Bora Bora: The Anti-Polynesia

By Derek On August 4, 2015 Under Post


For some Bora Bora may be “the most beautiful island in the world” but we didn’t think so. This island is the most heavily-touristed of all in the South Pacific, the impact of which is seen everywhere. By this I mean mainly in the faces of the people and how they interact with you. Gone are the easy smiles and genuine welcomes. No longer do you hear the mellifluous and spontaneous greeting of “Ia Oranaaa,” as you do everywhere else in the islands. When you buy something or hold the door for someone you will no longer hear a sweet “Maruruuu” either. But you will see plenty of scowling and feel a distinct lack of happiness in the air.


In the rest of French Polynesia the speed limit is a very casual 60 km/hr, or about 35 mph. There is no need to rush, no need to stress. In Bora Bora they drive quite fast along the main road just like you would do in Germany or the US but these are narrow roads and dust storms are raised as each vehicle screams by. This is curious too because despite being an economic engine in its own right, thanks to the dozen or so international mega-resorts that are based here, Bora Bora has, hands down, the worst roads in all of French Polynesia. The road we saw through the main town is just a dirt track full of holes and ruts, something I would expect in a Mexican village. The only thing missing were kids selling iguanas. Nor were there any road building or maintenance crews in sight. I asked a local why this was so and the terse and rather mystifying reply was, “The mayor spends all the money on the tourists.”

Adriana and Asmara having their first drink ever at a real bar at “Bloody Mary’s” in Bora Bora. Are we good parents or what?


We took a taxi for a ten minute ride and were charged US $20 – double what that would have been in the other islands. As night fell and we needed to take a taxi back to where we started from the charge had jumped to $30: for a ten minute ride. As we flew at warp speed around tight bends sending chickens flying off in all directions I asked the crazed woman driver why the difference in price.

“NIGHT!” she barked and that was the sum of our conversation.


With the stressed locals, the scowls, the lack of greetings, the ridiculous prices and the fast driving it felt to me as if a piece of California had broken off and floated down to the South Pacific.

It was also difficult to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty with helicopters buzzing over my boat in the anchorage.

The snorkeling was good, though. Most of the coral was dead and in large brown piles resembling dinosaur turds but there were plenty of fish. These fish were different too. Used to the tourist handout they came at you as soon as you entered the water. No more shy reef fish going about their business, these fish, like the locals, “had their fins out” and when I didn’t give them something I thought I caught a piscatorial scowl or two as they swam away. I think one moorish idol even gave me the finger, but I’m not sure.

To be fair, we only saw the western half of the island and did not go over to the eastern side where all the resorts are concentrated. I understand from yachts that did go that way it is beautiful and, aside from the crowds, tour boats, jet skis and helicopters, the lagoon is nice. That is not our scene and we do not feel we missed anything.

As this buoy in the pass demonstrates even the water was in a hurry to leave.


So, for “the most beautiful island in the world” contest, we are currently giving the award to Mo’orea. It was truly a lovely place with lovely people. In fact, all the islands in French Polynesia have been really nice and the people are out of this world friendly, caring and sincere. Bora Bora is the leper outpost of the islands and it is clear real Polynesians do not go there.

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