Travel Blog

DJI Air Drone Review – Yes It Is Stunning

The DJI Air is one of the best user friendly drones available. I already have the huge DJI Inspire (and have crashed it several times too), but the compact Air represents a quantum leap for aerial photography for travel bloggers.

I recently purchased a DJI Air and took it with me to Tahiti and Bora Bora.

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DJI Air

This is my first aerial video, and only second flight with the drone.

The aerial shots were really easy to take, but launching and retrieving the drone from a moving electric boat were quite the challenge. I was all prepared to lose the drone to the ocean, but really wanted the still and videos which required a transfer after landing.

My shots were done at 1080, since the 4k video requires you physically remove the memory card, and put into a reader to transfer to something useful (like my iPhone). The 1080 setting allowed me to do that via Wifi.

Here are some more videos of our villa at the Conrad Hilton and the electric boat:

 

I used my iPhone with controller, and used the iPhone screen to see where the drone was and its view of the world. The drone is so small, that on a sunny lagoon in Bora Bora, it’s hard to see where it is, unless you rely on the screen as a first-person pilot view. Once you get used to that, it’s a breeze to use. You might want to find some shade, since viewing the iPhone screen in full Bora Bora sunlight is not easy to do.

The sensors are fantastic. Almost too good. When landing, the smart drone didn’t want to get near the boat (within about 3 feet of an object it will stop and hover, or move in the opposite direction if the object is moving – as was the case with our boat), and I just ended up grabbing it by hand to land it. The propellers stop immediately upon a grab, or the propellers are forced to stop, and they were undamaged by my less-than-eloquent hand-grab landing.

I highly suggest reviewing the videos on YouTube to familiarize yourself with camera settings, especially when trying to capture outdoor scenes. Because it was sunny, I used the manual mode for outdoors (but would do automatic exposure for inside) and the cinematic mode for the videos. The results were outstanding.

The entire drone package is very compact, and easy to travel with in a carry-on. DJI has really outdone themselves on this drone, and its capabilities.

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Travel Drone Tips:

Image Save to Card: Set the image save to the MicroSD card for the maximum storage capability.

Firmware Upgrade: Set up the drone the night before you want to do a photo flight, while you have Wifi. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself trying to update your drone using data roaming (which can be expensive abroad, and slow).

Battery Life: While the battery life is around 20-22 minutes, your actual flight time may be less since you’ll fly to your scene, take photos and videos, then fly back. I recommend buying at least two extra batteries. If you pre-plan the desired shots, the time won’t be a limitation. This is really important when doing over-water flights, where your landing options are very limited.

Extra Props: I never had to use the extra propeller set, but was glad to have them.

Range: I have not done a range test, but was within a 1 km distance when I did my drone flights over the lagoon in Bora Bora. The money shot would have been launching on the island, and doing a panoramic flying up the mountain (Otemanu). Maybe next year.

Summary: The DJI Air is an incredible tool for the travel blogger and photographer. Buy it, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

DJI Mavic Air, Onyx Black

MAVIC AIR Intelligent Flight Battery Mavic Air accessories

SanDisk Extreme PRO microSDXC Memory Card Plus SD Adapter up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U3, V30, A1 – 64 GB

 

 

DJI Mavic Air, Onyx Black

MAVIC AIR Intelligent Flight Battery Mavic Air accessories

SanDisk Extreme PRO microSDXC Memory Card Plus SD Adapter up to 100 MB/s, Class 10, U3, V30, A1 – 64 GB

Pearl Beach Resort and Spa Electric Boat – Luxury Sunset Cruise

Pearl Beach Resort and Spa Electric Boat Review – Technology

Overall Impressions: Silent. Sleek. Beautiful. I had the pleasure to do two sunset charters, and a daytime transfer between Pearl Beach Resort and the Conrad Hilton Resort, in Bora Bora. During the first charter, we electrically cruised for sunset, did some power ramp-up and ramp-down tests. Beverages were served in the center bar for our charter of four. The night LED lighting onboard, and underwater are very impressive and mood setting. The second charter was a transfer between resorts, midday. This session I was able to take drone images and video of the cat in operation. It was in this session that we saw the solar panels on top had turned white due to UV degradation. The last charter was another sunset charter, running with the port electric propulsion only, since the right (starboard) side motor was overheating. Operation of the cat was unimpaired. While we launched from the Bora Bora Hilton, we docked at The Yacht Club for dinner. All seamless operation, and without any noise from the engines. The craftsmanship is incredible. I would put this in the luxury yacht category for fit and finish of the beautiful fiberglass (carbon) hulls. This is the perfect platform for luxury charters (both day and night). There is plenty of protection (both freeboard and from the wind), for the lagoon operations in and around Bora Bora. It was a thrill to ride, and even the non electric-propulsion-fan guests were very impressed (silent operation, and no smell from a hydrocarbon fueled engine).

