You can't leave Bora Bora without indulging in at least one snorkeling experience in the beautiful Bora Bora lagoon. According to me and all members of the Facebook group, this is a must-do. If there's only one activity to do there, this is it!
There are many providers for snorkeling tours in Bora Bora, but they are not all equal.
This one will take you off the beaten path: If you want to swim with sharks (without feeding them), visit a wonderful, quiet coral garden, and learn more about Polynesian culture, then this tour might be the one for you.
I tried the Cultural Lagoon Tour in Bora Bora, and here is my experience.
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Pick up and boat features
Wherever the resort you are staying at, Narii will pick you up for free in the morning. You can book a private or shared tour, but note that the maximum number of people on a shared tour is 12.
The boat is very comfortable and has several seating options to ensure that you can enjoy your ride in the best possible way. You can choose to sit inside, lay down on the front of the boat to feel the wind in your hair, or relax in the net on the side of the boat. If you do so, it's important to remember to wear a rash guard or plenty of sunscreen due to the strong sun and water reflection.
I recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear to enjoy the beautiful Bora Bora waters during your stay.
However, if you do not have any, do not worry, as gear is available on the boat. Narii will also provide towels and soft drinks so all you need to do is relax and enjoy the adventure.
First part of the day : Snorkeling in Bora Bora
Like many other snorkeling tours in Bora Bora, this tour consists of three snorkeling stops (as is typical in Bora Bora), plus additional stops if you're lucky and if Narii spots animals to snorkel with.
And we got lucky that day! 🍀 A few minutes after we left Narii spotted a huge manta ray not too far from the Conrad and offered to swim with it. Manta rays are one of my favorite animals to be seen in Bora Bora. They are majestic, huge, and look like big birds underwater so it's no wonder that I was thrilled to see it.
Although the water was not crystal clear that day (which is quite common in manta spots in Bora Bora) we were able to swim with the ray for about 20 minutes before it swam away.
It's important to remember that if you happen to snorkel with a manta ray during your stay in Bora Bora, please do not dive to get closer to it. This may scare it. Manta rays, despite their impressive size, are totally harmless and can be easily frightened.
Insider tip : It is crucial to keep in mind (to avoid any frustration) that the lagoon is not a zoo. Therefore, there's no guarantee that you'll actually see any animals in Bora Bora during a tour, including manta rays, eagle rays, dolphins, turtles, whales (when it's the season), etc.
However, Narii knows the lagoon like the back of his hand and the spots where you have high chances see these amazing animals, such as the cleaning station where Manta Rays can get rid of bacteria on their backs. He will do his best to ensure that you have the opportunity to see them but sometimes it's all about being at the right place at the right time.
Next, we headed to the next snorkeling spot to see the sharks and stingrays.
Black tip sharks and stingrays
Before jumping in the water, Narii explained a few things about shark feeding that everyone visiting Bora Bora should be aware of.
Shark feeding is officially forbidden by the government in French Polynesia, but some tour providers still do it anyway. It's easy to understand why providers do this - they must feed the animals to keep them close, even though feeding is strictly prohibited in the country. This is the only way to ensure that travelers will see them during the tour.
Now, while it is exciting to see the sharks and rays up close, feeding them permanently alters their behavior and harms the lagoon's ecosystem.
But no worries, not all tour providers in Bora Bora feed the animals. Bora Bora Cultural Tour is a prime example of this. So if you're conscious about the environment, I suggest going with a provider that doesn't feed the animals.
But even if Narii does not feed the black tip sharks and stingrays, you will still see them. However, they will not come super close to you; they will just pass by.
We had plenty of time to explore the area, and there was no rush like we might have felt with other tour providers.
Insider Tip : Wondering how to achieve that amazing over-under effect on your pictures? The secret is to use a GoPro camera with a dome accessory.
Black tip & lemon sharks
Then it's time to head to the next spot. This one is in the open ocean, so you have to pass the reef. The water is about 15 meters deep, and it's so clear that you can see the beautiful corals underneath... as well as the dozens of sharks that will be swimming around you.
But hey, if you're not too keen on deep water, you can always ask for a life jacket. Narii will also drop some floats so you can cling onto them.
The shark species you'll come across are blacktip sharks, and some days you might even spot a few big lemon sharks swimming peacefully on the ocean floor. But we didn't have luck that day; no lemon sharks. Like I said earlier... the lagoon is not a zoo.
So, there's a bunch of coral gardens around Bora Bora, but the one with the "I love Bora Bora" sign behind the Sofitel Private Island (closed) is the most famous.
But, let me tell you, that place gets packed in the mornings.
Instead, Narii took us to this amazing secret coral garden. There were only two boats there this morning, so you basically have the whole place to yourself.
The coral looks pretty healthy, and if you keep your eyes peeled, you'll see all sorts of tropical fish, shells, and more.
However, since this coral garden is close to the reef, beware of the current. You won't feel it while snorkeling, but it can take you pretty far from the boat pretty fast. Just remember to lift your head up from time to time to check.
