Bora Bora is known for many things: romantic overwater bungalows, iconic lush mountain Otemanu and a bright turquoise calm lagoon. If you are lucky enough to visit this island in the South Pacific, you’ll immediately feel protective of maintaining its unparalleled, unspoiled beauty. One luxury resort is working hard to make sure the island’s wildlife is protected, too.
The Bora Bora Turtle Center at Le Méridien Bora Bora launched in 2000 when a resort guest brought an injured turtle to the hotel for care; today, the center works in collaboration with the environmental department of the French Polynesian Government. Its mission: protect and rehabilitate endangered sea turtles, including Green and Hawksbill; educate locals and tourists; and engage in sustainable activities for the region’s ecosystem. Staff works to heal sick or injured turtles brought to the center, develop educational programs and engage in ongoing scientific research on the species’ population in French Polynesia.
“The Bora Bora Turtle Center aims to protect and promote marine turtles through conservation actions, sustainable ecological management and educational development,” says Teiva Cornu, manager, Bora Bora Turtle Center. “Through those actions, the center is able to rescue, care and release healthy marine turtles back in the ocean, participate in surveys to assess the health of nesting grounds and bring awareness to dangers that sea turtles/marine life are facing in our days.”
Turtles only remain in the center (often referred to as a sanctuary) long enough for them to recover from their injuries or sickness — think of it more like a hospital or infirmary.
The center is open every day and works on donations, sponsorships, a shop and activities — Le Méridien guests can interact here in several ways. Turtle feedings in the mornings are followed by Healing Hours in the afternoons. During the latter activity, guests assist with cleaning turtles using toothbrushes and water to scrub off the dirt, algae and bacteria that can cause shell rot, followed by rinsing them. For a more interactive experience, Live My Life is a full-day (9 a.m.–3:30 p.m.) immersion, including a two-course lunch to take part in the day-to-day activities of the Bora Bora Turtle Center team.
A Discovery Day allows guests not staying at Le Méridien to enjoy the ecological center and hotel facilities as well as have lunch at Te Ava restaurant; it also includes round-trip boat transfer from and to Vaitape.
The Turtle Center includes a museum with exhibits, posters, photos, a model of a giant turtle and a short documentary, as well as a touch pool with supervised interaction with shells, corals, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and sea stars. Outside is a lagoonarium, a protected inner lagoon affords the opportunity to swim and snorkel alongside recovering turtles as well as tropical fish and other marine life. The lagoonarium is a great chance for anyone a little skittish about snorkeling, as its shallow depth is perfect for smaller children or anyone who isn’t a strong swimmer.
No matter which experience you pick, a visit to the Turtle Center will make you feel like you are giving something back to an island from which you will take so much: memories, photos, time with loved ones and a strong desire to return in the future.
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