Off-road Trekking on Bora Bora

by Rebecca Rochat

fire it up


At the dock in Vaitape, seven other sailing buddies and myself meet our guide from Tupuna Mountain Safari who is there to transport us in an open Range Rover off the beaten path and up into the hills and mountains of Bora Bora . As we head north out of the village on the main road, our guide wastes no time in giving us the first of what would prove to be many bumps and jolts along the way. Our heads and necks snap back as we make a sharp left out of the parking lot at the dock and onto the road.

The Range Rover races along the road past Pahua Point where we pass the remains of a Club Med and towards Farepiti Point where the road encircles Faanui Bay. At the village of Fannui in the center of the bay, we turn inland and then make a sharp right onto a deeply rutted and boulder strewn unsealed road. Climbing up the mountain, we are tossed left and right and the only way to keep from sliding down and out the back is to grasp the overhead roll bar firmly.   

After several twists and turns, we crest the top of the ridge and two WWII era graffiti covered guns and a bunker come into view. The guns were positioned on the ridge to defend Teavanui Pass , the only entrance into the lagoon that surrounds Bora Bora .  We climb out of the Range Rover and panoramic views of Fannui Bay and Farepiti Point are spread before us.

After a photo op, we head back down along a ridge and take a right onto the coastal road on the north side of the island. The northern section between Tereia Point and Taihi Point is much less populated compared to the southern tip where we started our trek and where our boat is anchored. 

Along Vairupe Bay we make a stop where our guide climbs out and starts picking up several coconuts that have fallen along the water's edge. He picks up one at a time, holds it up to his ear, shakes it, and if it doesn't make the noise he is listening for, he throws it back onto the ground. Finally, one seems to "sound" right and he tucks it under his arm. He makes another stop and using his machete, cuts off some palm fronds, "for the plate" he says.

Rounding the tip of Taihi Point we take another sharp turn to the right and head up another steep, muddy path to Popotei Ridge. As we reach the top, we see nothing but blue sky and just at the crest of the ridge, we make a sharp turn downward as the road seems to disappear into the water of the lagoon below us. Before we have time to catch our breath, a sharp turn to the left throws us up against the side of the vehicle and we come to a screeching halt at the top of the point.

This time, a little more shaken than the last, we climb out of the Range Rover and receive jolt of a different sort - before us is a 180 degree panorama of Bora Bora's lagoon. The lagoon is often described as the most beautiful in the world and from this vantage point atop Popotei Ridge we are treated to views that render one speechless. As beautiful as the lagoon appears at sea level, it is nothing compared to a view from an elevated vantage point. Between the island and the outlying motu, the lagoon shimmers in graduated colors of light green to deep azure blue, to mint green, to an almost purplish blue in the ocean beyond the motu. Sailboats and small yachts float like graceful toys in their large bathtub leaving slivers of white trails behind them.

We are so transfixed by the view that we almost don't notice the refreshments being prepared for us on a round wooden table. Now we know why our guide stopped to find the right "sounding" coconut. On a mat of the palm fronds, our guide has placed a smorgasbord of Polynesian fruit: pample mousses (grapefruit), coconut, pineapple, bananas.

"Why is it the fruit so much sweeter here than at home?" we query each other while the fruit juices run from the corners of our mouths. This is a hard spot to leave, but we take one last gaze at the lagoon and climb back into the Range Rover for the ride back down the ridge.

On our way back down, the motor dies. With the vehicle still in first gear, steering wheel locked and our vehicle drifting towards the right hand, sloping edge of the road, our guide attempts to start the ignition. I'm beginning to look for an escape route out when the motor kicks in and we rumble down the road towards the flatter, paved coastal road. Back down at Taihi Point we head south along the eastern coastal road down towards Maitra Point where most of the island’s resorts and hotels are located. Rounding Maitra Point we race back towards Vaitape. We make one more stop at Bloody Mary's one of the most famous restaurants and watering holes on Bora Bora which is proud of its celebrity status (you know because there are pictures posted of now famous and long ago forgotten celebrities as you enter the restaurant).

It’s been a long day and we've seen most all of
Bora Bora
along the coastal roads to the interior. That evening, onboard our ship anchored in the lagoon, we are treated to dinner on the top deck and one last memorable scene. A beautiful full moon is rising over the mountains in the distance and casts a silvery, path from the shore’s edge to our ship. 


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