It was pitch black when the plane squealed onto the tarmac. My heart skipped a beat as I’d been pining for this Polynesian pilgrimage since I was a wee one. Before gathering my luggage I made a point of sarcastically asking my flight attendant, “can you please pinch me? I just want to make sure this is really happening.”
After strolling onto the airport’s dock I was greeted with a tiare flower lei, cold bottle of water and chilled oshiburi towel. Moments later I found myself splashing across moody blue lagoon in a luxurious custom-crafted Andreyale Bateux Taxi. An endless twinkle of lights beckoned the boat to shore, like a choir of softly singing sirens. We puttered past endless rows of thatched-roof bungalows which hovered over the horizon, perched over salty mirror via sturdy stilts. After the captain quietly coasted toward our destination I skipped into a breezy lobby, greeted with a smile and wee glass of mango nectar served on a silver platter. I had arrived at one of the world’s dreamiest luxury retreats. Four Seasons Bora Bora Resort is a one-way ticket to paradise. A heavenly holiday which feels surreal from start to finish.
The Pacific island of Bora Bora is a geological work of art: an inactive, sunken volcano ringed by a coral string of tiny islands, or motus. The result: a majestic island lush with ferns and palms, fresh with scent of flowers, and protected from the open ocean by its surrounding atoll. Bora Bora’s iconic turquoise-coloured inner lagoons provide shelter to countless schools of tropical fish, offering snorkel fans a pretty playground. The island is also a gem of Polynesian culture, a place where the dancing, singing, culinary and seafaring traditions of the Maohi people are woven into daily island life.
The Four Seasons Bora Bora is set upon a sprawling 54 acres, capped by the towering monolithic peak of Mount Otemanu and the domed summit of Mount Pahia. Its architecture is the fruit of a unique collaboration that brings together the cosmopolitan flare of Paris-based architect Didier Lefort and the modern elegance of San Francisco design firm BAMO, with the Polynesian authenticity of renowned South Pacific architect Pierre-Jean Picart.
Traditional thatched-leaf roofs adorn every building, made from the leaves of the indigenous pandanus tree, grown on local plantations and woven by local craftsmen. Each of the resort’s 100 overwater bungalows measure over 100 square meters and are located on branching piers that extend into the heart of Bora Bora’s inner lagoon. Inside, hardwood floors and walls are stained in a light palette that suggests driftwood or coral, while small lagoon windows fill the space with magical, turquoise tinted sunlight as it reflects off the water. Rooms are appointed with framed indigenous artifacts, from fishing lures fashioned from mother-of-pearl to fans made of coconut palms. I instantly swoon for the massive soaking tub adjacent to the bedroom which offers the most remarkable jaw dropping views best enjoyed via L’Occitane infused bubble bath. Each bungalow features a sun-deck featuring chaise lounges, a covered dining area and ladder to the water which forces one to whisper at sunset “honey we should really take a quick dip before dinner.”
Food fans swoon for the top notch culinary creations offered by Chef Frederic Angevin’s Polynesian moderne which he describes as “a base of traditional and nouvelle French cuisine, with American-style fusion, featuring the ingredients and flavours of Polynesia and beyond.” Arii Moana is the resorts dreamy fine dining concept, which takes its name from the Tahitian phrase meaning “King of the Lagoon.” Each night the room fills with the subtle sparkle of romance. I take a quick sip from a flute of Tattinger Brut Rose while smiling at a dichotomous crowd: well seasoned lovey-dovey couples and fresh off the boat honeymooners. The journey begins with a refreshing chilled cucumber and coconut soup quickly followed by glistening carpaccio of Mahi Mahi adorned with citrus, pink pepper served alongside a petite glass of iced lemon vanilla granite. I encounter a marvellous muddling of flavours while spooning through a bowl of sweet potato gnocchi which arrives at the table tossed in wilted arugula, confit tomato, shaved parmesan and sweet Taha’a vanilla sauce. Milk chocolate is the feasts finale, a perfect cocoa sphere filled with caramelized banana and ice cream which melts before your eyes as a petite pot of molten chocolate drizzles from above.
Situated on the high summit of the resort’s motu, the Spa at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is where the forces of energy and relaxation meet in harmony. With its soaring 72 foot ceiling, the Spa provides a depth of view in all directions, surrounded by native trees and the fragrance of the kahaia blossom. To the east the vast Pacific tide breaks upon the reef while to the west lies the sheltered, verdant serenity of the lagoon. Raised walkway, suspended above a plantation of pandanus trees, lead to the Spa’s seven treatment rooms.
It was raining cats and dogs when I arrived at the Spa and was happy to have had the opportunity to rest and relax indoors as Mother Nature performed her tropical symphony. After a short lounge in the relaxation room I was whisked through the damp forest and into a pretty room with a view. My therapist walks me through a selection of local oils, I sniff through the group and select the banana coconut duo. The South Pacific has a rich history, called taurumi, of passing down the art of healing massage and therapeutic treatments from generation to generation. I tap into this tradition over the next hour as my therapist uses her arms, elbows and wrists to release tension from head to toe. A soothing dance like style which borrows its inspiration from the rhythm of ocean waves.
I spend the afternoon with the resort’s very own marine biologist Oliver Martin. A native of Antibes, France, Oliver is the driving force behind the marine conservation and education efforts at the Four Seasons Bora Bora. The team here is committed to learning more about the changing marine environment, and is working to conserve it. Some of these efforts involve using part of the resort’s lagoon as a testing ground, where larvae are captured, coral grafting techniques are explored and fish behaviour is studied.
Oliver is enthusiastic about the work he is doing here and keen to educate guests about the lagoon’s unique ecosystem. After a quick introduction we grab our snorkel gear, slap on sun tan lotion and march to the beach. The water is crystal clear and I’m amazed when a school of fish suddenly dart towards Oliver when he steps into the water. Like a pack of puppy dogs who miss their master. We stood together waist deep as he explains the coral grafting process but I can’t help but interrupt with a giggle as hundreds of fish swarm around us. I’ve never seen fish act so tame and can’t help but blurt, “the fish are literally hopping into your arms like kittens looking for a cuddle!” His mug is smug, clearly enthused at my reaction to the magic of this special place and with a quick wink he slips under the water, motioning me to cruise along the coral behind him.
On my final morning I found myself sitting in an outrigger as my chipper boat captain crooned traditional Polynesian melodies while plucking his ukulele. He was a chipper fellow who spent the afternoon taking our group on a snorkel tour which had us circumnavigating Bora Bora. We made three splashy stops: feeding a few friendly manta ray (they eat through their nose you know!), swimming with a school of sharks where the reef and ocean meet and snorkelling across a lush coral garden where a multi-coloured aquatic community waved hello with tiny fish fins.
The unforgettable adventure ended on a high-note: a traditional Polynesian BBQ lunch served as pretty picnic on a private motu. I poured a glass of oaky Chardonnay from New Zealand before nibbling through a feast served on a traditional plate which locals weave together using fronds of palm. I sat on the dock, my legs dangling over colourful coral while devouring a BBQ trilogy (steak, chicken and Mahi Mahi) served alongside raw tuna coconut salad, roasted sweet potato, sticky banana poe and sweet slices of pineapple. I checked the time and my heart immediately moaned: three more hours until I had to head to the airport for my long journey home. I topped up my glass with another splash, stared out at the tropical paradise sitting in front of me and let out a deep sigh. I’ve never felt so pretty while sitting in a postcard.