Trip Report Part 2
Air Tahiti to Bora Bora (aka Paradise)
So after a few days and nights on the Island or Moorea it was time to head to the gem of our trip to French Polynesia, the well known island of Bora Bora. As I discussed in Part 1 of this report Air Tahiti was on strike during my time down there, so our flight schedule was altered a bit. Unfortunately due to this strike, instead of an easy flight between Moorea and Bora Bora in the early afternoon, I ended up having to fly out of PPT, much later than scheduled also, making what was supposed to be a 2-3 hour travel time into an almost full day event.
My flight would be from PPT to Bora Bora with a stop in Raiatea on Air Tahiti’s ATR-72 aircraft. The flight was scheduled to leave late in the afternoon, which I was surprised to see as I thought almost all the airports in the islands did not have runway lights.
On our way to the Moorea ferry terminal
On board the Ferry to Tahiti, it was another perfect day.
The ferry passes by PPT airport
The ferry we took on this trip was a larger one, were many large trucks and cars were off loaded along with people.
Due to the strike Air Tahiti had free buses taking passengers from Moorea ferry terminal to PPT airport as all flights out of Moorea were canceled. The bus ride was quick, and thankfully we were one of the last people to get the luggage on the bus, which meant we got to check-in and store are luggage at the airport quickly.
Strikers at the airport
Domestic Check-In at PPT
Due to the amount of time we had between our flight and our check in we decided to get a cab into the town centre. We were not sure where to go or what to see as were not prepared to see this part of Tahiti. We ended up going to a main market, which was nothing spectacular and then just walking around the town for a bit more time.
After that we got back in a taxi and headed back to PPT for our flight. PPT is a very small airport with few amenities, especially for domestic flights. It is also open air, with no A/C. There was security for the domestic flight out of PPT, it was fairly quick though.
And so we waited, and our flight was then delayed another 45 minutes, which the ticket agents handed out complimentary vouchers for a free drink at the one concession stand.
The domestic boarding area
Here is another flight boarding before our flight
As boarding was imminent my wife and I got up and waited by the door to have a good choice of seats on the full flight. Seating is first come first serve with no priority boarding process.
There was our ride to Bora Bora an ATR-72 aircraft with the Tahitian setting sun behind it.
As I was excited to get to fly on this exotic airplane my wife was not as much, as she is not a great flyer, this is one of the smaller planes she has ever been on.
Always enjoy boarding via the tarmac
The window on the plane was a bit dirty, but that was not really that important given the night flight. Spotted a newer paint scheme ATR along with the airlines Twin Otter
The safety card
Legroom and seat comfort was pretty good for a small regional aircraft. The interior was clean, modern, and not worn out at all. As for service, well there was none. Typically there is a light drink service, however, due to the strike there was no service at all. Other than safety checks the flight attendants remained seated the entire flight.
The ATR engine roared up and we were quickly off into the sunset.
After a quick left turn from PPT you can see the PPT airport
And there is the island of Moorea about to get its last daylight for the day.
I am not sure what altitude the 45min flight was cruising at, I would have guessed around 9 to 11 thousand feet. Here we are chasing the sun, but losing the race.
We made our approach in Raitea airport in almost darkness, it was a right downwind with a short turn to base and final. The ATR braked heavily on landing. The airport is surrounded by water on three sides, and while it has runway lights, they are nothing like you see at major airports.
Here is the best shot I could get of the terminal at night
Now almost everyone on this plane got off, my wife, I and two other people were the only ones continuing to Bora Bora. But, there was another 40-45 passengers who climbed onboard for the 10 minute flight to Bora Bora. I was surprised to see so many people taking this flight.
My biggest complaint about Air Tahiti would have been about this flight. The flight attendants left all the interior cabin lights on full blast during the entire flight. It was slightly cloudy and there was some turbulence on this short, by fairly challenging flight. It was fairly disorientating not being able to see anything outside. Again the approach was a right downwind with a short base and turn for final.
And we made it. Much later than we thought, but it was an exciting journey. A few rare shots of Bora Bora airport at night:
The arrival area of the airport where each hotel has its own boat service to the beachside resorts:
This would be our boat to the Hilton. Only one other passenger was with us. The ATR that took us to Bora Bora could be spotted taking back off to PPT while we were in the waters on the way to the hotel. It was pitch black on a ride over which made for an amazing night sky. I certainly had never been on a boat so small in such darkness though.