Good to know : In most places in the coral garden, you'll be able to stand up. That's a plus if you're not super comfortable in the water. But, make sure you never step on the corals with your fins, because you'll do some serious damage.
Lunch on the motu
After this stop, it's time to head to the motu for lunch.
Let me tell you, I've been to a bunch of motus, but this one is easily one of the best. The place is so well-maintained, it blew my mind when I first got there. You'll get a stunning view of the lagoon and the mountain on one side, and on the other, the reef side, which is a bit more wild and windy. You gotta check it out after lunch, seriously.
Speaking of lunch, it is served buffet-style and set up on a pretty table in a shaded area. I've done countless days like this, and I have to say that this is hands down the best one I've ever had. The food is all freshly prepared and you can tell that a ton of care and attention went into each and every dish.
You'll get to taste real Polynesian dishes, many of which are made with locally-grown produce from their garden. You'll find some raw fish salad, grilled fish and chicken, and local desserts.
The best part of the meal is this one particular dish that I cannot stop raving about. It is called "Tamago" - if I remember well and it is so good that the cook wouldn't even give me the recipe! 😜 I begged for a second serving, and it was just as good as the first. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this one. In fact, I'd say it's worth the trip just for this dish alone.
Polynesian culture workshop
After the lunch you’ll get some time to relax before starting the cultural workshop. You can go swimming, head to the reef side or nap in one of the lounge chair in the shadow.
We were then divided into two groups for cultural activities. If you choose a shared tour, Narii usually offers two activities that may vary depending on the day. If you choose a private tour, you can request activities in advance and choose from activities such as Vaa initiation, shell bracelet making, palm braiding, and flower crown making.
This is the only full-day snorkeling tour in Bora Bora that I've seen that variety of workshop / activities after lunch. The goal is to introduce travelers to the ancestral Polynesian gestures.
So, we started off with the Va'a initiation, which is basically the national sport in French Polynesia. And let me tell you, everyone goes wild when it's Hawaikinui time.
Narii broke down the basics of Va'a for us. He explained the different types of Va’a, the roles of each paddler, and how to handle your paddle like a pro in the water.
It was super informative, but then it was time to put it all into practice! We split up into two groups and had a little race out on the lagoon with the most amazing views. And boy, was it a blast!
Shell bracelet making
After the Va’a, we chilled out a bit and made some shell bracelets. Our host explained the Polynesian tradition of giving flower crowns to newcomers and shell leis to those leaving the islands. We had a ton of shells to pick from, but I went for something super simple. Free and meaningful souvenirs to take back with you! 😊
Next, we moved on to the final workshop: palm braiding. Our local expert in the art of palm braiding, was incredibly patient and knowledgeable. She started by showing me the basics and guiding my hands as I practiced the different techniques. Then she helped me braid a really cool headpiece that I could rock as a souvenir of my experience. I left the workshop feeling inspired and grateful for the experience.
Bora Bora Cultural Lagoon Tour commitment to sustainability
Another thing I really liked about Bora Bora Cultural Tour is their commitment to sustainability.
Since 2020, Bora Bora Cultural Lagoon Tour has been committed to the labeling process. The company is reducing its environmental footprint by implementing eco-responsible actions internally. They won the Gold Label Challenge for Sustainable Fenua in 2022.
If you are conscious about the environment, this is your go-to snorkeling tour in Bora Bora!
Bora Bora Cultural Tour : Pros & Cons
Here is a summary of the things to keep in mind if you are thinking about booking this snorkeling tour during your stay in Bora Bora.
👍🏼 The Pros
- Labeled activity
- Do not participate in shark feeding.
- Very nice and comfortable boat with different spaces to sit
- Cultural activities / workshops that are offered nowhere else
- Beautiful, well-maintained motu
- Best lunch I've had on activities of this type
- Visit a peaceful, healthy coral garden
- Chill tour, never felt rushed
- Narii is a great guide with extensive knowledge and is very caring.
👎🏼 The cons
- Honestly, can’t find any…
In conclusion, if you are looking for a unique, sustainable & memorable experience in Bora Bora, I highly recommend booking your snorkeling tour with them!
🛍️ Essential items to bring to your snorkeling tour in Bora Bora
- Water resistant sunscreen : Alba Botanica Sunscreen for Face and Body SPF 50
- Action waterproof camera : GoPro Hero11 Black + Floating handle
- GoPro Dome (for unique over/under pictures) : Dome for GoPro 11 / 10 / 9
- Travel towel : Compact Quick Dry Microfiber Towel
- Rashguard : Roxy Women's Long Sleeve UPF 50 Rashguard
- Water shoes : VIFUUR Water Sports Unisex Shoes Black
- Dry bag : Amazon Waterproof Dry Bag + Phone Pouch
Book your Cultural Snorkeling tour in Bora Bora
To book your tour you can use the links below or get in touch via the form below (especially if you want a private, custom tour )!