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Pearl Beach Resort and Spa – Lagoon Waters

Comfort: Excellent for both crew and passengers. Very comfortable bench seating on the partially enclosed deck. There is a net/trampoline forward of the steering station on the bow. Seating was very comfortable. The basic design could easily be multi-platform (hauling, cruising, patrol, etc.) with minor modifications.

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Seaworthy: The electric boat catamaran tracked well, and has good handling qualities. The light weight might of the hulls did not seem to adversely effect motion, even with large wake/waves from other boats, the craft performed well. While the craft was only operated in the lagoon area (on my charters), it appears to be well suited for any lagoon and near-island activities. It’s an extremely comfortable and stable ride.

Access: Engine and systems access is poor. While the bathroom in the port hull is nicely tucked away below, the access is poor, and somewhat of a challenge (you have to climb down a vertical ladder/stair). There is a side ama boarding access for occupants on both port and starboard. As a luxury charter craft, a single level access is desired. There is a hinged (retractable) water ladder at the stern. The anchor is in the front middle, between the amas.

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Stern Swim Ladder

Wet Bar: The bar was centrally located, and efficient. Even though the catamaran platform is stable, there is a need for drink holders (none seen). These are not only great for drinks, but for iPhones and other devices. There is a sink and plenty of counter space. I would add a few top access Dometic coolers (very efficient refrigeration 12/120V for both drinks and ice storage) and a countertop small ice machine (like the Opal which makes nugget ice). If the use is limited to evening sunset charters, everything can be carry in (no need for appliances, since a few hours can easily store ice for drinks).

Overall Design: The overall design is solid. As mentioned before, it’s a good standard platform, which can be reconfigured for multiple missions.

Solar Panel Type Considerations: For a mobile application, power output, efficiency, surface area, and weight are important. You want to optimize the power output, for the weight. In this case, flexible panels are huge weight savings (less power needed to move a boat with less weight), however if any glazing contamination occurs, then efficiency drops. The overhead drone shots indicate the white glazing has turned the panels from a dark color, to white, which reduces collection efficiency. This is over the course of less than one year. Whether this is from salt accumulation, or polymer degradation from UV damage, is unclear. A routine part of maintenance might include a fresh water wash of panels every few days, and limited any saltwater washing of the top structure.

 

Solar Panel Optimization – Stationary Versus Tracking: You can reduce the amount and surface area of panels, if you have active tracking. While this may not be possible on a mobile application, you may consider putting a land-based tracker, or boat garage roof mount, or hybrid mount. If the mission is only short term luxury charter, then you can base the panels at the dock or on land, to charge batteries. Since sunset cruises are at the end of the day, the solar panels won’t be producing any power at that time of the day anyhow.

Use and Applications: If you are using your electric boat for late afternoon, or evening charter, consider leaving the solar panels on land (at the dock) and build into your boat lift, or covered boat garage. This allows you to take advantage of longer-lasting glass covered panels, which weight more, but cost less. Most of these type panels have better efficiency, and less susceptible to UV damage (color changing of the glazing). In this case, you would charge your batteries during the day, disconnect from the solar panel charging, then utilize the power through the battery storage. Since most of the effective solar charging is in the 4 hours from before and after noon (zenith of Suns movement across the sky), hauling around solar panels in late afternoon and evening doesn’t make much sense. Land based solar panels are less prone to salt-water glazing coating through evaporation, as the mobile mounted units would be (proximity of panels to the water and evaporation of the water which leaves the white salt residue behind).

