French Polynesia

Bora Bora: Swimming With Sharks!

It has been one of my dream to be surrounded by colorful tropical fishes and hopefully it’ll come true today! I booked months in advanced with Raanui Tours for the snorkeling tour and swimming with sharks, oh yes it’s one of the must-dos in Bora Bora! I reconfirmed the tour yesterday just to make sure, meeting at Intercontinental Thalasso pier at 8:45 am. I did my morning walk as usual but saw tons of clouds covering the mountain peak and the blue sky 🙁 We bought some breakfast items from the market at town yesterday; I would love to have breakfast outside our deck but to avoid mosquitoes, we had it inside our room. I packed towels, snorkeling masks, sunscreen, insect repellent wipes, GoPro, extender for GoPro, zip lock bag for extra GoPro batteries and keep our phones dry, disinfection wet wipes, and cash to pay for the tour (12000 xpf per person including motu lunch ~$120 per person). We bought our waterproof case to put our room card, credit card, and the cash. On the way to the pier, we stopped by the reception to ask if they can store our camera backpack as we don’t want to leave our DSLRs in the boat nor in our room. The guy at the reception said he’ll store the backpack inside the manager’s office and tagged with our room number. At least we don’t need to worry about our cameras 🙂

We walked to the pier around 8:30 am and after a few minutes wait, the red and white boat came to pick us up. The tour is run by a husband (Leo) and wife (Arieta) and there were another one couple in the boat before us; they were from The St. Regis and got married yesterday! Off we go, we passed by Le Moana and other resorts, there were some parts that the boat had to slow down due to very shallow water. The crystal clear water that we could see the bottom:

We made a stop at the Hilton Bora Bora to pick up 7 more guests for a total of 11 of us, Leo went in the lobby and got us snorkeling fins, towels, and poncho just in case of rain. The Hilton Bora Bora is pretty large but has no view of the mountain peak nor the turquoise lagoon, instead, their overwater bungalows face the open ocean. On our way to our first stop of the tour, it started to rain! We quickly put on the poncho, luckily, it was just a passing shower. The boat stopped and OMG there’s a shark!

First time ever I saw a shark that close! Before I realized it, many sharks and stingrays swim right to our boat and Leo feeding them! Oh my, it was crazy!

What a scene it was!

The seagulls also came for food!

I took a photo of us with a shark on the back haha!

Leo asked ready to go in? We all were like URG LOL! Leo jumped right in and he tied a rope, he said hold on and stay back of the rope! Leo suggested to wear water shoes or flip flops since the corals are sharp and water shoes are the best so won’t be kicking up sand to make the water muggy. I had a difficult time getting into the water; I was afraid I’ll step into the stingrays haha! It was my second time being so close with stingrays, first time was at Stingray City at the Cayman Islands, but it was our first time so close with sharks! Although the reef tip sharks are not huge but they are still sharks ahhhh!

I hold on really tight on the rope and waited for hubby to join us, he was still in the boat!

My dream came true!!!

There were so many fishes, it was so incredible and it was cloudy sky too, it would be more colorful if sunny sky! But the good thing about cloudy day was that we don’t need to worry about our back getting sunburns!

Just so you know the underwater pictures were from the videos we captured with the GoPro Hero 3+ black edition. I used the GoPro software to capture the skill image from the video and then use Lightroom to adjust the tint to reduce the green tone.

At first, the sharks were a little bit of a distance from us but then they started to swim around us! Leo was there playing with them woah!

This one got so close to me!

Then, Leo said we are free to swim around with the sharks, no need to stay behind the rope!!!

I was surrounded by not only tropical fishes but stingrays and sharks! It was the most amazing snorkeling experience I ever had!

Leo came and grabbed my GoPro and took a video of us!

The water was up to my neck (I am short) very shallow!

Our heads were turning left and right watching them swimming around us. We then took turn for videos. Me swimming with sharks!!!

This little fella was staring at me LOL!

Leo was cleaning his boat and the stingrays wanted to play with him haha!

Hubby’s “urg, are those sharks?” look LOL!


