Bora Bora: Christmas on a Catamaran

Feb 2nd, 2019, 01:36 PM
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Bora Bora: Christmas on a Catamaran

We are a family of 5 people ... kids are now ages 18, 17, and 14 years. We've been fortunate to have lots of fun trips, but rarely over Winter break. With a college kid, we are limited to when the family can go away together, but this was such an amazing opportunity, we decided to go for it.

We would be spending a week on a catamaran - rented through Dream Yacht Charter. It was a Helia 44 - 4 bedrooms (4 baths). We hired a captain and hostess, who did all the cooking (they had one bedroom). We started in Raiatea and finished in Bora Bora, spent a night in an overwater bungalow, and then flew home.

Flights were a bit crazy. We are coming from the Philadelphia area, so everything is through either Los Angeles or San Francisco. Knowing that it was snow season and crowded flights, we wanted to minimize flight risk. A new airline, French Bee, now flies the route from SFO - PPT. Unfortunately, we couldn't book our flights on one itinerary, so we took the connection risk. We decided to spend extra time in SFO to minimize that risk.

One benefit of French Bee was that we got premium seats for the price of economy seats on Air Tahiti, American, or United. The fares were actually refundable (with a small penalty), so if something changed, I knew we could make a change. I would fly them again - our flights were slightly delayed, but the premium class was comfortable and allowed us to stretch out and sleep.

Day 1 – PHL – SFO - PPT (Philadelphia - San Francisco - Papeete)

After an early morning wake up call, we were at the airport (and thankful for TSA precheck) with plenty of time. Our flight boarded 7:20 and we departed on time. Flight was 6 hours - a bit bumpy, but uneventful and we landed about 30 minutes early.

We dropped our bags at an airport storage location and took BART (train) into San Francisco. Walked to the Ferry Building and had lunch and then met our tour about 2pm. It was a small van private tour and we stopped at a few locations for photo ops. Mostly, we saw the big things - Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, the Presidio.... the fog cleared and the sun was gorgeous on the Golden Gate Bridge - and it was fun to watch the big wave surfers! We saw the Painted Ladies, and went to the top of Twin Peaks for an amazing view of the city. We were dropped off in Union Square, where we saw the Christmas Tree and then took BART back to the airport.

We had dinner in the food court, checked into our flight, and spent a lot of time waiting. ... to check in, go through security, and then at the gate. We boarded about 10pm - and departed about 30 minutes later from our schedule of 10:45. I slept through dinner/snack service, so I can’t even tell you what they had.

We are now over the Pacific - about 2 hours out from destination. We will have another 2 hour layover in Papeete before we get our air Tahiti Nui flight to Raiatea. Luckily, we are able to board our boat early - they offered that option to us - so we don’t have to kill time in Raiatea.

Long day - started at 5am. But looking forward to the destination.

French bee, the 1st long-haul, low-cost airline | French bee

Last edited by surfmom; Feb 2nd, 2019 at 01:37 PM. Reason: add trip report
surfmom is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2019, 01:50 PM
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Day 2 – PPT – RFP

After an uneventful flight - we all slept some - varying degrees of how much, we landed in Papeete (I’ve since learned it is pronounced pa-pee-tay) about 45 minutes late. Overall, we were happy with French Bee - a newer airline and not many flights, but the plane was new, and things went pretty smoothly. We had premium seats - which gave us more leg room, which was appreciated.

When we landed we were greeted by a man singing with a ukulele, and a woman dancing in traditional dress. After clearing customs, we sat down for a snack and got local currency. We also picked up our wifi router. Since we didn’t want to pay for international data, but knew the kids would want to be online a little bit, we rented a router. It gave us a specific amount of data during the trip. We did not leave it plugged in, but would turn it on in the afternoon for an hour or so. It worked out well – it was convenient, we were able to pick up the router in the airport, and it worked (generally) when we were on the boat.

We checked into our next flight and had a few hours to kill - we were all dragging a bit. It was open seating on the next flight - we stopped at Huahine and dropped off/picked up people and then continued on to Raiatea.

At Raiatea, we were met by the boat people - it was a 10 minute drive to the marina. We finished our paperwork and were able to board the boat about 10:30 (early). It was great not to have to kill more time!

After our safety briefing, we departed the marina and motored to a nearby cove. We all jumped in for a quick swim - which felt great! Lunch was roasted chicken and potatoes and fresh pineapple for dessert. We have learned that the pineapple in Tahiti is the sweetest... and we all agree! We have been greeted a few times by pineapple juice and enjoyed it.

After lunch, there were pop up rainstorms, so we waited (we thought) until it was gone to head into land and see a vanilla farm. We were wrong and got wet on the way in... luckily we were still in bathing suits! We learned how vanilla is grown and harvested, dried, and processed, and then headed back. We then snorkeled over coral - the fish were especially fun to watch. 'A tropical fish tank while snorkeling' is how the kids described it.

From the boat, we have seen eagle rays, sting rays, a black tip shark, dolphins. The kids got in to swim with the shark, but he swam away.

Dinner was lasagna and green salad with ice cream for dessert. After a few rounds of cards, we called it a night. We were wiped out, so in bed by 8pm!
surfmom is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2019, 10:42 AM
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Day 3 – Taha’a - Raiatea

We woke up to a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs, cereal, toast, yogurt, fruit, and tea. After breakfast, we jumped in for a quick swim. We sailed and motored to another mooring. We then took the dinghy into a small motu. At this point, we are staying off T’ahaa - which is an island next to Raiatea.

A motu is land that is like a breakwater surrounding each island. Sometimes they are smaller - a spit of land, sometimes they are larger - big enough for hotels or houses. We could see some overwater bungalows on this motu and there was an opening next to it which led to open water.

We took the dinghy into the edge of the opening and then walked along land to the other side of the channel - we then put our flippers on and carried our shoes with us. The current is so strong, it carries you through the channel. The coral and fish below were amazing! There were a few times we had to weave through the coral since it came close to the surface. And it was really fun swimming through a school of fish. Unfortunately, D18 and dad had a mishap and a scraped chest (dad) and hip (D18) from the coral resulted.

We liked it so much, we decided to do it again... so we walked back up and went back through the coral. At the end, the current had taken us back to the dinghy, so we returned to the catamaran. Lemon juice was squeezed in the cuts as a disinfectant - which is good for cleaning, but also stings. Lunch was pasta salad and chicken - we all enjoyed it!

After lunch, we motored and sailed back to Raiatea. After anchoring, we took the dinghy into the island where we visited a pearl farm. It was very interesting to learn how black pearls are made. They take shells from the Mississippi River and create little balls and then implant the exact same size into the oysters with a little bit of the black membrane. This membrane then grows around the implanted ball and creates layers and layers of pearl material. After 18 months, they take it out and can implant another ball (always replace it with the same size you have taken out) and create another large pearl. Some oysters will create up to 5 pearls this way.

We returned to the boat and after a swim, there was a heavy rainstorm, so we all chilled for a bit. We tried to go into a beach bar, but it was closed, so we returned to the boat for dinner of deep dish pizza. Dessert was fresh pineapple, a little fresh mint and vanilla.

We tried to play a game, but didn’t last long, so we went to bed about 8:30-9.

surfmom is offline  
Feb 4th, 2019, 12:55 AM
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What a lovely trip.
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