When the husband suggested Bora Bora and New Zealand as our holiday destination last December, I didn’t quite know which side of my brain to listen to. Half of me was jumping up and down in excitement, thinking of the luxurious over-water bungalows, the fabulous beaches and the exotic marine life of the South Pacific, while the more rational half was doing the math of how much was left of our self-imposed annual holiday budget (“Maybe, we can borrow from 2017, the vacation will spill into the new year after all!”), the nightmare travel and the jet lag that would ensue lugging two children under six halfway across the world. In the end, it being our 15th year together tilted the balance.
When you plan a trip to Bora Bora, the first task is to locate it on the map. One of some 100 islands called French Polynesia, known for being the holiday destination of the rich and famous, it is literally in the middle of nowhere. The second task is to ask how in the world will we get there from India — yes, one has to ask that question once you see the map.
The entire journey from New Delhi to Bora Bora, or Moorea, which is where we started the trip from, takes at least four hops and 23 hours. Given we were travelling with little kids and wanted to avoid being terribly jet-lagged and tantrummy, we broke the journey over almost four days — Delhi to Kuala Lumpur (KL) with a night spent at the Sama Sama airport hotel there, KL to Sydney (a cheaper fare), Sydney to Auckland, Auckland to Papeete, where we spent a night at an AirBnB apartment, and, finally, a short 15 minute flight to the island of Moorea.
The landing in Papeete got us into the island holiday mood, with its small, simple airport and traditional song-and-dance welcome. The daughter insisted on sashaying with the dancers, even though she was half asleep. We had chosen a local resort and spa in Moorea as it works out cheaper to stay in an over-water bungalow here than in the famed Bora Bora island. The first thing the children did on reaching our bungalow was to pore over the glass-bottom floor to look at the myriad sea life below. The island of Moorea is every bit as invitingly blue as the pictures make it look. The ocean is an artist’s palette mix of turquoise, sapphire and azure waters, dotted with wood-stilted over-water bungalows.
While the two-year-old son and I slept through the afternoon, the husband and five-year-old daughter swam out of the bungalow and chased swordfish. I could hear excited shrieks from both even through the dense fog of jet-lagged sleep.
The first of three days in Moorea went in enjoying the over-water bungalow experience — watching the fish swim and jumping in and out of the ocean from the bungalow. Controlling the son from jumping out on his own, however, took half my energy. On the second day, we rented bicycles for ourselves and a small bicycle trailer for the children, and went to explore the local market.
Where there is water, there are happy children. From the variety of pools to the ocean, there was enough to keep us occupied for days. Given the surrounding coral-fringed lagoons, it is the perfect place for snorkelling and scuba diving. We spotted over 50 species of sea life including sharks, sting rays, swordfish, and, of course, Nemo! There are a number of adventure activities and tours organised by hotels and other service providers. One day, we hired a car and went around the island to a look-out point, followed by a boat ride to swim with the sting rays and sharks, and lunch at a nearby island.
The flight to Bora Bora the next day was a whole new experience — there were about 16 of us in the small aircraft and all the passengers had their cameras ready for the Insta-worthy first look of the Bora Bora island. (A quick travel trip: the round ticket from Tahiti to Bora Bora on Tahiti Air Pass costs the same as a round ticket with multi-island hops. So, the pass is a good way to save on flights costs if one wants to go to multiple islands. While the hotels offer transport from the airport to the hotel, it is cheaper to take the free shuttle to the island and the public transport to the hotel.) Staying on the main island rather than on one of the far flung motus (they are more romantic and secluded) was a good way to save money, since were able to go to the smaller local restaurants for meals rather than be left with only the in-hotel expensive restaurants.
Being the more expensive island, we broke our stay in Bora Bora into three nights at a beach bungalow and one night in the over-water bungalow. In hindsight, the beach bungalow turned out to be more fun with the children. The rear deck opened out to a beautiful white sandy beach. Most of our day was spent there or in the kiddy pool out front. We settled into a happy routine of fish watching-breakfast-pool-cycling-to-a-lunch-place-back-for-the-younger-one’s-nap. The husband-daughter combo went exploring the ocean — snorkelling and kayaking — and gave me a turn when they were too exhausted to move. We even got friendly with the sting rays that came to the hotel beach to be fed.
Our last night, New Year’s eve, was spent feeling thankful and staring out at the gorgeous horizon, knowing there was nothing ahead but miles of deep blue ocean and clear blue sky. Is there any better way to start a new year?