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Pearl Beach Resort and Spa

How to Increase Solar Panel Output: There are a few ways to increase the solar panel output. Other than buying a higher efficiency panel, you have the option of installing the panels on a active tracker, software/hardware optimization devices, or putting up active light weight reflectors, to reflect light onto a stationary solar panel array. A electric boat ferry service in Sydney, actually uses solar panels as sails, to provide additional wind assist power.

Measure Output of Solar Panels: Try to set up some metrics when you first get your panel array for your electric boat. More likely than not, this type of system has solar power available and collection data available through an app or data logger. Take measurements at solar noon for panel output in volts and amps. Do this periodically to see if there are any panel issues, or solar glazing contamination (from salt water or UV degradation). For the Pearl Beach electric boat, they already had some significant glazing color change, and the boat has only been active for around 9 months.

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Safety: Anything electric and water immediately brings up the issue of safety. While traditional gasoline or diesel engines have a fire hazard (second to sinking in major hazards at sea), the electric boat is a different risk, which includes to a lessor part fire (from batteries), but the issue of electrical shock. I would install, or make sure it’s factory standard, a in-water sensor which indicates any possibility of electrical shock hazard, or on-board, any electrical short indicator. If the boat is primarily made from composites, this helps lessen any on-board shock issues, but regardless I would install a ground fault circuit on any 110/220V outlet which may have exposure to water, and be sure to have protection (fuse or fault) on the main panel. If there are no bilge or in-water indicators (exterior to the hull), then I would have a live bait well with a motion-sensor, to act as a Canary in a coal mine.

Operational Considerations for the Perfect Electric Boat in this Tropical Charter Application:

Instead of one luxury electric boat, have the following combination, which will be less cost, and more use:

(a) Shuttle Cat: from the resort to the mainland (5 minutes by gas outboard or 10-15 by electric). Instead of converting heavy cat you have now, purchase a lightweight used sailing cat hull, install outboards and solar panels.

(b) Low Cost Charter Cat: I believe everybody at the resort desire a ride on the electric boat for a day cruise (anchor in shallow water and offer swimming, snorkeling, or island tour). Offer a $100 Euro per person ride for a few hours. Make drinks and food a-la-cart. Since guests already have a resort account, bring a iPad and charge drinks/food as needed. Build your own cat with a deck made of low-weight polymer deck boards, and a partial solar roof. You may also use this electric boat for airport to resort shuttle (which is normally during the day).

(c) Luxury Charter Cat (Evening or Airport Pickup):

Consider a Solar Garage: Instead of panels on the boat, use the money to put in more battery storage on board (use the battery pack from a used electric car such as a Nissan Leaf, or a Tesla wall), and invest in heavy (lower cost and better efficiency) glass PV panels, which can be used both for resort power and e-boat battery charging. The heavier panels are stationary, not prone to UV Sun damage (such as your lighter weight portable panels on the roof of the boat now), better efficiency, and there for the long term. The garage (or just roof with panels) protects your boat, while providing a charge station.

Consider Electric Outboards:

(a) Less cost of acquisition.

(b) Easy to access and maintain.

(c) Tip-up to get out of the water (adjustable for shallow water operations), change prop, clean prop, and remove debris and fishing line from prop-shaft.

(d) Have one large outboard (40HP+) and one small outboard (3-4 HP) per side (each hull). This allows you to run super efficient at low speeds. Motors like to run at rated RPM, which means if you are simply cruising at low speed, use the small output for maximum efficiency, and the large outboard for medium to high speed cruise. You could also have the smaller outboards mounted forward and act as bow-thrusters, and tip-up out of the way during large outboard operation. This also is better solar panel/battery power management, keeping you in the 90 percent running efficiency range.

Consider New Propulsion Alternative: Something similar to the Hobie Mirage Fin drive, but on a bigger scale (build yourself).

Consider New Energy Storage: I’m currently working on a graphene energy storage cell, which would also act as the boat hull. Made from carbon fiber, it would weigh substantially less, and would be unsinkable.

Return on Investment (ROI): For the application and location in Bora Bora (where energy can cost $.41 E), solar energy (power production) has a good return. Gas is around $6 E a gallon and marine diesel around $1.5 E a liter (internet info). Most smaller boats use outboards (100-250HP gas), while larger shuttle and workboats use inboard diesels. The application for a electrically driven boat, based on solar power, is excellent. This only works if the boat is in constant use, or the rate per use is high. There is probably a good balance between the two. If it is a high-use boat, consider a quick charge cell found in Telsa cars, or other technology.

