I say WHEN in all caps because I feel I have to go back to this place, especially if I don’t find similar ocean conditions anywhere else in the world. And when I go back, I will be more prepared and bring a few extra things along to further enhance my experience. If you are planning a trip to French Polynesia, or anywhere with an overwater bungalow, here are my suggestions for some items to bring to make your time there even more magical:
1. A float–and maybe some rope!
Tim and I bought floats to take on our honeymoon, but didn’t end up using them once we got there, so this was an item not on our radar at all for this trip. There were, however, several couples we saw taking advantage of floats outside their bungalows that made me wish I had thought to pack some for this trip. Some brought floats from home, while others must have purchased floats there (judging by the number of giant pink flamingo floats that were parked on bungalow decks). The best floats I saw were these SwimWays floats–they require minimal inflation and will definitely find their place in my suitcase next trip. And I might bring a little rope to tether my float to the bungalow deck so I don’t have to work at all to prevent myself from floating away on the tide. Ultimate relaxation!
2. High SPF sunscreen or block
We learned the necessity of this the hard way–our pasty mid-Western skin from a winter spent inside was not ready for the intensity of the Polynesian sun. Though we frequently applied 30 SPF on our boating day, we all ended up with varying degrees of sunburn. The sunBLOCK purchased in New Zealand was pulled out of the bag. I recommend that you slowly work your way to a lower SPF if that’s your goal. A sunblock wouldn’t have been a bad idea on our boating day, and then we could have worked toward a lower SPF sunscreen for the days that followed. Lesson learned: if your skin hasn’t been exposed to the sun in a while, it might have quite a shock in store! My fav sunscreen is Coppertone Ultra Guard!
3. Good shoes for the water
There was plenty of coral in and around our resort, which means that there were also broken shards of dead coral that can litter the area. A heavy step in shallow water could lead to an accidental injury. To avoid this, shoes are the best bet. Sure, you can buy water shoes, and some people like those. I have always found water shoes to be a bit bulky and cumbersome when they fill with water, so I actually opted for these great Old Navy sandals:
The ankle strap kept them on securely (unlike my attempts to swim in cheap flip-flops in the past–disaster waiting to happen!), and the plastic material meant they dried quickly. The were also a great dual-purpose shoe because they looked great with my dresses in the evening. Get a similar pair for less than $10 (!) at Old Navy!
4. Fish Food
One of the draws to going somewhere with such clear water is snorkeling excursions to see the sea life. When we took our day-long snorkel tour, the guide would jump in the water with us carrying dead fish that he shredded up and tossed around to capture the attention of the fish. Our resort sold fish food pellets for $12 for maybe 5 ounces so we could feed the fish through our coffee table. If you plan on doing a snorkeling experience on your own without a tour and you want to be as liberal with the fish attracting as our snorkel guide was, I would invest in a bag of fish food pellets from your local pet store before you come. It will be cheaper for sure! I guess you just have to decide how much you’ll snorkel and whether you have room in your suitcase for such cost-saving methods. Feeding the fish really does give you some of the best photo ops…
5. Underwater camera
And what’s the use of attracting all sorts of fish if you can’t take their picture and share your experience with everyone back at home via social media (if something happens and pictures weren’t posted on Facebook, did it really happen)? Tim got a hand-me-down underwater camera that he hasn’t had an opportunity to use before this trip (thanks to a foot injury in St. Maarten last year!). He made up for lost time on this trip and was really able to capture some great photos. I had thought it a frivolous addition, but I have to say I loved being able to capture some of the moments we experienced, and it’s great to be able to revisit and remember all the great fish we saw! I will never scoff at an underwater camera again for a place with such clear water. You’re crazy not to bring some sort of camera (SeaLife, GoPro, etc.) if you’re going to French Polynesia. You’re going to want to remember the clarity of the water and the colors of the fish long after you’ve left.
6. Bug spray
The bugs aren’t too bad around the beach and the bungalows thanks to a pretty good breeze (the Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana is known to have some of the strongest breezes on the island), but the minute you venture inland, they come out to feast. Our 4×4 tour became a buffet for mosquitoes on my legs. Thankfully, I had bug spray in my bag and took measures to prevent further feasting, but not before I had some red welts going. If you plan on leaving the splendors of the shore, be sure to give yourself a good repellant coverage before you leave. (And if you’re like me and sometimes bug spray still isn’t enough, I also brought hydrocortisone cream to nip the itch! Like a Boy Scout, I am prepared!)
Take full advantage of what a Bora Bora experience has to offer–packing the six items above will help you do just that!