Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Aug 01, 2018 - National Geographic Orion


Today we visited the Society Islands and the beautiful island of Bora Bora. These islands were the center of ancient Polynesian culture and remain a very much desired destination for visitors today. We went ashore to the main village of Vaitape and boarded our “Le Truck” vehicles and four-wheel drive land rovers to explore the island. We visited a sarong center where we were treated to a demonstration on dying the sarong fabric, and then learned how to tie the sarong in a number of interesting ways. We continued to several belvederes for panoramic views of the spectacular volcanic core of the island that rises high above the coastal settlements. We were able to see first hand the process by which atolls are formed, since Bora Bora is in the intermediate phase of a volcano with a barrier reef around it, which began, as Charles Darwin realized, as a fringing reef around a newly emerged volcanic island. The reef grew vertically as the core of the island began to erode and sink back into the earth’s crust as it cooled and became denser. We continued to a site where land crabs were happy to receive the hibiscus flowers we gave them and dragged them home to their burrows on the beach. We ended the tour with a visit to the famous Bloody Mary’s bar to sample the signature beverage.

In the afternoon we took our Zodiacs to the nearby private Motu Tapu for snorkeling, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. In the mid-afternoon, a rain squall briefly interrupted the activities and we retreated of one of the thatched roof shelters for some Tahitian music, to which our guests had great fun dancing. When the squall passed, we once again took up our water activities for the rest of the afternoon. It was, altogether, a lovely and very memorable Polynesian day.

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About the Author

Jim Kelley

Expedition Leader

A native of California, Jim has been going to sea for most of his life. Jim grew up by the ocean in Southern California, did his undergraduate work in geology at Pomona College, and received his Ph.D. in geology from the University of Wyoming. In 1966 he joined the faculty of the Department of Oceanography at the University of Washington, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Department of Biomathematics. In 1970-71 he was Fulbright Professor at the University of Athens and Senior Research Scientist at the Democritos Greek Atomic Energy Commission.

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