As with the Moorea shark-feeding a few years earlier, the dive guides had our small group of six lie motionless along the bottom about twenty-five to thirty feet away from the bait, at a dive spot dubbed “Tapu”. If I get the opportunity to do it again, I will make sure I locate myself closer to the thirty foot distance. At one point during the dive one of the “smaller” lemon sharks zoomed past my head close enough so that the water displacement actually waggled my ear! That was a bit too close for my comfort zone. Pacific blacktips have short, doglike, wicked-looking teeth. Lemon sharks have long thin teeth set in very impressive, multiple rows, and swim with their mouths opened more than the blacktips, which makes such encounters several degrees more thrilling for us divers. I haven’t read anywhere that lemon sharks eat people, but there actually are records of them attacking humans. As bad luck would have it, I have no photos to show for this particular dive. (The lemon shark photo above is a Wikipedia Commons public domain photo shared by Albert Kok)
Since my wife and I weren’t planning to join another
shark-feeding on this trip, I was certain we wouldn’t have another underwater
experience that could come even close to this one.
The very next day we were about midway through a dive that I had already begun to mentally note as ho-hum. We had seen a couple of Pacific blacktips swim past, and smaller schools of jacks, a few butterfly fish, Moorish Idols, and so on, but how do you compare that against a shark-feeding dive? We approached a sandycanyon-like area off Point Matira called “Aoau” where there didn’t appear to be all that much of anything, and I was ready to move on when I suddenly noticed a large blurry silhouette above and about seventy feet away. At first I thought it had to be the hull of a yacht, but then I noticed that it seemed to be moving toward us. As it got closer I realized to my great surprise it was not one, but three huge manta rays moving gracefully in a close diagonal formation straight toward us. We pretty much parked ourselves there for the next ten minutes as the three rays winged by and then benevolently turned and passed us again from the other direction.
Picture the Imperial Cruiser in Star Wars slowly creeping overhead in a scene from the movie, and you might better appreciate the only somewhat lesser perspective and sense of awe that I felt as these gentle and magnificent giants swam above us. The dive guide agreed with our later consensus topside that the largest of the three mantas was approximately eighteen to twenty feet across, wing tip to wing tip. The second was slightly, but not much smaller, and the third was still another foot or so smaller. Perhaps my photo provides an idea of their magnitude, as it shows three manta rays passing at a distance of some thirty-five to forty feet away. Even with the other divers’ backs to my camera, I think you can still sense the kind of impression the mantas were making. Mantas are particularly unique among the rays, not only due to their size, but also in the curiosity that this species exhibits towards humans. Not unlike dolphin and whales, mantas are known for their curiosity and unusual behavior such as intentionally approaching divers, exemplified in our case by the turnabout and gracious second inspection pass that these three provided.
Those of you who have read my article “The Sharks Dining
Room” will recall the obvious enchantment I had with the lush idyllic scenery of
The very name
While Bora Bora is nearly equaled in beauty by Moorea and a few other islands in the area, one could perhaps speculate that its name derived from the Tahitian “Pora Pora” or “first born,” might be applied as first among equals. Many people believe this is arguably the most beautiful island and lagoon in the world.
Bora Bora lies about 260 km
northwest of the
Another reason for my hesitation in writing this article is my acknowledged futility to really do the island justice. I can imagine very few places anywhere on the planet where the cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words,” ring any more true than here. Even the famous novelist James Michener called Bora Boa “…so stunning, that there are really no adequate words to describe it.”
experiences here were no less rewarding.
There is no bad hotel choice on
Despite the high-brow clientele throughout the island resorts, everyone was very friendly and outgoing. The laid back, unusually quiet atmosphere puts everyone in a relaxed, pleasant state of mind. There is almost no vehicle traffic on the island or background noises besides the ocean or other sounds of nature. You can almost feel the peace and tranquility washing up in gentle waves from the beautiful lagoon.
Near the end of
our weeklong stay, we booked a nice sunset dinner cruise aboard a sailing
catamaran. Its owner, a charming American
expatriate named Richard Postma (now a well-known Bora Bora fixture himself)
related over a casual, but delicious onboard dinner how he had sailed in to