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Bora Bora: Where's Gilligan?

Bora Bora: Swim with the sharks

Tell your family and friends you’re going to Bora Bora, and it is almost guaranteed to elicit the same response every time.
“Where’s that?”
But while Grandma and Grandpa may scratch their heads in puzzlement until you gleefully pull out a map, the island is all but a second home to celebrities, who seek escape from the very people who made them famous in the first place. Yet a trip to this south Pacific jewel, largely criticized for being the most expensive in Tahiti’s island chain, is not out of the question for the “average” tourist. My trip ( I went solo) cost a mere $1,600, including hotel and round-trip airfare to and from two islands in French Polynesia. That’s a damn good deal for an experience nobody else on your block is likely to have had.
Bora Bora, which encircles only 20 miles from point to point, is perfect for those whose vacation desires include simple pleasures such as bike riding or snorkeling. If, on the other hand, you like the nightlife and you like to boogie, well, this should not be your destination.
Flying to the island from my home entailed first a stop-over at LAX. At one a.m. I schlepped my weary butt onto a Corsair flight to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. From there it was on to the closest thing we have to Gilligan’s Island, except without the ugly cork luggage and a vamping actress.
The most exotic of vacation locales usually necessitates an adventurous journey, and this was no different. The charter flight into Bora Bora, which included Dixie cups of fruit juice proferred by flight attendants, is like flying into a pool of melted turquoise – the most stunning view one can possibly imagine. What’s more, a coral ring encircling the island lapses into azure blue.
The miniscule airport, which occupies its own island known as Motu Mute, is probably the easiest one I ever had to navigate: There is one gate for the “Departing” flights and one for the “Arrivals.” How’s that for easy?
And forget renting a car to drive to your hotel, unless it’s an amphibious vehicle. The airport provides free ferry service to the main island, a nice touch for travel-logged tourists three or more time zones from home.
My thatched-roof bungalow at the Bora Bora Beach Lodge was not only mere steps from the shoreline, it was modern, with a big bathroom, a kitchenette with stove and full-size refrigerator, a queen-size bed and a patio that allowed a partial view of the sea. What’s more, it was in the “budget” category and was incredibly affordable. It was also across from a grocery store that sold the most delectable brioche bread, which I nibbled daily on the beach.
If you want a great travel story to tell when you return home, be sure to take advantage of some of the snorkeling tours available in the form of a three or four-hour trip. They’re a little pricey, but who can beat going home and telling your friends you swam with manta rays and reef sharks? I’ll never regret the 100 bucks I blew on that.
One of the best ways to see the island, if you can’t afford the helicopter tours, is by bike. They’re cheap to rent, and since the island is only 20 miles around, it’s not a long trip if you want to see the whole shebang. I borrowed a bright red ten-speed with a basket and spent an entire day exploring, buying fruit from roadside stands, stopping to take pictures and enjoying snacks at restaurants along the way.
There is nothing like Bora Bora to transform you into a female version of Magellan. The only drawback is it will turn your future vacations into little more than a yawn-inducing experience that can only pale into comparison to this beauty queen.