This continues our series on our Paul Gauguin cruise. To catch up, start here. Read on to learn about Manta Rays.
Our second day in Bora Bora began with a trip into the small town of Fa’anui where the tender pulls in. We decided to take a look at some pearls. Everyone has told us that Bora Bora is very expensive. And we can see why. There’s scores of top rated hotels including the Pearl Beach, the Four Seasons, the St. Regis, Le Meridien, InterContinential Thalasso , Sofitel, Intercontineal Le Moana and the Conrad. The day we were there, former President Obama was staying in a yacht anchored in the Bora Bora lagoon. So yes, there’s money in Bora Bora.
But we had done our homework, looking at pearls in several places on Moorea during our pre cruise visit, on Huahine at the Pearl Farm, on board the Paul Gauguin and various other shops. What we found was that prices were pretty consistent across French Polynesia – but quality of pearl ranged quite a bit. Sometimes you pay for the settings, size, luster, imperfections, color and roundness. So when we found a shop that had their own jeweler on site and tons of individual pearls that could be selected by price, we jumped in. We were able to construct a unique pearl necklace, within budget (based on what we saw in the other islands) with pearls of different colors to our liking. So don’t be afraid to purchase in Bora Bora IF you find what you’re looking for.
By the time we finished shopping it was time for our second excursion. We skipped lunch since we had eaten a big breakfast (you never go hungry on a cruise). The Eco Snorkeling excursion that we were not able to go on the day before (read about that here) was rescheduled for today so we were excited. We were even more excited when we found out that we were the only ones on the excursion. So it was a private excursion. Kudos to the Paul Gauguin staff to keep the excursion going even when they knew full well that only 1 couple signed up. Fantastic!
We met our guide Pascal at the dock and he basically gave us several choices of experiences to choose from. We choose to look for Manta Rays at the first stop and then do a drift snorkel off one of the motu’s for our second stop. The boat took us around the lagoon closer to where the St. Regis resort is located where we anchored mid lagoon. There were a few fishing boats within sight but certainly no other snorkelers. Now THIS is a private experience!
Pascal led us to an area where he thought we would see a Manta Ray. Sure enough we saw one. It was about 20 ft below us and the view wasn’t crystal clear (combination of the angle of the sun and the distance away) but you could definitely see and follow this manta. A beautiful sight. It had a good 15 foot wide wing span. Click here to learn more about mantas. One’s first impression is that this must be an alien spaceship. But then you see the gentle flap of the “wings” and realize its very organic. After a few minutes we lost him. On the way back to the ship we went by lots of nice coral with some good looking fish. Pascal gave us a choice to snorkel in the shallow coral reef area for a while or head on over to the drift snorkel area. Here’s a video of the manta:
We motored over to a private motu (island in the lagoon) close to the airport. Pascal knew the owner and therefore felt comfortable taking us there. We ditched the boat in foot deep water and then walked along the shoreline for about 10 minutes (up stream). Luckily we had brought our sandals, though water shoes / aqua socks would have been better. This was the area that Pascal shows his sons the different types of sea life so he knew it well. After getting in the water we saw great coral. Pascal stopped several times to tell us about the various coral or fish we had seen. The water was crystal clear. We drifted for awhile, though we were glad to have our fins for extra maneuverability. It was a really fun trip.
Back to the ship
When we emerged from the water, it was clear a storm was moving in so we quickly boarded the boat and sped off. Turns out we got only a sprinkle but it was clearly raining in other parts of the island. We had been out for quite a long time. When we pulled up on to the dock, we realized we were the last to arrive and Paul Gauguin was holding a tender just for us. Again, the value of a ship excursion. It was another great day. We had a private excursion that was priced like a group excursion. We got to swim with a manta ray. And we picked up a perfect pearl necklace.
Back on the ship we cleaned up and got ready for diner. We went up on deck for the sail away party and found our group of friends. Tonight we had reservations for Le Grill. This was our only sub par dinner experience. While we only had reservations for 2, friends of ours asked if they could join us for dinner. Turns out the head waiter could not accommodate the extra two people. He explained that they had a limited kitchen capacity. OK, not happy but we can accept it.
So dinner is served and the first course is fine. But my gluten free moon fish dish is actually not very good. However it was modified for gluten free just didn’t work out. Unfortunately it took about 20 minutes for the waiter to check on us. By that time my husband had already finished his dinner. When we explained why the fish wasn’t eaten there wasn’t any accommodation at all. So we left. Can’t say we were thrilled with Le Grill.
We went to the main restaurant and found Christian – he’s the head waiter that’s been with us for every meal. We told him about our experience and he ordered a salad to be sent to the room. But the really impressive part was that before we had even turned around to head back to our room Louis, the maitre’d stopped us and asked us about our experience at Le Grill. His response was spot on and made us feel that this one sub-par experience was truly an anomaly. Every single other meal on the ship was excellent, in our opinion. And I do know something about food!
That evening we saw a show and then headed to bed. I can’t say the entertainment was the best we’ve ever seen but it certainly was entertaining. All that snorkeling tired us out so we climbed into those very comfortable beds and drifted off to sleep. Manta Ray’s sailing in our heads. Next up? Moorea.