July 5, 2020 ; 6:00 AM
16°49’S, 151°76’W – Bora Bora
I SAW A MANTA RAY AND NOW I MUST SEE MORE.
You’d think my mantasizing would subside once I swam with one. I’d say been there, done that. BLASPHEMY. I’ve been there, done that, and now I MUST do it again.
We’ve been hunting mantas for days. We chatted with the locals and learned about their hangouts. We trolled around in our dinghy for hours, peering into the clear blue lagoon. When the sun reflected on the water, I leaned in and searched with my head underwater. We were DETERMINED, but after 4 days of no luck and a sail plan switch to no longer include Maupiti (rumored manta point), Captain Dave knew it was time to get a guide if he wanted to avoid a mutiny as dramatic as the Bounty.
On our last day in Bora Bora, we got up early and met Influencer on the dock. Our guide came and again reminded us that we were searching for a protected species in their natural habitat, so he couldn’t guarantee a sighting, and we set off. We trolled around the lagoon in his gorgeous motorboat. I was missing my waterski and the Pankratz clan knowing they were at Lake Louise on the back of the Mastercraft. We looked at three different spots. We searched from the boat and in the water. Nothing.
The guide turned to me and said, “They’re not here, we need to move on.” I slowly and sadly was kicking my way back to the boat when he started to shout! There was a manta. I sprinted over there and watched him every moment it was possible until he swam to deep. He was about 10 feet wide, enormous, deep, and glorious. We probably only had a few minutes, but I was on HIGH. I couldn’t be silenced. I was so busy ranting and raving about how wonderful manta rays are that I almost missed the guide pulling an octopus out of his hole in coral! It couldn’t be missed for long as he inked EVERYWHERE.
It was incredible. Most octopi I’ve seen are basically camouflaged glimpses in a hole the entire time. This guy turned red as soon as he was grabbed. He wrapped his tentacles around my arm and the strangest sensation happened when his suction cups gripped me. He hung around (unwillingly) for a couple minutes and then he swam back to his hole, turning not only the color of but also the pattern of the coral he sought refuge in. Talk about icing on the cake!
Then the rest of the tour fell into place. We went to an area where tour boats typically feed the sting rays and sharks and splashed around with them. They were the least timid rays or sharks we’ve ever seen, swimming right up to and circling around us. The underbelly of a sting ray is the softest thing I’ve ever touched.
Then we headed to the aquarium, a gorgeous coral garden.
At both spots, we were told there are usually 20 boats and 200 people. We were there alone.
While we feel for the people of Bora Bora as their economy suffers, we feel like the luckiest people in the world on days like this. Experiencing these incredible spots with no one else around.
We saw a stonefish (Captain Dave and Admiral Anne even saw him swim) and snorkeled past the underwater “I love Bora Bora sign”. A moray eel chased Admiral Anne for just a few feet, and her panicked flee away (complete with girlish screams) was HYSTERICAL.
We ended the day at Bloody Mary’s for one last hurrah with Sea Lover, Milanto, and Ariel before they sail to Fiji. There was music and dancing and cocktails. We felt, for just a few hours, like we were in an open Bora Bora. Like we were on a regular vacation. And we 10/10 recommend Bloody Mary’s for anyone coming after us.
Unfortunately, much of Bora Bora is closed. Bora Bora has a small population and most of their economy is tourism. The island and surrounding motus are surrounded by huge, gorgeous resorts complete with tiki huts over the water. But they’re closed. We found a good place for pizza and loved the Bora Bora beach club and the gorgeous, sprawling, white sand beach it sits on. It was almost completely empty except a couple locals, and my nap on the beach was spectacular.
Our self-guided snorkels were full of eagle rays and fish, but the aquarium was the most impressive. I paddle boarded and kayaked and we spent a few days just working on the boat and relaxing when the weather was rough. We rented the car one day and hiked out on a gorgeous point to see some American WWII cannons. The family who owns the land charges just $5 to let you explore. Can you imagine having this view in your backyard?
Our drive around the island was gorgeous, and we hunted for more mantas. A long lunch at a resort was just what we needed.
All in all, Bora Bora was bliss. But I am DYING to go to Maupiti to spend more time with my mantas- and we just found out there’s a weather window, SO OFF WE GO!
First mate, Amazing Grace
TLDR: I finally, finally swam with a manta!