Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tahiti Trip May 2011 - Four Seasons Bora Bora

Continuing my series of previously unpublished posts from our Tahiti trip in 2011, this time Bora Bora!  (Note: in 2014 we returned to this resort, and a few things had changed, but my observations are still pretty much the way things are there today...)

Welcome back to 2011:

After 4 beautiful days at Vahine Island, we were sad to say goodbye, but were excited to move on to the Four Seasons for 5 nights!

It's only a 10 minute flight to Bora Bora from Taha'a. The Four Seasons has a real red carpet welcome (as you'd expect). We were greeted by a very friendly employee who oversaw our luggage and took us to a beautiful yacht. White leather seats and polished wood paneling. The boat ride lasted around 30 minutes, we were given cold bottled water and towels, and completely processed our check-in, right there on the white leather. Convenient!
view from bungalow deck

Our Four Seasons home was one of the most beautiful overwater bungalow we have ever seen, and definitely the biggest. Picture a separate living area with armchairs and a couch, a curiously segmented bathroom spanning the depth of the bungalow, and a bedroom with what Carrie swears was the most comfortable bed ever! The best part of the bungalow, though, was the deck. Stretching from one end of the bungalow to the other, it had enough room for two seating areas (one centered around a dining table, and the other a pair of lounge chairs), and an incredible view of the mountain). Three sets of sliding glass doors, including one set above the giant bathtub. It felt like you were taking a bath in the great outdoors, which, well, you kind of WERE. It was heaven!

tropical drink sampler at the Sunset Bar
In keeping with the accommodations, the rest of the Four Seasons is huge. We stayed in the 200s, an arm of bungalow docks which was closer to the restaurants and other guest areas. If you stay in the 300s or 400s, the walk is pretty long to the main areas (but this being the Four Seasons, there's a small army of golf carts at the ready to ferry your soft tourist butt around!). We ate at all three of the resort's restaurants, the gourmet one for dinner one night, the Sunset Bar for sushi one night (plus drinks at sunset, natch), and the main restaurant, for breakfast and lunch. We also ate room service breakfast and lunch a couple of times. None of the meals at the resort, sadly, were that memorable, considering the real estate given over to food! The best meal was probably the gourmet restaurant, where everything was good, but so expensive you really had to start thinking about value. I know, it's the Four Seasons. Whaddayagonnado.

We also had three dinners off the island, Bloody Mary's (probably our favorite restaurant on Bora Bora), Villa Mahana (very good food in a tranquil Italian-ish courtyard, though dazzlingly expensive), and Lagoon restaurant at the St. Regis (also very good, but also overpriced, we thought).
"menu" at Bloody Mary's

At Bloody Mary's we started with a tuna sashimi and a pair of excellent egg rolls, then for entrees, I selected an albacore in a mesquite sauce and mahi mahi with a glaze, and Steve got a simply grilled parrot fish. All of this was delicious, but the albacore with mesquite sauce was something special. Maybe it's the mesquite, but the meaty flavor just explodes in your mouth. Very unusual for Tahitian fare, which tends to be so much more restrained and French! We ended it with a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. The meal, as well as the funky decor, the "menu" (the smorgasbord of raw fish that you point at to order when you walk in), and the ability to feel the sand between your toes while eating, made this one of the most memorable meals of the trip.

Our second favorite on Bora Bora was Villa Mahana. The restaurant is simply lovely. We sat in a beautiful courtyard of what looked like a candlelit Italian villa. We did the epicurean prix-fixe menu, which consisted of a shrimp salad with caviar (just ok), foie gras that had an amazing flavor, but which was a little undercooked, a lobster risotto which was amazingly creamy, and a huge filet with parmesan gnocchi (which was also good, but by then I was so full I couldn't really enjoy it). We ended our meal with one of the best desserts on the trip, another warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. With our meal we enjoyed our only Italian wine of the trip, a Villa Borghetti 2005 Amarone, which was excellent, especially with the last two courses. The two epicurean tasting meals were 250 euro, so with wine and bottled water it was around 350 euro, or a little over $500 US. While this is not the most expensive meal we've ever had, its up there, and usually when we spend that much for dinner, we love the meal itself a lot more. But I've been dying to try this place for forever, so I'm glad I was able to come here and have the experience. If I went to Bora Bora again (which I don't know if I will, it's a little too touristy for me), we'd go back to Villa Mahana and order off the a la carte menu.
table with a view!

