Tranquil times trickle by for the “Natural Mystic” crew in Bora Bora these days. With the departure of our female friends back to their lives on the city island, we pulled up the hook and headed for the Bora Bora Yacht Club. Our new anchorage to re-water, de-trash, re-supply and explore the island. We were planning on just getting those chores done, maybe seeing a last sight or two and then sailing to the Cook Islands, but a low pressure system with potential for cyclonic development headed towards the Cooks, putting the brakes on our departure indefinitely, darn.
Bora Bora Yacht Club, is located just to the north from the entrance of Passe Teavanui and has deep water moorings for you to pick up for the unbelievable price of just $50 a week, or maybe no charge if you patronize the restaurant and bar a few times.
The owners, a super rad Tahitian/American couple Teiva and Jessica make you feel right at home and are happy to provide you with water, BBQ’s to use (they ask you just buy beverages from their bar), a place to dispose of your trash and they operate one hell of a fine restaurant.
The food is some of the best on the island, quite reasonably priced for Bora Bora and the portions, much larger than typical French sized meals. These facts are evidenced by the numerous locals who frequent the restaurant and mix with the yacht crews staying on the club’s moorings, all while everyone noshes on tuna tar tare and sips fancy cocktails or the cold beer, and Kahlil jams on the guitar, rocking the house with the Friday night band. Fun times for sure and I highly recommend the fish burger, it a absolute gourmet tasty treat!
Flat surf here, means decent spear fishing action and fun island tripping. Bike rides around the island reveal friendly locals and dramatic vistas. Fruit is abundant if you look and ask around and the locals all seem a little wealthier here, compared with other outer islands, as they have extracted money off tourists for years and years now.
But, like everywhere we seem to go, tourism is drastically down these days. Multiple hotels on the island have already boarded up their doors and we hear accounts of the supposed nicest resort on the island having not one single paying customer a midweek night, last week. A dingy trip around the lagoon reveals the extensive amount of resorts Bora Bora’s lagoon holds, over 15 and all look like ghost towns. Nary a towel hangs to dry from any of the over the water bungalow railings and sunburned sunbathers on the white sand beaches are completely missing. With the financial crisis in full swing around the word, its easy to understand how one of the most expensive vacation spots in the entire world must be taking a hard hit.
A trip to Robert Wan’s flagship black pearl store, known for having some of the biggest and best pearls in the business didn’t disappoint. I have grown quite fond of the shimmering spherical rainbows and enjoy checking out the different producers and increasing my knowledge of pearls every chance I get. Like most tourist businesses the store was devoid customers, but the friendly staff had me trying on some lengthy pearl necklaces and let me marvel at what had to be some of the most marvelous pearl jewelry I have seen yet.
Chokers made of matched “A” quality, 16mm pearls (its hard to even imagine how many oysters you would have to go through to get matched sets like these) sparkled under the showroom lights for just a bit over $100,000 and a flawless 18mm unset giant is waiting for someone to pick it up for a bargain $40,000. Indeed Robert Wan seems to have the biggest black pearls of any producer, but you can’t help but notice how, as the pearl’s size increases, the colors of the pearls get less and less intense and personally I judge the smaller more intensely lustrously hued pearls make for more eye appealing jewelry and as another plus, are just a bit less expensive than the gargantuan perfect ones.
The word expensive is synonymous with Tahiti. As food, gas, clothes and basically everything costs exorbitantly more than even in pricey Santa Barbara. So, I thought I might provide the readership dreaming of journeying here with a few French Polynesian money saving tips/cautions, as there are a few things cheaper here than in the United States. If you’re on a budget expect to live off of crusty French baguettes $.60 apiece and fine French cheese around $5 a pound, together a match made in heaven. Tyson frozen chicken quarters from the USA are the single best meat deal going, BBQ up great and are a true testament to modern industrialized chicken production, as 1 kilo or a 2.2 lb. box, costs a scant $5, hormones included I’m sure and easily feeds six hungry sailors. Foie Grais is also a great deal, as well a French sauciasse (salami), both bargains compared to America, as well as French Dijon mustard for all those sandwiches you’ll be eating (I swear after bleeding occasionally at first, your gums develop calluses due to eating so much crusty bread). What isn’t a bargain here is any produce except, garlic, onions and potatoes, which are mostly imported. Expect to pay high prices to eat healthy vegetables and fruits and only in Tahiti is it more expensive to by produce from the Farmer’s type markets.
With locally farmed produce claiming some of the most ridiculous prices of anything. Local cabbage is approximately $8 to $10 a head, one melon at a road side stand was priced at over $30. Local cucumbers are cheap, tomatoes and peppers crazy expensive, but at least locally caught, fresh Tuna is quite reasonably priced, but still a bit costlier than Hawaii. For eating out the local roulettes, basically congregations of road side stands are the best deal going and my personal favorite.
Where a tasty BBQ’ed steak, thin-crust pizza or plate of possion cru can be had for around $10, when an entrée at an average local restaurant is usually around $30 or more, even an un-super-sized McDonald’s Big Mac meal costs over $10. Unlike America, some of the high cost of a restaurant meal is displaced by the fact you don’t really tip here, which also means people might not serve you so attentively, just have patience, you’re on island time.
And remember to bring all the booze you can legally carry into the country (and cigarettes for that matter, $10 a pack), as one cocktail at a bar is never less than $10 more like $12 and hot tip, whiskey is the easiest to trade for what ever your little heart desires, not rum, its worth the extra cost. And the most important rule, always have an exit strategy if you start drinking the booze you just gave away. I hope these hot tips might help make a future travelers trip here a little more affordable and enjoyable.
Luckily for us the Bora Bora Yacht Club has great Wi-Fi service, so we have been able to actively keep a sharp eye on the weather and effectively use Skype to affordably call home and catch up on how missed friends and family are doing. Which is great, as I fortuitously called my brother just minutes after the birth of his first child, a gorgeous girl named Kyla and got to hear, her maybe not so soft cry in her first few minutes on our amazing planet; Super cool bro, way to go Trav and Lara, congratulations!!!
In the South Pacific sailing season, its still a bit early to be heading further south and west, as cyclones can still form in April (TC Len just formed over Tonga and is strengthening) with a higher percentage chance the further you move in those directions, but weather forecasts are starting to look less dicey. So, with some luck and a bit of work we should be well out of here by the time you’re reading this, but then again knowing us maybe not, I know the Las Vegas odds makers would not be kind with a track record like ours. The Cook Islands beckon from a scant 700 NM across the sea and the one in our sights, filters us stories of the most far flung perfect pearl outpost in the word and fish in an abundance not known in modern times, except you just have to land them before countless sharks devour them while they still struggle on your hook or spear. We’re headed to find out if these mythical stories really are true and we’ll let you know eventually, but please have some patience, as our very likely route of choice keeps us out of inhabited lands for quite some time, possibly months. Cheers - Kyber