Power Generation on Bora Bora (for reference pricing on power and ROI): 

https://www.pecc.org/resources/minerals-a-energy/1826-from-fuel-based-electricity-to-renewable-energy/file

Solar Power at The Four Season’s (600 kW):

http://www.pveurope.eu/News/Installation/Hotel-resort-in-South-Pacific-island-Bora-Bora-goes-solar-and-reduces-dependency-on-expensive-diesel-power

Electric Boat Specifications: LOA 11.8m (39ft), LWL (same), Beam 5.8m (19ft), Draft .7m (2.3ft), Displacement 6 ton (13,200 lb), Vmax 14 kt, Vcruise 8 kt, Vbreak-even 6 kt, Pax 12, Design Category C. Solar Panels: IP68 at 22.5 percent efficiency, 8.6 kWp, on a 45 meter squared surface (6 x 6 configuration), 239 watts per panel. Batteries: (2) 60 kWh Lithium Polymer, total 120 kWh. Power: (2) 30 kW electric inboard motors, with integral seawater cooling. Power Density: 1 kg/kW, PMS electric drive train. Give Back Energy: 15 kVa invert power. Max speed 14 knots, standard cruise profile is 8 knots and 8 hours. 24 hours at 6.5 knots (break-even). Range: 150 nm+

User Experience: Pilot station flat panel display with two throttles (also portable device accessible). Modular for Shipping: Can transport disassembled in two 40 ft shipping containers. Approximate Price: $1,600,000 USD

Thinking of Building a Electric Boat ?  Build a scale model. Use one 100-300 watt solar PV panel, with 1.5 meter (4-6 ft) hulls (catamaran or trimaran configuration), and test it out using RC outboard motors, or your own configuration. This not only will help you assess configurations, but with a monitoring system, will give you actual data for the panel. Simply number up (scale up) the panels for the actual size boat.

Summary: The electric boat at the Pearl Beach was an exciting touchstone into the future of the area for renewable energy, and responsible tourism. The concept of nonpolluting water craft (silent and sans hydrocarbon fuel) is a leading example of the trend towards eco-tourism. It’s not only good for the environment, but also a potentially profitable tool for the charter and workboat operators in the area. While most tour operators have upgraded to 4-cycle engines, they have also been sold on the bigger-is-better concept (i.e. 250HP outboards on water craft that need substantially less power). The ultimate resort electric boat would have a multiple-mission objective, to fully utilize the craft, and decrease dependency on the traditional gas or diesel engine. That boat would have a convertible deck arrangement, which would more efficiently utilize space by rapid reconfiguration seats, and other fixtures. Some of the resort shuttles could easily be converted to solar power (many already have catamarans with large roof structures to house panels). Or even easier, just put in a efficient battery bank and electric outboard, and installed a tracking solar array at the dock or on land for charging. In many aspects, the marine environment will face similar obstacles that the car industry has. The first is changing attitudes (do you really need to go fast ?), and the next is making it economical (and profitable). In paradise, there is no need to go fast anywhere, so Bora Bora may well indeed be the perfect location to develop and accelerate the electric boat and eco-tourism. I must applaud Pearl Beach Resort for taking the plunge into the electric boat arena. They already have a solar array, but must decide to go completely off grid, or continue to use grid-based power from the mainland (Bora Bora power station). In the interim, they might pen a deal with the island power producer to charge batteries at night, so that the power station can run more efficiently. This might be a good strategy for all resorts, only time will tell. At the end of the day, you need to make this profitable, for it to be adapted to the region. But what better place, than Bora Bora.

Pearl Beach Resort and Spa

Bora Bora, French Polynesia, South Pacific

Contact: Pearl Beach Resort and Spa

Mr. Teiva TAPARE | Director General Adjoint – Executive Asst Manager

B.P. 169 – 98730 Vaitape, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

T : +689 40 60 52 11

Email: AM FNB -BBPB- <eam.fnb@borapearlbeach.pf>

Website: www.boraborapearlresort.com

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Conrad Hilton Bora Bora Resort Review – The Best Resort in Bora Bora

Conrad Hilton – Bora Bora – French Polynesia March 2018 Presidential Villa (Over the water) 1001

Summary – Snapshot Review:

Resort: Bora Bora Conrad Hilton located on a motu surrounding the island of Bora Bora.

