A lovely private island. Just breathtaking and beautiful. Like no other. So here are the highlights:
When you land, even before you get your bags, they will "lei" you, which is a lovely tradition. They point out which is your boat that'll take you to the island. Then you go the side to get your bags. You'll have a few minutes to take pictures on the water and scenery. Never seen an airport location like this. Then hop onto the boat for about a 25 minute ride.
As you approach the dock, you will see a local (dressed in local attire) blow a conch as you approach. Then he'll start playing the ukulele. You'll be helped off the boat by staff and given coconuts filled with coconut water inside. The staff will help you take pictures (trust me, you'll want the view in the background while holding coconut drinks while wearing a lei. Besides, the lei will wilt by the end of the first day.)
One thing i want to point out is that no matter what time of day you get there, the experience is the same. They still blow a conch, and they still give you a coconut drink even for nighttime arrivals. The only downside is that if you arrive after sunset, you might not be able to see the how beautiful the view truly is.
Anyways, the staff welcomes you and there is small chit-chat (where are you from, how long are staying, etc. etc.) Then while the staff takes care of your bags, you're given a brief tour. Eventually you're taken to your room. We had an over water bungalow and it's just amazing. My only complaint is that i thought the hole in the floor (to watch fish) was too small (maybe 18 inches in diameter?).
When we got in to the room, there were flowers on the bed, and my wife got a nice complimentary sari, and i got a t-shirt. There was also a complimentary bag of 3 lil treats. There's a fridge that is stocked with local beer, soda and water. Apparently, it's refilled at night by the turn-down service.
The closet has a safe and complimentary his & hers snorkel gear. There was an outside personal patio where there is a small coffee table, two chairs, (under a covered straw awning) and two chaise lunges (not under the awning) for you to lay down and enjoy the sun. You have your own personal lil ladder to climb into the water (which is about 4 feet deep?). There's also a shower there to rinse off the salt (not an actual shower since there are no curtains...unless you're into that kind of thing.) Depending on which side your bungalow faces, if it faces the ocean and AWAY from the resort, if you get up early enough, you can sit on the patio outside and watch the sunrise (usually at 6:30am).
At night time, sometimes you can hear the waves crashing against the poles/masts. It's very soothing. The bathroom shower has a rainshower head (hanging from the ceiling) and the type where it's like a hose.
The restaurant on the island is nice. The breakfast buffet is good, lots of fruit, and there is an omelet station (although i felt it was slim pickings in terms of toppings) Considering the French love their breads and baguettes, EVERY meal comes with complimentary bread. But this is no cheap bread. It's great and delicious. See a tip at the bottom of this review.
We ate basically all our meals there. Lunch and dinner are great. And they are surprisingly fast. But they do NOT sacrifice quality. It's very good and delicious. We liked the stuffed chicken as it was very tender.
As you might have read from reviews about the island, the prices are a bit steep (at least compared with the $USD.) Also, they charge for water, so if you can remember, take a bottle from your room before heading to eat.
Also in the restaurant is a billiards table, and local outfits on display. Apparently, you can ask to take pictures in them.
There is a free shuttle to take you to the Sofitel Marara in case you want to visit the other resort or the mainland. Also, the Marara is where they appear to hold events. From there, you can visit the gift shop, or take a local taxi to downtown Vaitape. Just remember to get a voucher from the front desk. The boat shuttle runs from 5:30am to 11:30 at night. They run on an as-needed basis. So if you don't see the shuttle, just go to the front desk and ask them to call it over. It's about a 3-4 minutes boat ride and the waters are always calm.
Sunrise is generally at 6:30 am. After you first arrive, the staff will point out the "View Point" where you can walk up some steps to, to go see the morning sunrise, and evening sunset (usually at about 5:30-5:45).
There are canoes, and 1 paddle boat you can take out to explore around, or even paddle to your own over water bungalow.
Lastly, the Private Island is KIDS-FREE-ZONE. No yelling, or screaming or crying. It was blissfully peaceful.
This is key: the CORAL GARDENS REEF, is extremely near by the private Island. You have to choices, you can walk along the rocky/sandy shore, or you can swim/canoe/paddle boat it to the area. It's hard to explain where it is as there is no sign that says "Coral Gardens here." But if you go in the morning, there are generally excursion boats that will take their customers to the area. Just go where they are. You'll know you're in the right spot if you see in the sand "i <3 BORA" spelled out in coral on the sandy bottom about 20 feet below water.
If you decide to walk it, you'll have to go PAST the View Point (do NOT go up the stairs), when you get to the last bungalow, go to the LEFT and around it. Walk the "path" avoiding branches etc. You'll pass some rock steps. It's a little past that, maybe another 90 seconds?). There is no definitive land marking, or sign. You just have to take your best guess, swim out there, and look for the dark patches or reef. You're going to look for the "I <3 BORA" sign that is about maybe 20 feet on the bottom, spelled out in coral.
(1) SAVE some BREAD. Take it to your room and feed the fish. Once you can get one or two, eventually one of the fish will leave and seemingly tell his buddies as eventually a nice school of fish arrives. Or, take it the dock and feed fish there. We have seen a small sting ray around the resort, and a baby shark (no more than 1 1/2 feet long). But this was early July. So depending on when you go, they might not be there anymore. Also, neither the shark, no sting ray like bread as they just pass over it.
(2) Bring WATER SHOES. These are very helpful. We bought extremely cheap ones from Target before we left and they safeguard your feet as you step over rocks and unfortunately, if you step on the coral, it'll guard against that.
(3) When possible, try to bring the WATER BOTTLES FROM YOUR ROOM. As EVERYWHERE charges for water (except if you do excursions where the crew generally supplies them complimentary).
(4) Invest in an UNDERWATER CAMERA, extra batteries, and extra memory cards.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Overlooking one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island is located in the heart of the exceptional Matira Bay, nestled on a private islet facing the main island of Bora Bora. A secret hideaway where you can enjoy a peaceful and romantic retreat, regenerate yourself and savour the exquisite feeling of being at home on your own private island. This boutique hotel is emphasizing privacy and intimacy to create a unique experience in the heart of native vegetation surrounded by turquoise water and beautiful coral gardens. ... more less
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