Beyond the bungalows
Polynesian adventure ... an aerial view of the island and lagoon at Bora Bora. Photo: Getty Images
Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman could have honeymooned anywhere on the planet. They chose Bora Bora, a speck on the map about 260 kilometres north-west of Tahiti. You might flick through Bora Bora brochures telling yourself that its waters can't possibly be such remarkable shades of blue, then pinch yourself when you arrive and see the stunning reality.
Some couples might be content to simply laze about on Bora Bora, gazing into one another's eyes and enjoying the sunsets; however, this jewel of French Polynesia can tempt even the most truly, madly, deeply in love to leave their overwater bungalow and explore. Here's why.
Swim with sharks
It's one of the biggest thrills on Bora Bora (and not bad for a boast once you get home). Full-day tours can be booked through hotel activities desks and include dropping from an outrigger canoe into a school of reef sharks. Their black-tipped fins do look off-putting but the breed isn't known to nibble on humans. Ditto for the larger, but just as shy, lemon sharks that lurk in the main lagoon.
Tours cost about XPF$12,700 (about $120) a person and typically include tracking down a fever of stingrays, too. Australians may be hesitant about standing in shallow water while rays flap around their legs but locals nonchalantly interact with the fish, even lifting them from the water.
Lunch takes place on a private motu and is a hearty spread of barbecued seafood and meats, salad, rice and fruit set on a table laid with palm leaves, hibiscus and gardenia. Again, pinch yourself.
If you're lucky, your boat driver and crew will be musical and will break into song as your perfect day on the lagoon draws to a close and they drop you back at the love nest.
Tear yourself away from the lagoon to explore Bora Bora's rugged tropical interior. Sign up for an open-top four-wheel-drive tour (from XPF$7600 a person through Tupuna Safari) and you may find yourself laughing hysterically as the driver tries to snag every pothole on the goat track taking you near the summit of one of the two craggy mountains - Otemanu and Pahia - that dominate the skyline. From there, survey the colours of the lagoon, the darker hues of the ocean beyond and the settlements around the main island's shoreline that are home to almost 9000 people.
These 4WD tours, which circumnavigate the island's 32-kilometre ring road, often include visits to some of the seven giant graffiti-covered cannon that sit incongruously within the forest.
American forces were stationed on Bora Bora from 1942 until 1946 and several cannon are still in the forest. Ask your driver to take you to view them.
That same driver may also whip out a machete, Crocodile Dundee-style, slice and dice mango, pineapple and pomelo and serve it to you on a banana leaf. While you're circling the island, keep an eye out for playing fields to see if locals are engaged in a favourite sport, javelin throwing. The aim is to spear coconuts hoisted nine metres high.
Get some air
You could snorkel every day among Bora Bora's coral gardens (hotels have equipment but it's better to bring your own). Adrenalin junkies can spice things up, however. Rent a jet-ski (two hours through Moana Jet Ski costs XPF$18,000 for a two-seater) and follow a guide to the best spots in the lagoon and outer reef.
An alternative is a jet-boat lagoon tour (2.5 hours through Moana Jet Boat costs XPF$8500). The Bora Bora Activity Centre, meantime, has a "submarine" - you stay dry while dropping 25 metres below the lagoon's surface for 30 minutes (XPF$18,000 a person). The centre also has aquabikes - a two-seater submersible scooter fitted with a glass bubble. A diver guides you through the 45-minute experience (XPF$24,500 a bike).
Those who like to be above the water can solo parasail for about 15 minutes with 100 metres of rope for XPF$18,000; 30 minutes behind 300 metres of rope costs XPF$32,000 for two people. See boraboraisland.com.
Seal it with pearls
If you're out to really impress your beloved, head to the Farm on the main island, run by the Bora Pearl Company. On one level, it's an educational centre where, for free, you can learn what to look for when examining the South Sea pearl (it's all about size, colour, shape and quality). You can also get hands-on experience, diving to pluck a black-lipped oyster that has spent two years creating a pearl. There's a showroom at the Farm displaying fine pearl jewellery for both sexes where you can splash the cash. Creative types can design a one-of-a-kind piece to be made in the onsite workshop. See borapearl.com.
Make like the famous
Bloody Mary's is an institution with white-sand floors and coconut stumps for stools. Over the years, the restaurant has fed and watered the likes of Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Johnny Depp and Martin Sheen. Bloody Mary's biggest star is its nightly seafood menu. Grilled mahi mahi with vanilla sauce is a specialty but wahoo teriyaki is the signature dish. See bloodymarys.com.
Katrina Lobley travelled courtesy of Tahiti Tourism, Air Tahiti Nui and Sofitel Hotels.
Air Tahiti Nui has a fare to Papeete from Sydney and Melbourne for about $1390 low-season return, including tax. From Melbourne, fly Emirates to Auckland (about 3hr), then to Papeete (5hr). From Sydney, fly Qantas to Auckland (3hr) to connect; see airtahitinui.com. Flights from Australia arrive late in the evening and depart early in the morning, so a night's accommodation in Tahiti at the beginning and end of a stay is usually included in holiday packages. Flights to Bora Bora depart Papeete daily.
Most resorts and overwater bungalows are on motus rather than the main island. The St Regis Resort Bora Bora was Nicole and Keith's honeymoon destination. The Hilton Nui Resort is on a substantial lagoon island, Toopua, on the opposite side to the motu-based resorts.
Main island: The InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora is at Matira Point, close to Bloody Mary's. The Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach and Private Island cuts both ways: it's split between the main island and a motu 150 metres long and 70 metres wide.
More information www.tahitinow.com.au.