Known for having one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, Bora Bora’s waters are a myriad of greens and blues ranging from turquoise to azure to cerulean. The lagoon, which is protected by a barrier reef, surrounds the island and is lined by motus or small islands on the outer edge.
Multiple tour operators offer days trips and lagoon excursions, which include snorkeling, and shark and ray feedings. We signed up for our day excursion at the hotel thinking it would be a good way to see the lagoon and didn’t quite get the nuances of the day’s events – specifically that we would be in the water at the same time as the shark feeding.
Our day swimming with sharks and rays
As we set off through the turquoise waters to the soft sounds of our guide strumming his ukulele, a rainbow of marine life darted about underneath our boat. The depth of visibility in the lagoon from the boat was amazing. The morning ride on the little boat was quiet and peaceful and soon we pulled up to our first stop for the day.
First stop – swimming with sharks
We (okay, I) donned snorkeling gear and jumped in the waist-deep water as our guides stretched a rope between two buoys in the water. They told us to stay on the boat side of the rope and began tossing chum (dead fish parts) on the other side of the rope to attract the sharks, who quickly responded.
Greg stayed in the boat, photographing the adventure and drinking a beer. He later said the sharks were everywhere during the feeding frenzy – circling us, behind us – they didn’t seem to know the part about the staying on their side of the rope.
Now, afterwards I must admit, it was probably a questionable thing to do. Apparently, the sharks were blacktip reef sharks, which are generally not considered to be a a huge threat, but have been known to attack/bite humans on occasion. Feeding them is common in Bora Bora and the guides have done this for years.
However, according to experts, feeding sharks teaches them to associate food with humans, which is not good, and of course, even if not attacked, someone could accidentally be bitten during the feeding event. Further researching the activity after returning, I discovered that shark feeding has been legally banned in French Polynesia, but apparently it is still quite prevalent with the tour operators.
Next stop – swimming with stingrays
After the shark adventure, we all climbed back in the boat and we headed for our next spot for swimming with stingrays.
As we pulled up to the shallow waters, the stingrays began to swim toward us, knowing they would soon be fed. Again, we got out of the boat in waist deep water as more and more stingrays swam around our ankles. I was afraid to take a step for fear of stepping on one of the grand creatures. They would swim up, nudging us playfully. The guides lifted a couple of the stingrays out of the water so we could pet them, feed them and take photos.
Third stop – More snorkeling
The boat made one more stop in deeper water where lemon sharks were swimming. At this point, the majority of the boat stayed on board and enjoyed a cold beer while we watched the few snorkeling splash about in the water. As we talked with the female half of another couple on the excursion, the spouse clamored back into the boat, explaining he’d stuck his hand in a hole and a huge eel had darted out after him. He joined us for beer as well at that point.
What an adventure! The swimming with and feeding sharks & rays excursions are the most popular activity in Bora Bora, so book early if you go.