Bora Bora: Snorkeling with Sharks and Stingrays
Bora Bora in French Polynesia may be famous for its idyllic scenery and laying around hammocks and its overwater bungalow decks but it’s also a paradise for water sports and marine life. One of the excursions my family was looking forward to doing was snorkeling and swimming with sharks and stingrays. Go on this virtual tour with us and see how Bora Bora’s lagoon and underwater world treated us.
We had our excursion with Lagoon Service and one of the reasons we booked with them was the pick-up from our hotel dock. This saved us some money and time right off since we didn’t have to go to the main island.
One of the best ways to see the beauty of Bora Bora is by cruising its lagoon and going island hopping which was what we did along the way too. We picked up more passengers aka honeymooners from four other resorts before the snorkeling trip. It was a great way to check out the various other resorts which were clustered together in one area facing Mount Otemanu.
There were a total of ten of us in the boat plus our guide. We were the only Americans along with couples from Uruguay, France and Japan. We really liked that these boats had a maximum of 12 passengers and there weren’t that many people in the group. Tau, from the neighboring island of Taha’a, was our guide and he spoke about 5 languages. He was funny, energetic and entertained us by singing island songs while strumming on his Tahitian ukulele throughout the tour. He was great!
Our first stop was some nondescript location near one of the resorts. This was our stingray stop and we instantly spotted them as they circled the boat. Tau assured us that the barbs were removed from this group of stingrays for the tour guides’ safety as well as ours. Stingrays are generally docile but as long as you don’t step on their long tails or swim directly over them, you should be okay. Hearing all this was a relief as we sent our kids out to snorkel first.
Tau got into the water first and he instantly had a couple of stingrays next to him and was stroking them. He held a few of them for us to touch and they were slimy and almost jelly like. Here’s my daughter meeting one of them.
We also saw quite a few tropical fish in this area while snorkeling. It helped a lot that the water was warm and crystal clear. Here’s one of our views of the stingrays while snorkeling.
Our next stop was on the other side of the island where the Sofitel Resort was located. This was known as Coral Garden and called the “Aquarium” by the locals.
This was snorkeling heaven and some of the island’s best preserved coral. It was amazing to see so many varieties of fish here.
The thought of snorkeling with sharks was quite unnerving. We went further out into the ocean into 50 ft deep water for our last snorkeling stop. I could almost hear the “Jaws” theme as soon as we saw the black tip sharks circling around our boat.
After seeing so many other people jump in, we made our way down. There were a few other tour groups here. The tour guides brought some food with them to feed the sharks to make them come closer. For the most part, the sharks pretty much left all the humans alone which was a huge relief.
It was an unreal experience to be surrounded by all these sharks and tropical fish. As you can see, my daughter was having the time of her life.
Many of the snorkeling tours give visitors the option of doing half or full day tours. We highly recommend the full-day ones that include lunch on a private island. This was another highlight of our trip and didn’t regret paying extra for this experience.
We made our way to a string of islands on the lagoon’s fringes and docked at a very small, uninhabited private island. A lunch spread was waiting for us at a small hut. We found fried rice, poisson cru (Tahiti’s signature dish of raw tuna that’s marinated in lime juice and mixed with vegetables and coconut milk), banana pudding, coconut cake, fruit and barbecued fish and chicken. They were all delicious and we repeatedly came back to get more food.
Our plates were weaved coconut leaves which I’d never seen before. We actually learned to make it later. Now, if only palm trees like these were readily available in San Diego. It was interesting to see the guides burn all our trash on the island before we left.
Another tour group from the same company shared the island with us but we had the best seats. Our picnic tables were set on crystal clear water with an enviable panoramic backdrop.
There were a lot of fish swimming around our feet waiting for morsels to drop.
Beach, Bora Bora and Beer. My husband has found his paradise. Hinano Beer is the French Polynesia’s national beer.
Even after looking at Bora Bora’s lagoon all day, its crystal clear water and verdant islands never failed to make us stop for a postcard scene like this.
It will probably take 5 minutes to walk around the island without stopping. But, we set out exploring and the kids looked for coconuts to use for the demonstration.
In an effort to share a bit of his culture with us, Tau showed us how to husk and open coconuts without using machetes and knives. All it took was a sharp edged stick. This former island girl learned something new. Of course, my husband and son wanted to participate and attempted to husk a coconut.
I’ve always loved the many ways we used grated coconut in many dishes growing up in Guam. It’s no different here in the French Polynesia. Tau grated some coconut for us and showed us the best way to drink coconut milk.
Snorkeling with stingrays and sharks was never on my travel bucket list but I’m so glad we did this excursion. It was an unforgettable experience. It was an incredible way to see the beauty of Bora Bora’s underwater world. Don’t miss this when you make it to this island paradise.
Bora Bora Circle Lagoon and Snorkeling Excursion Tips
- Reserve your tours before you get to Bora Bora. Hotels seem to mark up the tour prices. Ensure you get the tour you want that fits your schedule.
- We really liked the small group size, personalized treatment and hotel pick-up from Lagoon Service. They were great with answering all my questions and emails. They didn’t have a way for us to pay with a credit card so we ended up paying our guide after the tour using local currency. Some of the other tour companies I inquired were like this too.
- Check what the tour companies will provide during the tour (i.e. snorkel masks, towels, beverages, hotel pick-up). All of them seemed to provide complimentary cold beverages including Hinano Beer.
- Rest assured that if you’re not a swimmer or even a good one, you can still enjoy the water since they provided life jackets.
- Bring and apply plenty of sunscreen. The island sun can be unforgiving
- Bring snacks. Lunchtime may not come soon enough and snorkeling and swimming takes some energy.
- Ask for children discounts. Most companies offered a 50% discount for kids younger than 12 years old.
- The half day snorkeling tours are about 3 hours. They can also be combined with the land tours on the same day. Private tours for couples or families are also available for a higher price. Our full day tour was a little over 6 hours which included lunch. We highly recommend doing this one.
Would you do this snorkeling excursion?