Bora Bora, The Society Islands, French Polynesia
Oct 14, 2013Limited, anyone with the link
Photo: A swift afternoon sail to Bora Bora
Photo: The Hilton Bora Bora
Photo: The main town of Vaitape with its dramatic backdrop
Photo: A nice day for a pedal around the island
Photo: A cute idea!
Photo: The Bora Bora Pearl Company is the only retailer here that cultures its own product.  All other shops bring their pearls in from other parts of French Polynesia.
Photo: You can even dive for your own!
Photo: The pearls are extracted from these mature oysters, strung together and held up by buoys.
Photo: The beginning of the oyster's life.  In their larval stage, they are gathered into the long protective socks shown in the second photo.  Once more mature, they are moved to the lantern baskets, then finally strung on the rosaries one they're ready to be grafted.
Photo: Grafting is when they put a nucleus inside the oyster.  Because it is an irritant, the oyster creates a protective coating over it, which becomes the pearl.  The nucleus is very special, as it is crafted specifically from the shells of Mississipi River mussels.  It has been proven to work the best.
Photo: Various sizes correspond to the age/size of the oyster.
Photo: This chart shows the steps taken in culturing the pearls (it sharpens up when you zoom in).
Photo: The entire life cycle.  At three years of age, they're grafted for the first time.  2-3 years later, the first pearl is removed and replaced by another nucleus.  There will be three harvests before the oyster reaches reproductive maturity.
Photo: The charming Stephan was our guide.
Photo: The various shapes, sizes, quality and colours of the pearls.  You can see that only 10% emerge as A-grade, making them quite valuable.  Factors such as shape, blemishes and the reflective quality of the surface all determine the grade of the pearl.
Photo: The thickness of the coating at 3, 9, 18 and 30 months.  Here at the Bora Bora Pearl Company, the nucleus is left in the oyster no less than 30 months.  Thinner coatings over the nucleus can be worn away just by the acidity of your sweat as it rests against your skin!
Photo: Stephan puts the final touches on a pearl that was just purchased.
Photo: Beautiful, and very expensive!
Photo: Bora Bora's public beach
Photo: The backside of the island.  We were surprised by how low-key the whole island is.  We couldn't even find lunch outside the main areas!
Photo: The Four Seasons hotel.  Guests are shuttled from the main island in these small fastboats.