Swimming with Turtles at Le Meridien Bora Bora
The name Bora Bora evokes images of tranquil turquoise lagoons, transparent waters lapping beneath opulent huts and a conglomeration of lavish resorts. Tahiti’s most coveted island also hints at an abundant marine life and is unequivocally a choice of holiday to some discerning luxury travellers.
While a conservation holiday may not be the main purpose to visit the French Polynesian island, guests staying at Le Meridien Bora Bora have the opportunity to swim with endangered turtles in the resort’s private lagoon.
Le Meridien hosts a sanctuary for the endangered sea creatures after a guest had rescued and brought in an injured turtle to the resort. Under a program by the local Ministry and the Delegation of the Environment, green turtles or chelonia mydas, (the green colour refers to the colour of its fat) are cared for by a team which includes marine biologists, devoted to their nurture and treatment.
During a tour of the facility, we learn that many of the turtles are born in the sanctuary. They are raised there until they are three years old before they get tagged and released.
In Tahitian tradition, turtles (honu in Tahitian) are considered to be a culinary delicacy. Hunting them fetches a good sum of money. So in an effort to educate younger generations about the preservation of the species, local children are encouraged to adopt these turtles. They receive updates on their growth and progress and can visit the turtles on the resort. When the time comes for the turtles to be released into the wider ocean, the children are invited to attend a ceremony.
Anecdotal evidence told us that the approach is somewhat successful. Children have been known to refuse eating turtles served at Tahitian feasts and celebrations, often causing friction with their parents for breaking some of the long-kept traditions.
While we are able to swim with them, we are warned not to feed them or touch them as the acidity from our skin can be harmful to them.
The turtles are naturally curious and approached us in the lagoon on several occasions. They cannot stay submerged for long periods and they need to come up for air every so often. We watched them poke their heads out of the water and exhale audibly, making a cute sound not unlike humans.
Our stay at Le Meridien Bora Bora confirmed that we have found our place in paradise. Swimming in the interior lagoon surrounded by these beautiful and friendly sea creatures was an experience that had a lasting effect on us, an inexplicable bond between humans and turtles.
The photographs below were taken with a disposable underwater camera.
Le Méridien Bora Bora Turtles
PO Box 190 Vaitape
98730 BORA BORA
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