We spent the next four days in absolute paradise. The island of Bora Bora is better than what you see in the movies or online. The green, with the color of the water, it was really something. None of the pictures I took had any editing done to them. Most days were spent enjoying the beach, our overwater bungalow and having surprisingly very good meals on the main island. The highlight was certainly going snorkeling with Black Tip Reef Sharks. Never thought I would do something like that before.
Breakfast with a nice view
While there really no need for a pool on these islands all the resorts have them, and do a great job with them.
The Hilton Hotel in Bora Bora is located on its own island. Here is the view from the top of the hill looking down at the resort.
The views from the room day and night were spectacular. They made the room so that the bed faces the massive sliding glass window that can be opened across almost the entire bungalow.
Like I said, nothing was edited, this is how it looks. We really enjoyed the 4-hour snorkeling tour around the island and reef.
Unfortunately our time in Bora Bora had to come to an end at some point, and it was time to head back and take a daylight non-stop flight to PTP. We would spend the day in Tahiti as our flight back to LAX did not depart until 7:35am the next day.
The Bora Bora airport is located on its own island and the only way to get there is by boat. There are shuttles from each major hotel along with a free ferry ran by Air Tahiti to the main dock in town. Our boat to the airport was a bit bigger and nicer than the one that brought us in. The boat was pretty full with checked out guest.
Here is the Hilton’s famous two story Over Water Bungalow
The boat ride over was fantastic, and scenic as the whole entire island is. When we were pulling up to the airport so were all the other resort boats.
This is certainly not the typical arrival/departure pick up area
Here is the small Bora Bora Terminal. It has two “gates” along with a small concession stand, small shop. No security for flights departing this airport. My wife asked me when we sat down by the gate how I knew this was our gate, the obvious answer was, there are no other gates.
Here is the only shop in the airport, where we actually ended up buying a few things to get rid of some of our XPFs
We could see our flight arrive, and knowing which way landing was done made be sure I could find a seat on the right hand side of the airplane for some great pictures. The flight was ready to board on-time, and it was a great day to go flying.
This might be one of my favorite shots I have taken.
The Bora Bora control tower, surprised to see the airport even has one.
We zoomed down the runway, the engines were extremely loud for about 60 seconds. Here is the view from takeoff.
Takeoff video can be found here: https://youtu.be/a26e7z4IBnM
Sorry for the vertical video.
There were some clouds in the sky, but low lying and broken. It was great weather up at 10,000 feet or so. Most of the flight there are not many islands to see, pretty much just ocean, which is not what you are used to seeing when flying on a regional airplane. Air Tahiti actually has ETOPS certification on some of the ATRs and fly them to the Cook Islands. While I enjoyed my flight I am not sure how I would enjoy 3 hours on one of these ATR aircraft.
Given the quick 50minute flight time it was easy to stay entertained with just the window and some music.
We then started are descent passing by the Island or Moorea.
The busy island of Tahiti were the majority of the residents of the country live.
A fairly smooth landing and we took a quick taxi to the domestic gates. Here you can see Air Tahiti maintenance hangar.
We were in the front of the airplane, so last to get off
One of Air Tahiti’s ATR-42 with Air Tahiti Nui A430-300 in the background at the international gates.
Bags coming off, and it’s a quick ride for the bags to the simple baggage claim area.
Looking across the runway another Air Tahiti Nui A430 is seen resting.
Here is the baggage claim, its one small conveyor belt, did not take much time to get our bag and off we went to our next hotel, the Intercontinental Tahiti.
A fairly empty PTP this afternoon. Most activity occurs when the international flights depart or leave, which happens either early in the morning or late at night. It’s a quite place in the afternoon.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the Intercontinental Hotel, which is very close to PTP. It was great place to spend the day before an early morning departure. The grounds are fantastic, and the pool was great. It was nice to still be able to spend a few more moments in this tropical paradise on our last day.
The view from the room would have been great for any other trip, but on this trip it was by far the “worst” view we had.
In all our trip on Air Tahiti was enjoyable. While the strike did make us lose half of a day in Bora Bora, at that point I was happy to get to Bora Bora given the reports earlier that week of people not making it to the other islands. The Air Tahiti ATRs were comfortable for the trips, the flying was interesting, and the resorts were amazing. I would certainly recommend a trip to French Polynesia for anyone. It truly is paradise.
Part 3 the final part of my report will focus on the daylight flight back to LAX PPT-LAX in AF 772 in Y and a quick LAX-MIA run to end the trip on a refurbished AA 763 in J class. Part three is here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1357137
"It was just four of us on the flight deck, trying to do our job" (Captain Al Haynes)