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Date: 31 Jul 2012 03:26:00
Title: Bora Bora - Mountains and Manta Rays

Lat 16:32.01S
Lon 151:42.35W

After being delayed a day due to Harry's kiting disappearance, Saturday was the day we climbed up the mountain for a 360 view of the lagoon and reef around the island. After a few false starts on the wrong road thanks to an inaccurate guidebook, we found the right one, clearly marked by a sign saying "If you want to climb Mt Pahia, you are STRONGLY advised to take a guide". As if that was going to stop a group like us! Besides, we had a guide dog! We picked up Rocky (named en route) on the street and he followed us around until we found the right road, (so actually not a great guide dog!) and he just kept walking with us. We thought he might turn back at some point, but he just stuck with us!

Bora Bora skyline.

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The highest peak is Mt Otemanu (727m high) which has never been climbed! It has a totally sheer rock face on it's southern side which must be at least 150 metres long. We climbed the furthest hill on the right (619m high). The actual peak of Mt Pahia is the one in the middle of these two mentioned, but it was completely in the cloud so we opted not to do the last 30 minutes of the climb to reach it's summit. The walk is more of a climb/scramble over some well marked but often very tricky ground and some just plain sketchy terrain! In parts there were ropes in place up vertical, slippery rock faces that we basically had to haul ourselves up. It was fun but exhausting in the heat. Rocky seemed to cope ok but did need a hand getting down a vertical rock face! We had previously been looking at the mountain and failing to spot the path - no wonder as it basically goes straight up under the tree canopy. It took us just over 2 hours to reach the summit, and the views from the top were amazing. Shame about the cloud - we didn't get the 360 view I was hoping for, but it was magnificent to see the colours of the lagoon and the reef.

One of the vertical rock parts of the walk

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View from the top - looking south

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Mt Pahia - looking south east

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Looking North

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We got back to the boat and enjoyed a meal in the restaurant at the Mai Kai marina, which is rather a 5 star affair with service and prices to match! It was delicious - tuna tartare 3 ways, fillet steak with roquefort sauce and creme brulee for me, all sitting over the water on the deck. Yum. The best meal we've had yet. Saturday night was also the last night of the Heiva festival that has been running through all of French Polynesia for the last month. As we lay in our beds with full bellies, a massive party erupted after the traditional dance show, and the music didn't subside until 3.30am. They certainly know how to party here!

Yesterday we moved around the north of the island to the south east corner. There is another "squeeze" through a shallow part of the lagoon, but it is well marked and we didn't see any depths lower than 5m, despite other boats recording 2.5m. At the most westerly point of the island there is a well renowned manta ray dive, which we stopped off to do on our way round. It was awesome to be swimming with these beautiful creatures again. They were not shy at all - they see humans every day, and even glided past so close that we could touch them. Arch and I saw 7 of them, as graceful and awesome as in the Marquesas, but not quite as big. Sadly the manta ray population here has fallen massively in the last few years so they have restricted the diving to only the mornings. I am not sure that actually reduces the human contact they get - there are probably twice as many people in the mornings now!

In case you were wondering, this is where multi-million dollar companies are run from!

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One of the 7 manta's we saw up close and personal

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Hi-5 Mr Manta Ray!

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We anchored last night in the most beautiful spot in the lagoon. 3m on sand, in crystal clear turquoise water. Very tranquil and much quieter and more serene than the other side of the island. We plan to stay here for two nights, before heading back around to the town for our last night (Tuesday) so that we can clear out at immigration and be on our way to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands on Wednesday morning. We were planning to leave on Tuesday but there is no wind until Wednesday so we might as well enjoy another day here rather than float around in no wind on the ocean side!

Lat night's anchorage - South East corner of the lagoon

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More paradise shots...

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Sunset over Mt. Otemanu

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