Bora Bora lies 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Tahiti in the leeward Society Islands. The main island, home to 4,225 inhabitants, is in the center of a multicolored lagoon, surrounded by offshore "motu" islets inside a protective coral necklace. There is only one navigable pass, facing the principal village of Vaitape. 18 miles (29 km) of partially paved road circles the island, passing colorful villages, archeological sites, old army bunkers and cannons left over from World War II, when 5,000 American GIs made a "friendly invasion." Matira, the public beach, has white sand and warm, shallow water. Bora Bora's lagoon is world-famous for its beauty.
The lagoon of Bora Bora is constantly replenished with ocean water from the ocean swells that crash over the fringing reef. In the centre of the lagoon one side of the extinct volcano still stands as a tall mountain. The old crater has eroded and is now submerged. Within the lagoon the depths of water vary from a few inches to 120 feet. The diving inside it is pure delight.
In the centre of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, the highest point at 727 meters (2,385 ft). Among the numerous boulders found on Bora Bora is the Ofai Honu, the Turtle Stone petroglyph that Polynesian mythology claims was the father of this dramatic island. Possessed with godly power, Ofai Honu mated with the cliff of Mt. Pahia, called Hororai, and from their union a son was born who was named Firiamata O Vavau. This "founder" of Bora Bora gave his name to the island which was known,for many years as Vavau which means "first born."
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