We totally lost track how long we were there and then the next stop: The Coral Gardens. Leo said he tend to look for spots where no other tours are there so we can have it ourselves and take our time! The water was extremely shallow at the Coral Gardens, we wished we put on the life vest so we could rest whenever we got tired! We put on fins to help!

The corals there were very colorful, I have never seen such colorful corals before! Love the purple corals!

Hubby does not know how to swim but he was doing a great job staying afloat and moving! I kept an eye on him but sometimes got lose track by the colorful corals! I extended the GoPro extender to get close up videos without getting too close as the corals are sharp and touching could kill them!

Some areas were so shallow that majority of us has minor cut from the corals (Arieta gave us some relief gel to put on once we got back to the boat).

Once we got back to our boat, we were so tired!!! Leo and a few were still in water playing. Leo even found an octopus!

And he took turn to put the octopus on us to feel it ahhhhh, I was screaming when he pulled the octopus, it was like pulling out a sucking cup!


Arieta gave us some bread to feed the fish, I extended my GoPro into the water for videos of the fish eating.

We were also provided with water, drinks, homemade cake, and my favorite pineapples! Her homemade cake was so delicious! Our third stop, the deep ocean! We were so tired by then and not strong swimmers so we just watch from the boat…..well I extended the GoPro into the water for videos.

A few of us stayed in the boat too! Then we heard one of them in the water said there’s a huge shark underneath!!! I asked Leo if he can take a video of the big shark and he did!

The big shark swim up that we could see it from the boat oh wow it is big!

And then Leo did something crazy…..

OMG he rode on the shark and the shark was cool with it!

Instead of Cowboy, should we call it Sharkboy?

Unbelievable! Leo took our GoPro once again and helped us took more videos!

Thanks Leo!!!

After the three stops, we had an island tour by boat and Leo pointed out different points of interest as we pass by. We made a loop and dropped off the couple from The St. Regis, they only booked the snorkeling tour without the motu lunch. Then we went back pass the Hilton and then to the private motu for lunch. There’s a bathroom in the middle of the motu (island) but no flushing water urg! I was glad that I bought some disinfection wet wipes! There are a few picnic tables under a big hut there and Arieta and her family cooked us food. It started to rain again and some tables got wet because a big hole in the hut. There are few other people from another tour who stopped at the motu for lunch as well. We sat together with the other couples from our tour. We chatted while waiting for the food, one couple is from Thailand and another is all the way from Madrid! The lady from Madrid loves the water and she get to spend 20+ days in French Polynesia (so jealous)! She will be flying out tomorrow but she still scheduled a morning tour to snorkel first before heading to the airport!

We used so much energy snorkeling now starving!

There were rice, salad, BBQ tuna, chicken, and steak!

They were very tasty and cooked just right; so much better than the lunch we had at Matira Snack! I highly recommend paying extra for the lunch at the motu, it’s worth it for the food and for pictures at the private island. Even though the rain stopped, it was still very cloudy so not much color in the photos taken by my iPhone!

The motu is pretty small with a beach and many oak trees! We walked around the island.

I later asked Leo about the motu, it is privately owned but it’s rented to Hilton and they are contracted with Hilton so they are allowed to bring guests there.

The clouds started to clear up and can see the mountain, on the back of it is the lagoon.

We had a great time and we tipped them 1000 xpf (~$10) just a small appreciation for their excellent service. We were dropped off at the end of the overwater bungalows instead of the pier but we forgot we need to walk back to the reception to get our camera bag lol so it ended up being a longer walk! After picking up our camera backpack, we walked back to our overwater bungalow and called the concierge to confirm our reservation at Mai Kai for dinner tonight. The pick up from Le Moana is 7:30 pm, pretty late! I asked hubby if he want to take the last free shuttle at 2:15 pm and hang out there or pay for the later boat out? He said for the precious time in Bora Bora, he would pay the extra. Since we were wet already, we jumped into the turquoise lagoon right from our deck! We bought a floating bed with us from Hawaii and just float around with the view of overwater bungalows! Then, we showered and I blow-dry my hair, rested a bit before heading out for the 7:00 pm shuttle. The sun was setting as we walk out!

