Tour of the South PacificWords by Courtney Kellar
There are a handful of iconic romantic destinations, and the isles of Tahiti are unquestionably one of them. Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands which make up French Polynesia and is located halfway between California and Australia. After boarding an Air Tahiti Nui flight from LAX, I landed in the Tahitian capital of Papeete a quick seven and a half hours later. Thus began the most amazing 10 days I’ve experienced in my life thus far.
I spent two days at the spectacular Le Méridien Tahiti before continuing on to the island of Bora Bora. The hotel is dramatic from the start thanks to its enormous open-air lobby with a view of Moorea Island and some of the bluest waters I’ve ever seen. While relaxation is a given, Le Méridien is distinctive in their plethora of activities for guests. From water aerobics in the hotel’s sandy-bottomed pool (instructed in French, of course) to cooking and art classes, continuous self improvement is the goal. Most impressive is the hotel’s L’Atelier, where guests can watch world-class artists work or create some art of their own.
I recommend spending a few days in Tahiti before jet-setting off to Bora Bora. Papeete is the place to get your shopping done and be sure to visit the city’s public market. In Tahiti, looking up at the night sky led me to believe that Van Gogh was inspired by French Polynesia when painting Starry Starry Night rather than the café-lined streets of Paris.
After a few days in French Polynesia’s capital city, it was time to board a quick 45 minute flight to the isolated island of Bora Bora. The island is surrounded by natural coral gardens and the view from above is nothing less than breathtaking. The only way to get around is by boat and the 20-minute ride to Le Méridien Bora Bora astounded me with the natural beauty of the island. Could this be real?
Le Méridien was the first hotel to venture off the main island and instead set up camp on one of Bora Bora’s many islets. What resulted are the best views this paradise has to offer with an unobstructed view of the island’s famous Mount Otemanu. I was greeted at the hotel’s private dock by two tanned and toned men wearing nothing but the island’s iconic pareo (a piece of cloth worn as a skirt). Not a bad start.
I was quickly shown to my very own overwater bungalow. The thought of Bora Bora conjures images of these thatched-roof stilt homes surrounded by crystal clear water. Le Méridien’s overwater bungalows have the largest glass bottom floors of any resort on the island. While gorgeous, these clear floors take some getting used to. Stepping out of the shower, I clean forgot about my unique floor and was greeted by a kayaker swiftly paddling beneath my bungalow. No worries, I quickly hopped into my canopy bed and let the waters of the South Pacific rock me to sleep.
The accommodations are so lovely and the panoramic views so stunning, you may not want to travel any further than your private deck. However, if you’re open to the friendly islanders showing you around, there are amazing activities you can’t do anywhere else in the world. Le Mérdien caters to the adventurous spirit and cultural history of the island. The most spectacular part is the hotel’s private lagoon where you can snorkel with exotic fish and friendly sea turtles. The hotel’s ecological center works tirelessly to save these beautiful creatures from extinction and has nursed thousands of sea turtles back to health.
I did so many amazing things during my stay in Bora Bora that these few pages are nowhere near enough to tell you about each of them. I snorkeled with giant manta rays within sight of my bungalow, swam with sharks, fed wild stingrays and took a sunset catamaran cruise that was something out of a movie. My favorite activity was an aquabike adventure. These state-of-the-art underwater scooters are only found in two places on earth, one being Bora Bora. Your head is placed under a glass airlock which allows you to breathe freely as you navigate the bottom of the ocean in view of colorful coral and some very inquisitive fish. From the moment you set foot on the island of Bora Bora, you can’t help but sit back and be thankful. Thankful for the stingrays hiding in the shade of your bungalow, the smiling faces of the islanders, the kaleidoscope that is the turquoise waters and the cotton candy pink sunsets. You could do no more than sit on your balcony and watch the shifting colors of the sea – sugary sweet blue raspberry to sea-foam green and each with the luminosity of stained glass.
As I boarded the boat which was to make me leave this paradise, I couldn’t help but get emotional. Bora Bora was nothing less than a fairytale. If J.R.R. Tolkien, the famous fantasy author, had gone tropical, surely he would have created a world such as this – rich, colorful and far too beautiful to be real.
Photos Courtesy of Le Meridien Tahiti (1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th) and Le Meridien Bora Bora (2nd & 5th)
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