DAY 10 — I make friends with Crush. I literally have him eating out of my hand — 70 feet under water.
We’re diving in an area called Muri Muri just north of the island of Bora Bora and nearly as soon as we get under the water, our dive master Benoit Gratas introduces us to a Hawksbill Sea Turtle (like Crush, the character in “Finding Nemo”), showing us how to feed him a piece of sea sponge. He’s so big — more than two feet in diameter. All around us are other colorful fish puffer fish, barracudas, trigger fish, black tip reef sharks and even a lemon shark. They’re yellow and silver, black and gold, striped and dotted. A cacophony of color deep under the sea. I expected Nemo to come swimming by any moment!
Click: PHOTO GALLERY
Even being on the boat with Bathy’s Divers (www.bathys-diving.com) was fun because everyone was from around the world. Stephanie Caron, 21, and Clayton Caron, 15, were traveling on a vacation of a lifetime with their dad who wanted to bring them back to a place he’d loved thirty years ago. Clayton just completed his certifying dives while in Bora Bora.
We meet honeymooning couples from Athens and Atlanta, a Brazilian, Carlos Stevenson, who is vacationing with his wife and 5 year-old son — a 10th anniversary celebration. They decided to bring young William, he said, because they love seeing his excitement. “Every day is a party for him,” said Stevenson.
We do a second dive to the west of the island in an area called Tapu where we see a stone fish — hard to spot because he blends so well in to the white coral and sand. Meanwhile, small eel poke their heads out of the coral, a long skinny flute fish circles around and a Lemon Shark prowls nearby. So cool!
Then, back at the Four Seasons Resort (http://www.fourseasons.com/borabora/) we meet the small manta ray we dub Lazarus. Oliver Martin, the on-staff Marine Biologist at the Four Seasons — yes the Four Seasons has him on staff — is showing us around the inner lagoon where he is grafting coral underwater (they look like little pots of herbs) and already has 100 species of fish.
“We want children to see how we impact the environment the whole idea is to develop this as a bio center,” he explains, where children and parents can snorkel, learn about sea life and the environment. By the end of the year, he hopes, there will be a touch pool for younger children.
There are three tunnels that wash the little fish in — and plankton for the fish — and nets to keep big predators out. “All of the fish came in alone,” he said. Coral, he explains grows as much as 10 inches a year. We see an Octopus! The lagoon is about the size of a tennis court, in front of the area known as Teen Chill Beach where there are lounge chairs and inside, an air conditioned lounge with pool table, foosball, Nintendo games. Maybe even the teens will get interested?
Martin hopes he can graft coral underneath the over-water bungalows so guests can see more sea life snorkeling right from their rooms (everyone has a little private swimming deck). Eventually, he hopes to create a natural area on the Pacific side as well — where guests can get up close to sea life in front of the crashing surf.
“The main idea is to create a nursery for coral and fish and see which coral will adapt,” he explains. He’s attempting to graft some 10 different kinds of coral, much of which he cultivates on shallow “noodles” he’s placed in the small lagoon. Martin is at the resort most afternoons — the kids come with the kids club, getting so excited by what they’ve seen that they often return with their parents the next day. Adults also come. “They more you know, the more you see,” he explains, adding that if you simply stay in the lagoon watching, you will see things you never realized were there — octopus mating (if you are really, really lucky — Martin captured that on video) — angel fish, clown fish (Nemo!) parrot fish, hermit crabs. “The kids really like the hermit crabs,” Martin says, adding that another plus of the lagoon is that children can learn how to snorkel here and not be afraid. “Those noodles are perfect,” he says. “We want to interest the kids as well as the parents. We want to teach them to conserve!”
You come back tomorrow and every day is different,” he adds. “The fish get used to you and they go about their business and you just watch!” Spend time here and you won’t be afraid of an big fish.
Martin believes this Four Season project is the largest in French Polynesia — another effort that sets the Four Seasons apart, especially as a family destination. “We want the children to understand what they see and to encourage them to be interested.
Good idea! Just as we are getting ready to head to the pool, a couple of locals arrive with two small spotted rays from the outer lagoon beyond the nets to join other rays here in the pool. One, it seems, may have been out of the water too long. He sinks to the bottom. Martin says he’s in shock – but he doesn’t give up. He picks up the creature, gently moves it so that water flows through its gills. After a few tense minutes the ray is breathing on its own and slowly swims away. “We’ll name him Lazarus,” says Alan Roza, our traveling companion from Milwaukee.
The girls, meanwhile, were off taking a Kite Surfing lesson. So fun, they declared. Never mind that they really needed a good three days of lessons to master the sport. They liked falling in the water time after time I guess.
They are equally happy at the spectacular pool, having a waiter (thankfully not mom) cater to their every whim — for a couple of days anyway, Our friends Pam and Allan Roza are just as content on the beach, where I love the oversized cushioned round lounge Pam has staked out.
We watch the bartenders do their magic – non-alcoholic Lemon and Berries drinks — just the colors of are fun. But the passion fruit mohito – now that’s to die for.
Tonight we take a short boat ride over to the St. Regis Bora Bora (www.starwoodhotels.com) to check out the property, known for its beach and commitment to families (big children’s center!). And some of the best sushi I’ve ever eaten at the tiny “sushi and sake” restaurant. Great tempura and mango sorbet too.
Next: To Moorea and our last days in Paradise