October 23, 2005. Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
Perceptive travelers and candid travel writers have often acknowledged the contradiction of Bora Bora. One of the most beautiful of Pacific lagoons so strewn with upscale resorts that the very lagoon for which they are the reason is unable to support them. To the point that paradise has become a sewer and a garbage dump.
Equally striking is the poverty upon which the resorts find their foundation. Walk 200 meters from Club Med and you'll find people living in tin shacks without walls. To be sure, they have stunning views. But they also have no running water.
I stayed at Club Med. At first I was alarmed by its barbed wire fences, and by the red wristband I was required to wear at all times. Eventually I came to appreciate being taken care of, at the final destination of my three weeks traveling alone. In the end it turned out to provide the absolute best experience of the trip: an all-day around-the-lagoon boat tour provided by a family-owned Bora Boran excursion company called Maraamu.
Several things contributed to the experience. First of course the raw beauty of the island. I ended-up with piles of those Polynesian postcard pictures everybody loves: this is a south seas island. Then also, the really astonishing sociability of the hyper-tame sting rays who seem to love people so much. But ultimately, the great warmth of the Bora Boran family who were our hosts.
I found the same thing to be true throughout this trip. The closer my contact with the Maohi people, the more powerfully happy the experience. Limited of course by the availability of English. For me there's a simple conclusion: learn Maohi.
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