Noth­ing Bora bor­ing about mix­ing with rich and fa­mous

Tahiti and her is­lands beckon for a taste of movie-star life­style, writes Evonne Barry

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - News -

ROBERT De Niro is in the ho­tel’s foyer, looking much more Meet The Par­ents than Taxi Driver. He’s wear­ing beige pants, sen­si­ble shoes and a striped blue T-shirt – there’s no sign of the fa­mous face’s typ­i­cal ac­ces­sory, weaponry – and he is hold­ing a tourist brochure, point­ing some­thing out to a woman I as­sume is his wife.

I’ve hit the jack­pot, I think, as I find my­self ap­proach­ing one of the world’s most cel­e­brated ac­tors ( mi­nus a fea­si­ble con­ver­sa­tion starter).

Bora Bora is ap­par­ently a mag­net for big names, and I have been hop­ing to catch sight of at least one. Hol­ly­wood royalty would do very nicely, first up, thank you very much.

Ex­cept Robert De Niro turns around and shows he is only a vague looka­like. My celebrity count is still at zero. It stays at zero over three nights on Bora Bora, but I quickly learn how this spec­tac­u­lar Pa­cific is­land trades on its rep­u­ta­tion.

It is a renowned haunt of the fa­mous and, as the ex­or­bi­tant cost of liv­ing here dic­tates, the wealthy.

With no ex­pec­ta­tions of be­ing ei­ther, I ap­pre­ci­ate this trip as a once-in-a life­time ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s how I jus­tify fork­ing out al­most $40 on a ba­sic spirit and Coke at one of the clubs.

And no doubt it helps the bot­tom line at Bloody Mary’s, a water­side, seafood restau­rant a speed­boat ride from our ho­tel.

Here you choose your meal from a mas­sive va­ri­ety of seafood — the ex­ten­sive day’s catch is on dis­play, on ice, ready for din­ers’ hand­pick­ing.

But be­fore you get to the food, you walk past even big­ger wooden boards. They are cov­ered with the names of hun­dreds of past (celebrity) guests, in­clud­ing Mar­lon Brando, Prince Rainier, Julio Igle­sias, Ringo Starr, Billy Idol, Rod Ste­wart, Raquel Welch, Tommy Lee, Ge­orge Michael, Janet Jack­son, Pamela An­der­son, Slash, Buzz Aldrin, Cameron Diaz and Johnny Depp.

There is no sign of Nicole Kid­man and Keith Ur­ban, who were caught by pa­parazzi hon­ey­moon­ing at a lux­u­ri­ous Bora Bora ho­tel in 2006. Nor Des­per­ate Housewives star Eva Lon­go­ria and now-hus­band Tony Parker, who hap­pened to be stay­ing at the flashy St Regis re­sort at the same time as the Aussie new­ly­weds.

How­ever, ‘‘Haris­son’’ Ford and ‘‘ Dianna’’ Ross will no­tice ty­pos should they re­turn.

The ap­peal of this place is ob­vi­ous. Like few hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions, Bora Bora looks like it does in the post­cards. The beau­ti­ful blue wa­ters are as clear and bright as imag­in­able, the dra­matic moun­tain­scape is deep green and the sand pris­tine white.

It be­fits the 1970s Im­pe­rial Leather ad, which made ‘‘ Tahiti Looks Nice’’ a catch­phrase. Ex­cept this isn’t Tahiti.

The is­land of Tahiti is one of 118 that make up French Poly­ne­sia, which is a French pos­ses­sion and some­times mar­keted as ‘‘Tahiti and her is­lands’’. All th­ese is­lands cover an ocean sur­face of 4 mil­lion sq km, about the size of con­ti­nen­tal Europe.

Tahiti is the big­gest and most pop­u­lous. And aside from it be­ing home to the in­ter­na­tional air­port, in Papeete, there is a rea­son why tour guides rec­om­mend it as a first stop.

On land­ing, Tahiti presents as an ideal trop­i­cal get­away. But it has an av­er­age tourist stay rate of two nights, largely be­cause it is nowhere near as pic­ture-per­fect as at least two of its neigh­bour­ing is­lands — Bora Bora and Moorea.

For ex­am­ple, much of Tahiti’s coast­line is cov­ered in black sand (which is beau­ti­ful none­the­less).

Moorea, the sec­ond stop on our three-is­land visit, is my favourite.

It doesn’t have the eye-pop­ping ex­trav­a­gance of Bora Bora, though there are many five-star places to stay if that suits your taste and bud­get.

In­stead it re­mains largely, and thank­fully, un­touched.

We catch a ferry from Papeete to Moorea’s port, less than 20km away. Dur­ing the half-hour jour­ney, a pod of dol­phins swims freely in the ocean. A few hours later, a pair of th­ese an­i­mals look de­cid­edly less con­tent in an en­clo­sure of a five-star ho­tel.

The best way to see this is­land is on a bi­cy­cle. It’s also the best way to get a glimpse of lo­cal life. We set off and stop for lunch at a road­side stall. A sand­wich and freshly squeezed juice is among the most en­joy­able of meals of this trip, sim­ply be­cause of the set­ting. A quad-bike tour, which is open to kids as well as adults, is an­other way to see this mag­nif­i­cent is­land.

There are three main peaks on Moorea. This tour takes you to the top of the mid­dle one, via fruit and vanilla plan­ta­tions, pro­vid­ing an in­cred­i­ble panorama of the is­land.

The last stop, Bora Bora, is truly ex­cep­tional.

I’m in an over-wa­ter bun­ga­low at the Four Sea­sons re­sort, off which I can dive and swim to my trav­el­ling com­pan­ions’ rooms.

How­ever I wasn’t feel­ing so con­fi­dent dur­ing the snorkelling trip.

I coped swim­ming among the (ap­par­ently harm­less) sharks, but the dozens of manta rays were an­other story.

Th­ese gen­tle, rub­bery giants wrap them­selves around you, seem­ingly lick­ing the sun screen off your body – a sen­sa­tion I’ll hap­pily leave in the once-in-a-life­time file.

Life on the la­goon:

A lux­ury bun­ga­low is a swim away through the manta rays from the neigh­bour­hood din­ner party on Bora Bora.

Quad-bike ter­rain: Chil­dren can join quad-bike tours (above) as the girls get set for scuba div­ing at Bora Bora.

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