into our room. We slept for a few hours and woke up around 5 (10 AM in EST) and had a delicious breakfast with wonderful fresh fruit. We walked around the hotel and took some pictures, before getting picked up for our 4X4 expedition with Tahiti Safari Expedition. The tour guide took us into Papenoo Valley to see the countless waterfalls flowing down from the mountains. We stopped at the dam and the guide chummed the water to attract some eel-looking fish. It was raining so we could the Princess' Hair, five or six parallel waterfalls that only flow when it rains. After checking out a few more waterfalls, we stopped at the blowhole at Trou du Souffleur, right next to a beautiful black sand beach, where strong gusts of air blow out of a hole in the ground when the waves crash. Then we stopped to see one more waterfall, Cascade Vaimahuta, before heading back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we could only do a half-day tour due to time constraints. We checked out out of the hotel and back to the airport for a very short flight to Moorea and checked into the Sofital Ia Ora resort - a beautiful bungalow right on the beach.

On Saturday, we woke up excited for our first real dive since becoming certified over the summer. After a yummy breakfast with delicious fresh tropical fruit, we got our stuff and went to the Ia Ora Dive Center at our hotel. The boat went out through the Vaiare Pass just past the lagoon and we dove into the water. We saw reef sharks even before getting in the water. At about 60 feet, we also saw Lemon Sharks as well as wrasses, angel fish, and every possible color of tropical fish. Towards the end, I was running low on air, so the dive leader let me breathe off his tank. Attached to me, he pulled up a rock and out came a Moray Eel! We headed back up and back to land, excited from our first real dive. It was great! We had a drink at the bar then decided to snorkel a bit. Our bungalow led right out to the beach and going north just a bit past the hotel property, we came to fabulous coral reefs in just a few feet of water. We saw anemones, flute fish, wrasse, clownfish and even an octopus. All just a few feet from our room. After a while, we headed back to the bungalow to relax after an exciting day in the sea.

Sunday morning, we woke up, had breakfast and got ready to hike the Caldeira. When we arrived in Moorea, the representative from Tahiti Nui Travel told us this was a great expedition, especially considering there wasn't much open on Sunday, so we were excited. We started in Opunohu Valley along a road that turns off the main road at the end of Opunohu Bay that leads to Belvedere lookout, with our tour guide Hiro from Mer and Montagne Tours. We followed a dirt road for a ways, then headed on to the trail, which was actually blazed some of the way. It was a very steep climb and hot and humid that day; (well every day in the austral summer, but this day it was more noticeable since we were hiking!) After a bit, we came to Col des Trois Cocotiers, with fabulous views over the valley, the two bays, Mount Rotui, Tohiea, and many other peaks surrounding the Caldeira. Hiro explained that the Caldeira is what's left of the crater of the volcano that formed Moorea about 1.5 million years ago. Moorea and Tahiti are young islands, compared to Bora Bora, which is closer to 60 million years old. We rested here for a while and took some pictures, then continued on to Belvedere Lookout. We had a perfect view of Mount Rotui and other mountains to the south and of Opunohu and Cook's Bays. We ate lunch here and continued on to Sommet des Trois Pinus, another lookout with wonderful views. We rested here again then finished our hike through a pineapple plantation and back to the starting spot. Our ride brought us back to the hotel and I got in the water to snorkel a bit to cool off.

Monday was our last day in Moorea. I absolutely loved the island - it has wonderful beaches with great snorkeling and diving and the most beautiful mountains for hiking and exploring. But we were off to Bora Bora and I was excited. I got in one last snorkel near our bungalow and then we got ready to leave. It was just a 45-minute flight to Bora Bora and quite scenic. We saw Tetiaro, Raiatea, and Tahaa from the plane as well as a great view of Bora Bora from above. We landed in Bora Bora and took a boat to the Sofitel Marara Beach Resort and checked into our overwater bungalow! I hopped in the water and started to explore around our bungalow. It seems they dumped furniture and other metal stuff in the water to seed artificial reefs and the coral and fish had started living here. On one reef, I saw a tail and as I got closer to investigate, and eel's head popped out of another hole! I backed up a bit, as I was a little bit nervous around an eel. That evening, we saw flute fish under our glass floor. The light below the glass attracted bugs for the fish to eat.

