Deep Sea Experience

Bora Bora’s new Thalasso draws on the depths of the ocean

By: Judy Koutsky

As I stared at the colorful fish swimming beneath the glass-bottom floor while a massage therapist spread deep-ocean water and a special seaweed mixture on my back, I drifted off into the special place where decadence and heaven meet and everything seems deliciously perfect. And to think I was a bit apprehensive about this trip.

I had already visited French Polynesia twice, and was wondering if a third trip seemed, well, excessive. I soon discovered, though, that this cluster of islands always has something new up its sleeve.

This year, it would be the new Inter-Continental Resort & Thalasso Bora Bora (called the Thalasso for short). All 80 of their rooms are overwater bungalows, which was a great starting point. The size of the rooms was a welcoming surprise. Double the size of most standard bungalows I had visited in the past, the Thalasso had enormous tubs that overlooked turquoise waters, bedrooms that felt like they were floating at sea and a huge living area and sizeable balcony. The rooms are perfect for honeymooners of which there are many at the resort.

After relaxing in my room, I headed to the spa. The first thalassotherapy spa in the South Pacific, this 13,200-square-foot feature is pure decadence. It’s also the first spa in the world to use water taken from 3,000 feet below sea level in all its signature treatments. The deep water of the ocean has been protected from harmful influences for thousands of years, so it is one of the purest sources of water rich in minerals, vitamins and nutrients.

All the signature treatments facials, wraps, scrubs, massages utilize this magical water, and I could feel (or so I imagined) its healing effects during my massage. Of course, the other real treat for me was the overwater treatment rooms; I stared at fish, coral and other marine life while looking down through the glass-bottom floors.

After my Deep Blue massage, I wanted to check out one of the world’s first overwater wedding chapels.

From the outside, the chapel looked unassuming, an A-frame wooden bungalow suspended over the water. However, from the inside, the chapel shows its hidden charm. The glass-bottom floor allows guests (and the wedding couple) to view the variety of marine life that turns out for the nuptials. A large plate-glass window offers the most impressively beautiful views of Mount Otemanu. The concierge explained that during the ceremony, local Tahitian musicians serenade the couple while a traditional priest performs the ceremony. Various wedding packages include flowers, traditional Tahitian dancers, champagne, a couples’ day at the spa and a romantic dinner on the beach. The hotel can arrange beach ceremonies as well.

The other big news at the Thalasso will thrill environmentalists. It’s the very first hotel in the world to run an air-conditioning system entirely with water drawn from the depths of the ocean. The cold water replaces the traditional hydro-fluorocarbons; the latter is responsible for worsening climatic changes. This new procedure, sure to be a hit, not only saves 80 percent of the cost of air conditioning electricity consumption, but is also clean and sustainable resulting in limited impact on the environment.

After spending several days in my overwater bungalow in Bora Bora I headed to Moorea, the lush, rugged heart-shaped island located 30 minutes by ferry from Tahiti. The InterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea is a favorite in Moorea because it offers one of the most extensive activities centers on the island. There’s water skiing, scuba, outrigger canoes, parasailing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat rides, aquascope (half submarine) and a host of other activities. My favorite and a big hit with most all visitors to Moorea is the dolphin encounter. In small groups, guests interact with these playful creatures.

Another highlight of the resort is the Helene Spa. The first spa to open in Polynesia, the Helene spa focuses on natural products and local Polynesian techniques in their massages, facials and body treatments. The spa features several treatment rooms, a meditation garden, outdoor shower, bamboo sofas and a Jacuzzi lined with seashells and flowers. I felt like I was in a bouquet of flowers while relaxing in my treatment, the smells and colors were fresh and beautiful.

All in all, my trip to French Polynesia did not mirror previous visits, but instead offered a host of welcoming surprises.


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