Suite: Presidential Overwater Villa. Was fantastic. Equal quality to The Brando. Price around $5,000-$6,000 per day. Up to 6 guests (4 comfortably).

Views of Sunrise and Sunset: Best in Bora Bora. Perfect view of sunset. Sunrise over Bora Bora.

Sunset Bar Sunset: Yes. Perfect full view of sunset. Also great for viewing storms. Glass floor for viewing fish.

Service: Amazing. Staff is excellent. Very responsive.

Dining: A great array of dining options. Chinese, French, Beach Bar, Wine Bar, and Lounge.

Dress Code: Resort casual. More upscale than most resorts, which you would assume.

Breakfast: Usually included. Pastries/danish cart, then a la carte cooked items ordering.

Food Quality: Best in Bora Bora (for resorts). Lagoon Water Quality: Amazingly clear. Lots of fish to see, and snorkel right off your villa.

How to get around resort: Bikes and golf cart pickup are provided at no charge for select villas.

Over-the-water Villa: Yes. Best villas face west and with a plunge-pool. Excellent view of the sunset.

Booking: Book through website, or directly via email to reservations at the resort. Pay up-front for stay, and receive a substantial discount. Confirm pricing by checking Expedia.

Didn’t Work in Villa: sauna, hottub, bathroom charge outlets (110V/220V), only 4 internet access point connections. Bikes had mostly rusted chains and hard to adjust seats (a pretty common problem for the tropics due to corrosion of sea air). Bluetooth could only be turned off by staff, and beeped when not in use.

Needed as part of Presidential Villa Experience: Sink for bar area. Kitchen. Hammock. Firepit.

Website: Cluttered and busy. Needs work. Get rid of black background. Needs better user experience.

Full Review: The Conrad Hilton Resort is a world-class resort located on a motu surrounding Bora Bora, and in my opinion, ranks higher than the Four Season’s Bora Bora. The location, staff, and feel, is magical. The location in the crystal clear blue water, hilly terrain, and over-the-water villas put you immediately into pure bliss. As if were not enough to be in the magical Bora Bora, this resort will confirm you are indeed in paradise. Has the best resort sunset views anywhere Bora Bora of the lagoon, colors of water, sky, and sunsets. Overall Impressions: This is my first stay at the Conrad Hilton. I’ve been coming to Bora Bora since 2002, and have somehow missed this pearl of the islands. I’ve been so enamored by the Four Season’s, that I have forgot to try new things. The Conrad resort has undergone extensive renovations recently, and it shows.

Side Track – Large Group Travel is promoted by the Four Season’s: The problem with the Four Season’s resort , is that they cater to large travel and corporate groups, which unfortunately spoil the experience for their traditional luxury traveler. I experienced this first at the Four Season’s in Punta Mita, then in Costa Rica. It’s tarnished their reputation, and quite frankly, I’ll just avoid them. Why ? Because incentive and large corporate group travel brings people to the resort, which are more accustomed to a binge-drinking Holiday Inn or all-inclusive resort, without respecting other guests, and their experience. For these large group guests, rules are optional, including respect. It’s what I expect on a Carnival Cruise, but not at a top-end luxury property where you’re paying a minimum of $2,000 a night. For the Four Season’s profit margin, large group and incentive bookings,  is like shooting fish out of a barrel, since corporate travel spenders don’t mind spending huge amounts of money. Someone needs to coach the corporate group guests on proper behavior, so it doesn’t interfere with the other guests. It’s as if the staff is afraid to even broach the subject with the group handlers, worried that they might book somewhere else next year.

Ok, back to the review… Best Stay in French Polynesia: The best luxury (very high end) traveler, will be well taken care of at The Brando and the Conrad Hilton. The perfect vacation would be a 3 day stay at The Brando, and 3-4 days at the Conrad Hilton.

Just an amazing resort. Relatively seamless transitions for check-in, activities planning, dining, and just pure relaxation.

