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Safari Expeditions

The regular tours stick to the shoreline, but safari expeditions venture into the hills in open-air, four-wheel-drive vehicles for panoramic views and visits to the old U.S. Navy gun sites. Compared to safari expeditions on Moorea, Huahine, and Tahaa, which emphasize local culture as well as scenery, here they are more like scenic thrill rides. The journey can be rough, so I do not recommend it for children, the elderly, or anyone prone to carsickness. The mountain roads are mere ruts in places, so you could become stuck if it has been raining.

Your best bet for insight into the island's history and lore is Patrick Tairua of Patrick's Activities (tel. 79.19.11 or 67.69.94; www.maohinui.net). Son of the last Polynesian chief of Bora Bora, Patrick (pronounced Pa-treek in French) lived in the U.S. and speaks English fluently. He passes along stories gleaned from spending time with one of the elders responsible for protecting the island's oral history. You'll get out of the jeep and walk through the forest to an ancient marae where petroglyphs are carved into the basaltic rock. Patrick's tours are essentially private; that is, he takes a maximum of four persons at a time for 32,000CFP (US$400/£200) per tour. Patrick also leads private lagoon excursions .

A more comfortable choice is Vavau Adventures (tel. 72.01.21; temana689@mail.pf), which has morning and afternoon expeditions around the island and up into the mountains in an air-conditioned Land Rover. These tours also emphasize Bora Bora's history, culture, flora, and fauna, and they stop at the World War II guns and at a fish farm, where you will see tropical species being raised to restock the magnificent lagoon. They cost 7,400CFP (US$93/£47) per person.

The largest operator is the Levard family's Tupuna Four-Wheel-Drive Expeditions (tel. 67.75.06), which uses open-air vehicles. On this tour, your last stop will be at the Farm, the Levards' black-pearl operation.

Lagoon Excursions & Shark Feeding

Bora Bora has one of the world's most beautiful lagoons, and getting out on it, snorkeling and swimming in it, and visiting the islands on its outer edge are absolute musts. Although it's a widespread activity now, this is where shark-feeding began. That is, your guide feeds reef sharks while you watch from a reasonably safe distance. Some conservationists have criticized shark-feeding, but it is guaranteed to leave an indelible imprint on your memory.

Any hotel activities desk can book you on an all-day excursion with one of several operators. My longtime favorite is Nono Levard's Teremoana Tours (tel. 67.71.38), which everyone here calls Nono's Tours. You spend the day going around the lagoon in a speedy outrigger canoe. Depending on the weather, you'll go snorkeling and watch a shark-feeding demonstration in the morning. You'll stop on a motu for swimming and a picnic lunch, and then pet stingrays on your way home in the afternoon. Expect to pay about 8,500CFP (US$106/£54) for a full-day outing.

Even if your all-day excursion doesn't feature it, you can still visit the Bora Bora Lagoonarium (tel. 67.71.34), a fenced-in underwater area near Le Meridien Bora Bora. Here you can swim with (and maybe even ride) manta rays and observe sharks (which are on the other side of the fence here). The Lagoonarium has its own morning tour with shark-feeding and lunch on the motu, plus an afternoon excursion with fish-watching. The morning excursion costs about 7,800CFP (US$98/£49), the afternoon tour is 6,600CFP (US$83/£42), or you can do both for 10,000CFP (US$125/£63).

You can rent a boat and explore the lagoon yourself, but I strongly suggest this only for those who know what they're doing, and who understand how the color of the water tells its depth. You do not want to ruin your vacation by running onto a shallow reef. If you're still interested in renting a small craft, contact Taxi Motu, at the Novotel Bora Bora Beach Resort (tel. 67.60.61), or Moana Adventure Tours, near the Hotel Bora Bora (tel. 67.61.41).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.