On our way to Le Moana:

Arrived Le Moana, the dramatic change of colors as the sunsets:

Walked out of Le Moana entrance, it must be a colorful sunset!

This time it was a van and it was fully occupied, the driver dropped us off and I let the reception know that we need to be back to Le Moana to catch the last ferry back to our hotel at 10:00 pm. We were seated immediately, the atmosphere was different than at Bloody Mary’s – it felt more like a modern restaurant whereas Bloody Mary’s more casual with a sand floor.

The hut was so high!

We ordered the poisson cru 2300 xpf (~$23), the portion was bigger and more raw fish than the one we had at Le Sands:

Since the appetizers priced almost the same as entrees, we ordered the curry prawns 2700 xpf (~$27) as appetizer! I am sure I won’t be full if I have this as main course 🙂

The curry was tasty, I missed white rice LOL!

I ordered the grilled ribeye 2700 xpf (~$27), it was good portion!

Husband ordered the tuna steak pan seared 2700 xpf (~$27):

His tuna was good but not impressive. We both preferred the meal we had at Bloody Mary’s last night. Our meal total was 12000 xpf (~$120) with a bottle of still water. All bottled water in French Polynesia restaurants around $5 to hotels $7!

It was very good timing that by the time we finished our meal it’s 9:00 pm and pick up at 9:15. All of us who came with the same van finished around the same time!

Once we got back to Le Moana, we walked to the pier to catch the last shuttle back to Thalasso, another couple arrive after us to wait for the shuttle. It was so dark that the stars were very visible with our naked eyes. Too bad I don’t have my tripod!!! I used hubby’s shoulder to help out so please don’t mind the photos might be a little bit blurry!

Although I am so tired by the time we got back to our room but I took out the tripod for a photo of the stars again!

We both had an incredible day, can’t believe it, tomorrow will be our final full day in Bora Bora!!!

10 thoughts on “Bora Bora: Swimming With Sharks!

  1. Are those underwater stills all from your GoPro? I’m trying to find a good underwater a camera and there are so many that I’m getting overwhelmed!! Everyone seems to say he GoPro is better for video, but I’d be thrilled with your stills!!!

    1. The photos from “photo” mode from the GoPro weren’t great, the videos were much better. But you can use the GoPro software to capture a still photo from the video (pause the video go to file menu to export select still photo)! That was what I exactly did to produce the underwater photos in this post 🙂

        1. I had the GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition, purchased the LCD back screen separate so I can see what I am shooting before hitting the record button. I bought an extender (from years ago it was under $20, there are more choices now than back then) so I don’t need to get near the coral to take close ups of them, very useful! I got extra batteries too, usually one battery last around 2 hours depending on usage.

  2. Hi! Your pictures and reports are so amazing! Thank you for taking the time to write them out for us! I saw that you mentioned that you are not a strong swimmer and that your husband doesn’t know how to swim. I don’t either and I’m going to Moorea and Bora Bora at the end of May on our honeymoon as well. How did your husband manage? Did he wear a life vest the entire time you were around water? I’m worried that’s what I will have to do.. 🙁

    1. The snorkeling places in Moorea and Bora Bora are very shallow so in the worst case you could stand up but make sure you remember to wear your water shoes! In Moorea – right off from our overwater bungalow, the water was up to my neck. The first two locations in our Bora Bora snorkeling tour was below neck level and the last stop was deeper water that we didn’t went in because we were worn out by then. The best about Bora Bora’s lagoon is it’s protected from big waves meaning that the water is very calm! And if you are still not comfortable, the tour should have life vest, confirm in advanced. My husband managed to stay afloat in shallow water LOL!

  3. How did you decide to go with Raanui Tours over the other tours available? For example, I heard Moana Adventure tours is really good too…
    I’m trying to book ours right now, so trying to decide. We also want to do a jet ski tour as well.

    1. I think it was a little bit cheaper with its motu picnic and it turned out to be small boat meaning smaller group and great service! If I go back next time, I’ll do two tours one with rannui and another with reef discovery.

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