Check-in: The still antiquated check-in still exists. Even though I had already provided my credit card (paid for stay in advance) and had emailed passports, they were still requested at time of check-in. I don’t know about you, but when I arrive, I want to get right into relaxation. The Four Season’s and The Brando are the only top-end resorts which take you directly to your villa. This is one lesson the Conrad Hilton could learn, for a better guest experience. A better process would be to have the guest complete that information via email, prior to arrival. It would organize the check-in, and provide a seamless experience. Our butler took us for a short tour of the resort on a electric golfcart, before we were shown to our Overwater Presidential Villa. This resort is unique in that it has a spa and beautiful overlook vantage point a few hundred feet above sea-level on a hill. The colors of the lagoon and coral really pop from this viewpoint, and the view is spectacular. The best of any resort in Bora Bora.

Overwater Presidential Villa: We had four in our group, which was perfect for the large Villa. There was a master bedroom with huge bathroom and a view from the vanity and bath which are to die for. The second large master had two double beds. There is a second story level, which has a third area that can be made into a bed for another two people, for a total of six. There are two master baths on the first level, then a third bathroom with shower on the second (top) level. The top level also includes a TV, living room, bathroom, sauna (didn’t work) outdoor patio deck with hottub (didn’t work), outdoor lounging area, large dining table and bar. Oh, did I mention the great view ? The first level has the master bedrooms, and a living room with TV, bluetooth speakers, and bar area with fridge. The bar fridge had a selection of small airline-type liquor bottles, snacks, and mixers. For this level Villa, the contents were provided at no charge, and refilled once per day. The outdoor deck was amazing. Divided into to levels, the upper level had a outdoor lounge with cushions and a plunge pool. The deck extended to each of the master bedrooms, with chairs and access from each bedroom suite. Below the plunge pool deck level is the swim deck, which had two lounge chairs for soaking up the wonder South Pacific sunshine, and then a swim ladder which went down about six feet to reach the water. The depth is 6-8 feet, and crystal clear.

For Couples and Families: Perfect honeymoon location ? Yes. But it’s also for everyone else, who can afford the entry price. The resort is great for couples and for families. There were plenty of activities for all ages.

Feeding the Fish: While it’s probably not the best for fish food, bread worked pretty good. They do sell small bags of proper fish-food (which smelled just awful – so I suppose the fish like it) for $10 Euro per small bag. I recommend you just buy a bag at the Chinese market (Chin’s) in Viatape for better value.

Sea Life: While not as good as the Pearl Beach Resort (one of the best areas for viewing rays during the day, small fish and sharks at night), the water at the resort was very clear and great for snorkeling. The water is much clearer than the Four Season’s (which is a murky clarity below the over-the-water villas).

Dining: You have multiple options:

  • Iriatai French Restaurant: Not being a big fan of French cuisine, I did not try this venue. This is also where they serve breakfast (which is excellent). 7:00am-11:00am breakfast. 6:30-9:30pm dinner.
  • Banyan Chinese Restaurant: Excellent Chinese food. 6:30-9:30pm dinner.
  • Tamure Beach Grill: Wonderful lunch and snacks. 11:30am-3:30pm lunch. This is where they have the Polynesian night (on a Tuesday night when we were there).
  • Upa Upa Lounge Bar: Features a glass floor deck to reflect the beautiful crystal green/blue water where you can watch the fish. We had some cocktails there and watched the sunset and a storm roll in. One of the most perfect views of all resorts in the South Pacific.
  • Iriatai Wine Bar: Next to the French Restaurant. Didn’t have time to sample the bar.
  • Tarava Pool Bar: Swim-up bar, and cocktails for the pool and beach area.
  • Room Service: Since our villa was located at the end of the pontoon, it takes a bit longer for food to get there. But the food was excellent. Well prepared, and presented by our butler.

SPA: The resort spa is located near the top of the hill, with commanding (and relaxing) views of the lagoon and ocean. The facility is sparkling clean, fresh, and new. The mens changing room was good, except that the automated sensor lights turned off within a few minutes, leaving you in the dark. Recommend a simple light switch, and use LED lights if you want to save on energy consumption, without interfering with the guest experience (if you are relaxing, you’re in no rush to beat the motion sensor to keep the lights on).

Wifi: The Wifi connections throughout the resort are good, and good bandwidth, but the device limitations are poor. We were only offered four device connections for our stay, albeit our butler offered work-arounds by using other in-use villas and taking their connection.