We only did one daytime excursion off the island, a private motu picnic/ snorkeling excursion with Keishi Tours, led by a Tahitian skipper/chef named Pierrot. Pierrot picked us up in his beautiful outrigger. We circled about half way around the island and stopped at a spot out at the edge of the lagoon near the breaking waves of the reef. Our old friends, the black-tipped reef sharks, showed almost immediately, even before Pierrot began tossing them their lunch (of raw mahi-mahi)! Pierrot petted them for a while, and then we got in the water with them and the biggest stingrays I have ever seen. The rays came up to us right away (they are always so affectionate, like cats!) along with dozens of bright yellow butterfly fish. Next stop, the coral garden near the Sofitel. The water was very choppy, the winds were high out there, so although the snorkeling was good, it's just not as fun when you're getting tossed around and disoriented in the water! After we got back in, Pierrot took us to a deserted motu with the absolute calmest water we had seen on the trip so far, and with a monumental view of the mountain. We went for a walk along the empty beach, and when we got back to the boat, Pierrot had set up a table with white tablecloth and chairs in the water. Complete with flowers, an ice bucket with champagne, and a large green umbrella providing us just the perfect amount of shade. After we sat down, the great feast began! First course was a salad of lettuce, tomatoes and ham, and the best poisson cru of the entire trip, made right there by Pierrot. While we ate that, Pierrot put the finishing touches on our second course of grilled lobster tail, shrimp kabob and baked potato, all glazed with his delicious homemade bbq sauce. A third course of steak and mahi-mahi followed shortly thereafter, and we finished with fresh pineapple and watermelon slices. A lunch fit for a king, in the water on the beach! Near the end of the meal, Pierrot provided us with some musical entertainment, singing a few Tahitian songs while playing the ukelele. We finished the entire bottle of champagne, then Pierrot talked my husband into a Hinano (when you're asked three times and your host cracks one open, you join him). It was the most perfect day of our trip, and probably the best food! It was expensive, but to us, so worth it.

On our last full day in Bora Bora, we did a couples massage and coconut bath in the Kahaia Suite, which was beautiful and relaxing, and then joined a group of others at the internal lagoon for a tour with the resort's own marine biologist. I would definitely recommend showing up for this complimentary tour. The marine biologist, Oliver, speaks perfect English, and the tour is very informative and entertaining. We'd swum in the lagoon, but never knew there was a squid in there, for example. It helps to have a tour guide!

All in all, we liked our time on Bora Bora, and I'm glad we finally made time to go there. The colors of the lagoon are amazing, and the mountain is beautiful. But, having seen two resorts, the St. Regis and Four Seasons, the resorts do not feel Polynesian at all, and I felt like I could be in Hawaii (if not Los Angeles!). However, the Four Seasons' service was on par with the best of the places we have stayed. For example, we got back from breakfast on our last day, and I noticed that my bathing suit top that I had put on the deck railing to dry had blown away. I called the front desk to ask if anyone found it in the lagoon. They said they would check and get back to me. We went to the front desk about half an hour later to get a copy of our bill before check out, and I asked again about the suit, figuring it was a lost cause. The receptionist said she would call someone and check. Well, we were walking on the dock back to our bungalow and two Four Seasons employees on jet skis came riding up to us from below, and I saw one of them had my swimsuit top! He gestured to meet him on our deck, so we raced inside our bungalow and ran down to the lower deck so he could hand me back my top. He said they found it pretty far from the resort, floating away. Coincidence, sure, but a personal jet ski lost-and-found delivery service? Priceless….

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