Shark- and ray-feeding excursions are popular in Bora Bora. // © 2016 Shelly Strazis
Feature image (above): // © 2016 Shelly Strazis
It was early morning, and I was on a 60-foot catamaran in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, gliding across the lagoon’s glassy surface and doing all I could to restrain myself from plunging in. But I had to be patient as the vessel — piloted by skipper and local tour operator Fan Fan Ferrand — eased into position.
I knew what was coming next; I had been here before. But I loved watching my fellow passengers act as giddy as schoolkids, gasping as they saw stingrays with 4-foot wingspans and black-tipped reef sharks torpedo beneath us in the water. The vessel moored, and we jumped in for a snorkeling experience no one would forget.
It was just another day at Bora Bora Liquid Festival, a weeklong watersports event that’s equal parts Ironman and epic beach party and held each December at this storied lagoon.
Over the years, event creator Stephan Lambert has developed a particular talent for integrating local adventures. The multiday event is an entertaining and adrenaline-fueled mix of everything from beachfront Zumba classes offered at host hotel Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort to spirited races of all types, including stand-up paddleboarding, outrigger canoeing and long-distance swims. Then there is indulging in local favorites such as poisson cru (think Tahitian ceviche) and local Hinano beers while taking in the island’s legendary sunsets.
But amazing as the festival is, it’s just one example of the array of adventures available to visitors, who often don’t realize the depth of options in Bora Bora — an island better known for its overwater bungalows and romantic escapes. Here are a few of Bora Bora’s must-do adventure attractions.
Island 4X4 Tour
Bora Bora is rightfully known as an aquatic playground, but one of its best-loved adventures is a 4x4 expedition that gets clients off the main road and onto dirt tracks. Local operator Vavau 4x4 Adventures offers both land and sea tours, in addition to combination tours and private itineraries. Tour highlights include a visit to see an artillery emplacement featuring massive cannons from World War II, spectacular views of Mount Otemanu and the island’s necklace of motus, or small islets. And since Bora Bora can’t help but offer a romantic edge, Vavau also offers sunset champagne 4x4 treks.
Jet Ski and ATV Tours
Clients also have the option to explore Bora Bora’s surf and turf with Matira Jet Tours, which offers land-and-water combo deals featuring excursions on new WaveRunners, followed by trail rides on quad ATVs. The combo deals allow visitors to get the best seats in the house for cruising over the lagoon’s coral gardens and taking in the full sweep and grandeur of Bora Bora and its neighboring islands.
Stand-Up Paddle Experience
Whether clients are ready for the long-distance paddle contest during Liquid Festival’s Ironmana or just want a relaxed sunset paddle at the beach, Matira Jet Tours is also conveniently located on the shore and offers quality boards for rent. Guests may even get an impromptu surfside lesson from owner Rainui Besineau.