Every hotel has some water toys for its guests to use, and hotel activities desks can arrange fishing, diving, and other watersports. You don't have to stay at the Novotel Bora Bora Beach Club (tel. 60.59.50) to use its equipment and facilities, but you do have to pay a fee. You can go water-skiing, sail on Hobie Cats, paddle canoes, and get a bird's-eye view of the lagoon while hanging below a parasail.

Matira Jet Tours (tel. 77.63.63) offers lagoon excursions by jet ski as well as inland tours via all-terrain vehicles. Many of the people you'll see riding above the lagoon are with Bora Bora Parasail (tel. 78.27.10).

Most resorts have kayaks for their guests to paddle in the lagoon. Based at Rohutu Fare Lodge, Bora Bora Kayaks (tel. 70.77.99; www.rohotufarelodge.com) rents one- and two-person sea kayaks ranging from 1,500CFP (US$19/£9.50) for 1 hour to 6,500CFP (US$81/£41) for a whole day. These quality boats were made in the United States and come equipped with snorkeling and fishing gear.

Scuba Dining & Snorkeling

While snorkeling off the reef face at the Hotel Bora Bora late one afternoon, I was startled to see a large manta ray gliding by virtually overhead, seemingly just a few feet away. It's one of my most indelible Bora Bora moments. You may have one, too, for both divers and snorkelers can swim among the manta rays, eagle rays, sharks, and some 1,000 species of colorful tropical fish in the lagoon here.

One of the most popular snorkeling sites is over the coral gardens in and near the Bora Bora Lagoonarium. Even novice divers can explore the site known as Anau, in the lagoon between there and Point Haamaire, where manta rays frequently hang out. Divers and snorkelers also share the lagoon off the eastern side of Motu Toopua and the islet next to it, Motu Toopua Iti.

The most easily accessible dive site outside the reef is off Motu Tapu, the islet just south of Teavanui Pass. Two others -- the White Valley, off the airport, and Tupitipiti, on the reef's southeastern corner -- both require lengthy boat rides and can experience strong currents.

Among the best snorkeling spots are the aptly named "Aquarium," off the southern end of Motu Pitiaau, and around Motu Piti Uuuta, home of the Sofitel Motu. These require boat transportation, but you can walk to the outer reef from the southern tip of Point Matira, thus increasing your chances of seeing more fish than if you snorkel off Matira Beach south of the Hotel Bora Bora. Best of all, in my opinion, are the reef faces, above which sit the Hotel Bora Bora's overwater bungalows.

Every resort has snorkeling gear for its guests as well as a scuba-diving program. They all charge about 6,500CFP (US$81/£41) for 30-minute introductory courses or a one-tank lagoon dive. Open-water and night dives cost about 9,000CFP (US$113/£57).

The island's major dive operator is TOPdive Bora Bora (tel. 60.50.50; fax 60.50.51; www.topdive.com), which has some of the best equipment and dive boats in French Polynesia. Its base is on the northern outskirts of Vaitape. Nemo World (tel. 67.71.84; www.boradiving.com) has two bases: Nemo World Bora Bora near the Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Resort, and Nemo Bora Diving Cener near the Hotel Bora Bora. Two-tank dives cost about 14,500CFP (US$181/£92).

Nondivers can walk on the bottom while wearing a diving helmet with Aqua Safari (tel. 67.71.84).

Like Flying Underwater -- Shining with every hue on the blue end of the color spectrum, Bora Bora's watery playground is one of my favorite snorkeling spots. Hotel Bora Bora has bungalows sitting right on the edge of a reef that drops precipitously to dark depths. I experience the exhilaration of flying when I drift out over that underwater cliff. If you're lucky, a manta ray will gracefully glide by.

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.