We woke up on Tuesday and head a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs, and bacon at the restaurant and relaxed around the pool for the early part of the day. Before that though, we headed to the market just up the road from the hotel and got some coke and Tahitian rum to make our own drinks - much cheaper than buying from the bar. Later on, we had a lovely one-hour massage at the spa to work off the stress of travel and flying. It was so nice that we decided to schedule another for Sunday just before leaving. A good massage should reduce the stress and fatigue of our long flight home. After the massage, of course we had to do a little more snorkeling around the bungalow! Then to bed early as we would be scuba diving the next day.

Wednesday, we woke up early, had breakfast and then waited for our ride to Top Dive Bathys for a two-tank dive. We suited up and got on the boat with our dive leader Alec and headed out to our first stop near Motu Tapu. This would be the deeper of the two dives at about 60 feet. There were already many reef sharks in the area and as we descended, we also saw lemon sharks at deeper depths. At the bottom, we saw a yellow trumpet fish, a beautiful fish that looks somewhat like a flute fish, but bigger with a completely yellow body. We also saw flounder, plecos, parrot fish and an eel. After about a half hour, we headed back up and went to our second destination at Motu Toopua. It was shallower here, we only went down to about 40 feet, and this was a drift dive - the boat moved while we were under and we followed the dive leader to where the boat had gone. Almost immediately, we saw a massive eagle ray gracefully swimming near the bottom. We also saw clownfish, anemones, and many other beautiful tropical fish before finishing our dive. We headed back to the hotel, got our snorkeling gear and headed to the Sofitel Motu Private Island to snorkel at the Coral Garden at the eastern end of the island. The water was shallow, but full of beautiful reefs and many fish. I was particularly surprised by the diverse colors of the clams embedded in the reefs.

On Thursday, we spent the day relaxing around the resort, at the pool and snorkeling. In the morning, we spoke with the Activities Desk and arranged an Eco Tour and 4X4 Safari for later in the week.

On Friday, we were picked up at the resort pier by Steven, Niho, and others for the Eco Tour 1/2 day package, which included shark and ray feeding. Steven greeted us at the pier and we joined the boat with two other couples. We circled the island counterclockwise while Steven made jokes and told us about the history of Bora Bora. He pointed out the WWII cannons, which we would be visiting the following day. Then he and the others starting playing music until we got out to near Motu Tapu and the sharks and fish came out quickly. Niho chummed the water and we got in. The sharks and fish swam all around us, as Niho swam down and grabbed the shark fins and let them pull him around underwater. I thought he must be part fish because he could stay underwater so long. Before we got out, he dropped his fins down, casually swam to the bottom and put his fins back on before swimming back up! All the while, Steven "Spielberg" had his underwater camera, filming us. We boarded the boat and headed to the next destination - shallower water where we were greeted by beautiful, affectionate sting rays. Everyone got to kiss a ray and the men got to hold them as well. Niho even gave the ray a French kiss! Next, we headed to the coral garden near Motu Toopua. Here I got a piece of dead fish to feed the butterfly fish and others. It was a feeding frenzy! Steven also got a moral eel to come out and a smaller fish was cleaning his gills. We swam to the other side of the boat and free dove down a bit to see anemones and clownfish. Niho swam to the bottom, laid down, and blew air rings up towards the surface. Then back to the boat and to our hotel. We bought the DVD of our adventure, probably the most expensive DVD I'll ever buy, but worth it for capturing our great time.

Saturday was our last full day in Bora Bora. In the morning, we went to the private island to snorkel at the Coral Garden. Before we got in the water, we dug a trench in the sand and raced the hermit crabs. After a few races, we let the crabs go and got in the water and swam to the coral garden one last time. When we got back to the beach, Amanda found a coconut and we spent thirty minutes opening the coconut with just a rock. I drank the milk and we shared some of the coconut. Then back to the mainland for our 4X4 tour. We first went up the hill near Matira across from the pearl farm. The driver, Steve, actually drove backwards up part of the hill. We stopped for pictures then back down for a quick tour of the Pearl Farm. We then drove through Vaitape and up to the bunker and WWII cannons. We drove to one more spot for a view below Mount Pahia then continued around the island and back to the hotel. I got in the water and Amanda dropped bread for the fish around me to watch the feeding frenzy. After a while, they started following me since I brought the food. For our last night, we went to the bar for the full moon party, with a Polynesian dance show, fire dancers, and a DJ.

On Sunday, we woke up and went for one last snorkel around the bungalows. We said bye to our new friends and one the way back, saw an octopus come out from under a reef, surround a rock with his tentacles, and started changing color. What a great treat for our last time in the water. We packed up, and waited at the pool until our massage, then back to the airport for many hours. Goodbye Polynesia!