The Prince of Whales

Bora Bora. The newlywed’s perfect honeymoon destination; filmmaker’s ideal set location, and the preferred breeding and calving area for humpback whales between July and October.

As we approached Bora Bora’s only pass on the east of the island, we saw a catamaran and a small RIB stopped ahead on our port side. And to their left we saw plumes of water rising from the sea. So, we headed over to take a look. I’m glad we did. As we approached, a whale leapt out of the water with athleticism at odds with its immense size and made a booming splash back into the ocean.

Despite the number of whales in that area, grabbing a good photograph of one leaping out of the water wasn’t easy. The ones below are the best we could get and it wasn’t through lack of trying. As we quietly drifted along, cameras at the ready, one of the pod frightened us half to death by breaching the water uncomfortably close to Lady Jane’s stern. We were ready for it the next time. And the result – entirely occluded by the backstay – is the last shot below. This whale photography malarkey should be a competitive sport.

Flukey

Humpbacks

Entry for wildlife photographer of the year

Piccadilly Circus

After the whales swam away into the distance, pursued by the whale watching boat and the catamaran, we motored through the pass and into the lagoon. Because Bora Bora is a popular holiday destination, inside the lagoon it’s the marine equivalent of Piccadilly Circus: dive boats, whale watching boats, water taxis and ferries are everywhere. Including the boat in the photo below shovelling whatever he was shovelling into the lagoon.

Entering the pass

Shoveller

Our goal was to get to Bloody Mary’s, preferred eating and drinking hole of the stars. Given that we planned to treat this as a holiday within a holiday, what better place to start by soaking up a little celebrity atmosphere. On the way, a RIB approached us at speed. It was Francis, who works for the company that now manages the moorings in Bora Bora. He asked if we were looking for a mooring. We replied yes. He said there is one free and pointed us straight at it. Twenty minutes later, Maria hooked the mooring and we were secured to our temporary new home, bobbing up and down in the water less than 100 metres away from Bloody Mary’s dinghy dock.

Dinghy Dock

A happier hour than expected

According to their website, Bloody Mary’s happy hour is Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And as this was Wednesday, our luck was in. We tied and locked our dinghy to the perfectly-maintained dinghy dock and walked across the road the entrance, which is bordered by wooden walls listing the names of the rich (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates) and famous (more people than you can shake a clapperboard at). After ordering our two for one cocktail at the bar, we reserved a table for dinner, then carried our drinks outside to join the other holidaymakers. As we sat and watched the sun go down, the band arrived – a four-piece outfit with a combined weight of a family car. These guys were big. Incongruently, this was a ukulele band. 

The cocktails disappeared all too quickly, so we thought it prudent to get a long drink instead: beer. The person behind the bar explained that beer isn’t included in happy hour, but a pitcher of beer is. Well, I thought, we are on holiday and pitcher of beer will do nicely. She poured the beer into the ice-cold bucket and gave me two glasses, and as I walked away, she said: “You can come back later for your free one.” I nearly dropped the pitcher. Needless to say, the thought of sharing a nice bottle of wine was quickly forgotten.

Bloody Mary’s

Pitchergate

Fame One

Fame Two

Wall of cash

Sausage fingers

At 7 pm we wandered into the restaurant with the second pitcher in my now-wobbly hand. Fortunately, our waitress took this over to the table, leaving us free to gently sway as we took in the explanation of the menu for the evening. It’s a bit formulaic, but it is fun. Before seating, someone behind a live display of the evening’s menu explains what it is and how much it is. We ordered (sashimi, tuna, bonefish, ribs), then carefully put one foot in front of the other to our table on which the pitcher of beer stood.

As the food arrived, the band struck up. My only previous experience of the ukulele was listening to George Formby in an old black and white comedy singing, I’m leaning on the lampost… That film left me with the impression that the instrument was a comedy version of a guitar. Not any more. It’s a fantastic instrument. And the way the musician’s play here would bring a smile to the most curmudgeonly of souls. So much for needing thin fingers to play a soprano ukulele – these guys had fingers like Cumberland sausages. Later, one of the local women joined in. She borrowed one of the ukuleles and belted out a song that would get the judges on The Voice spinning in their seats. And this isn’t the pitcher of beer talking.

An almost circumnavigation

After a day of recovery, and a visit to town to stock up with more cash, we headed off to the other side of the island to meet the JaJapami’s. Although the southeastern moorings are close to Bloody Mary’s, we had almost to circumnavigate the island to get there: up and over the north part of the island and through a narrow reef pass. It’s worth the effort, though. The colours of the lagoon on that side of the island are stunning. It’s no wonder that’s where the luxury resorts have set up camp.

After picking up a mooring ball, we headed over to JaJapami to pick up Jana who wanted to come with us to take a look around. We ended up on a remote public beach full of broken coral. But amongst all the broken stuff was plenty of life. It’s like a housing development for hermit crabs. There’s a new home for everyone.

We joined the JaJapami’s later for dinner – and for some unplanned ear treatment for Maria courtesy of Dr Jana. And we spent the next few days lazing around the lagoon, occasionally plopping ourselves in the water for a spot of snorkelling. There might not be so much to do in this area, but it’s hard to complain about the view.

A quick stop at Viatape to get some cash

One of the many hotel resorts on the east of the island

Lady Jane

Stroll on the beach

Blue

Clammy

Crabby

Waxy

Back East

Going back to Tahiti isn’t as straightforward as getting to Bora Bora. The prevailing wind is from a mostly easterly direction, and Tahiti is East of Bora Bora. So, when the forecast arrived promising a wind shift to the southwest, we decided to leave earlier than expected. On Monday 17th September, we followed our track back to the mooring outside Bloody Mary’s. After parking up, Maria and I took a stroll to the public beach around the corner, and later we met up with the JaJapami’s for a final night together at Bloody Mary’s restaurant. No band appeared this time, and the service wasn’t so good, but that’s the risk of going somewhere for a second time and expecting it to be the same. Despite that, before we left, Maria and I did what all self-respecting tourists should do and bought t-shirts.

Bora Bora Beach Club

Not bad for a public beach

Lady Jane and Lady Maria

More public beach

It’s as it says

It’s an Avis car – bot not as you know it

Dinner with the JaJapamis

The next morning we left early for Raiatea, where we had to stop for one night before heading towards Tahiti. We had developed another problem with our instruments. This time the wind instrument was showing the wind coming from the opposite direction. It was driving me bonkers. So, I contacted Nathalie who arranged for Cyprien to come to Lady Jane to sort it out. 

On the way out – Windstar.

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