Polynesia. Let its syllables roll over your tongue and transport you to the South Pacific: glittering lagoons and white sand atolls; dark-haired sirens with almond eyes, clad in garlands of gardenia. In a world of disappointment, Polynesia, specifically the island of Bora Bora, smashes expectations and has the power to restore you to some kind of faith.
Though you may be tempted not to move from your well-buttled day bed, it’s not simply a place for lotus eating. A javelin’s throw from shore is an underwater world as impressive as the one above sea level. Bora Bora is one of the best places in the world to see big-game fish, manta rays and sharks.
The archipelago of French Polynesia is 118 islands, volcanic outcrops scattered across an area the size of western Europe on the empty blue backside of the globe. Bora Bora is the postcard money shot (a literal money shot, though its expense may be a blessing, as it wards away the crowds that can drown Tahiti). Flying in, I admire the island’s concentric circles: the iconic square-topped mountains, the turquoise lagoon, in turn circled by a string of motu – islets which form the atoll that breaks the rollers coming in from the Pacific Ocean.
There is only one passage through the atoll into the lagoon. During WWII this appealed to the Americans, who were easily able to defend it (the island was turned into a military base during Operation Bobcat). Today it is a joy for divers. Like a watery safari, the underwater pass gathers marine life into one spot and its gentle current makes a marvellous drift dive.
As we set off on the boat, spirits are high. The water around us bleeds from opal green through cobalt to navy as we approach the Teavenui Pass. In the thinnest of short wet suits I tumble backwards overboard. The water is clear, soft, delicious. With childish pleasure I follow the tanned legs of Delphine, our French dive...
Original article published in GQ Magazine, in January, 2012