Bora Bora is the quintessential, once in a lifetime, holiday and honeymoon destination. Huts over crystal blue waters the likes of which you have never seen, lush vegetation and warm temperatures are synonymous with this island paradise. What you may not know is that the focal point to the island is the majestic, towering Mount Otemanu, an extinct volcano. Let’s dive in a tell you some brief details about it.
Mount Otemanu stands all powerful looking down on Bora Bora from a height of 2,385 feet (727 m) and forms the centre point of the Island. It rises to a sharp jagged precipice. No matter where you are on the island you will see Mount Otemanu and it’s smaller, twin-peaked sister, Mount Pahia (2,159 feet (658 m). They are so beautiful and you will see the colour change throughout the day from sunrise to sunset, through sunshine and rain. Many hotels and resorts charge premium rates to have a view of Mount Otemanu.
Polynesian settlers and Mount Otemanu
Bora Bora is an island which was first inhabited by Polynesian settlers as far back as the 4th century. As such there are areas of the mountain which are considered sacred and contain the remains of ancient Polynesian Kings. From the southern side of the island it’s possible to see a large circular stone wall structure of temple ruins which is said to house an ancient king’s spirit. For locals nowadays it still retains it’s status as a sacred place.
WWII and its lasting affect on Bora Bora and Mount Otemanu
During World War II, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, The United States entered the war and chose Bora Bora island as a refueling base. Several massive cannons can be found around the island but it was Mount Otemanu that provided a high strategic vantage point to place some rather large cannons and radar equipment. They can still be found there today.
Best way to see Mount Otemanu
There are a few ways to see Mount Otemanu during your stay on Bora Bora. Some tourists want to get some activity while on their vacation and so they’ll hike to perform the partial summit of the mountain. Others want a more laid back trip and so you can take an afternoon catamaran excursion around the lagoon and the last option would be a helicopter trip. Whatever your desire, we’ll run through some options below.
It is possible to hike up some of Mount Otemanu as well as the full summit of Mount Pahia if you decide to venture outside your little vacation love shack! Be sure you have a lot of energy as the hot, humid temperatures can sap your reserves!! 😉
It is generally advisable to complete the hike with the aid of a guide as the tracks are notoriously twisty and you will require some help climbing ropes on occasion. The top of Mount Otemanu is generally not attainable as it is very unstable. The volcanic rocks crumble so easily that rope clamp points cannot be attached.
The benefits to hiring a guide are great as a local guide can fill you in more on the Polynesian history as well as WWII installations on Mount Otemanu. While French is the language of the island most locals involved in tourism will speak English too. To get there, you can hire a scooter or a car to get there fast or hire a bike if you wish but be aware that it is quite hilly.
Ask at your accommodation for more information on the tour guides who will complete the hike with you. Alternatively most of tourist services, including the Bora Bora Visitors Bureau, are located in the town of Vaitape.
Make sure to pack, lots of water, suncream, a sunhat and wear good sandals or trail shoes as the volcanic rock is sharp and hurts something ferocious.
Catamaran Sailing excursion
So, hiking isn’t for you. I don’t blame you! You travelled for hours to get to Bora Bora so the best and most romantic way to relax and take in the breathtaking Mount Otemanu and blue lagoon is by taking a trip by boat or catamaran. We highly recommend the trip on the ‘Vitamin Sea’ catamaran.
The crew of the Vitamin Sea offer a “half-day catamaran sailing, snorkelling and floating ‘bar’ experience”. To call it a bar is a bit of a stretch but we’ll allow them this stretch. Watch the video above and get the feel for the experience.
Onboard explore the beautiful islands, coastline, and waters of Bora Bora on this fun half day . You can snorkel in the clear lagoon, an experience to die for. If a loved ones eyes were as blue as these waters you could truely spend an eternity looking into their depths immersed in the warmth.
When snorkelling prepare to see all kinds of colourful and amazing marine life, including stingrays and eagle rays and even some reef sharks of the black tip variety. There’s an expression on the island that “sharks outnumber the people of French Polynesia”. Nothing to be afraid of as reefies have no interest in us human types.
What we would give to be relaxing once again on the catamaran nets listening to Air’s ‘Moon Safari’ album or St. Germain’s ‘Tourist’ while soaking in the sun under the ever watchful eye of the majestic Mount Otemanu.
You can book the trip in advance here
Helicopter (15 minute flight)
To see the island and Otemanu in all it’s epic glory you should take a helicopter ride. Research online shows that the flight time is approximately 15 minutes long and costs about $250 per person.
While we’d love to see the island from this aspect for Spock it’s too short a tour.
If you’ve been to Bora Bora and taken the tour we’d love to see your snaps of the island the Mount Otemanu.
What does Otemanu mean?
So it’s the name of the mountain but what does it mean?
Otemanu, means ‘bird’, or, ‘the sea bird’, according to Teuira Henry, author of “Ancient Tahiti”. One can imagine it is so called as it looks down from such a height on the island and blue lagoon around it like the Albatross, king of the sea birds.
Accomodation Mount Otemanu
Our advice would be not to stay in the foothills of the mountain. There is accommodation and certainly at a cheaper price. To be perfectly honest, most accommodation you find in Bora Bora will have some aspect of the Mountain. Below we have provided some accommodation options which take the utmost advantage of the wonderful Mount Otemanu
Related reading: Read our indepth article regarding The Maldives Vs Bora Bora for vacations or your dream honeymoon