Cell Signal: Excellent. There was also good 3G data. Save the roaming and just use the resort Wifi.

Activities: Lots of activities, which can be found on the website. We opted for the half day of shark and ray experience, which was wonderful. The sharks are docile, and just graceful to photograph. I use a Olympus TG-4 underwater camera, that provides photos with amazing clarity.

Amazing Staff: The staff was friendly, helpful, and timely. Equal to the Four Season’s and The Brando.

The Beach: Clean, groomed, and inviting. Front Desk: Efficient and very courteous.

Housekeeping: Usually there is morning service, and then a evening turndown service. Housing keeping was excellent. Transportation: To and from the airport, there is a power cat to transport you and your luggage dock-to-dock. There is another shuttle boat that goes to and from Viatape, the main village and port on the mainland of Bora Bora.

Tipping: While it is not customary to tip in French Polynesia, I find it a nice gesture to tip those who impress you the most (housekeeping).

Privacy: The resort is relatively exclusive. But since it is on the water, boats can go right by your villa. Villas have good separation for privacy. Security cameras are throughout the resort. I find that it was more private and intimate than the Four Season’s. The ultimate privacy (for those of you who are rich and famous), then I suggest The Brando. Oddly enough, the dining and food choices at the Conrad were far better. The Brando food options are limited, and you’ll find yourself craving more variety, which is offered at the Conrad.

Tips for Buying Extras: There is a resort store, that is expensive. When you land in PPT there is also a store you can buy suntan lotion for about $35 Euro a bottle (yes, it’s that expensive). If you’re going to buy anything, go into Viatape on the main island of Bora Bora, and go to the Chinese owned market, where you can buy suntan lotion for $5 Euro, and buy any type of more expensive items for 1/5th the price. The main market is Chin Lee’s Market located a few blocks from the main shuttle drop-off dock, which sells fresh vegetables, soda, bottles of wine, sundries, and just about anything you want for a small store.

Suggestions: While this resort ranks at the top of my list, there is always room for improvement.

  • Broom. Would be nice to have a broom to sweep up any sand, before housekeeping can take care of it.
  • Towel hanging line or bar outside for pool towels.
  • Telescope and/or Binoculars: Have a telescope at the top floor of the villas, for stargazing at night. Have binoculars.
  • Hammock: On the villa balcony.
  • Wifi: Eliminate the device limitation for the Villa from 4, to unlimited.
  • Firepits: A really nice feature would be gas or wood firepits.
  • Villa Kitchen: Provide a basic kitchen or at least a sink for the bar area (to make it a wet bar).
  • Solar or Wind Power: They did have solar hot water for all the villas, which is great. Would like to see solar PV as well.
  • Villa Review: Before a guest checks in, do a villa review to make sure everything is working. In our case, at the top of the line villa (Presidential Villa), the sauna did not work, the hot tub did not work, the electrical outlets for 110/220V did not work, and the bluetooth had issues. Not something you expect when paying over $4,500 Euro a day.

Greetings in Polynesian:

Good Morning: la ora na (pronounced ur honor)

Thank You: Mauruuru (prounouced ma ru ru)

Thank You Very Much: Mauruuru roa (prounouced ma ru ru rowa)

Good-bye / Until We Meet Again: Nana (prounouced nana)

Cheers: manuia (prounouced manueea)

Getting There:

LAX-PPT: I used to exclusively fly on Air Tahiti Nui, but their service has fallen recently, and I suggest trying Air France, which has more comfortable (and newer) aircraft, and better on-time service. If you’ve ever had to wait three or more hours at the Papeete terminal in Tahiti, you’ll understand. Air France has a app which makes booking easy, allows seat selection, buying upgrades, etc. Air Tahiti is very old school, and really needs to invest in better on-time flight management, and convenient booking. Make it easy, and you’ll get more customers. Traveler Tip: Try to book a flight that is not full of passengers flying to a cruise or returning from a cruise. Book the cheapest far in economy, and at check-in, upgrade to business class for around $900 (works both on ATN and AF). That will save you around $3,000 each way.

PPT-BOB: You basically only have two fight options, Air Tahiti (local commuter turboprop) or private charter.

For private charter, expect to be price gauged. There used to be helicopter service, but now there is only a KingAir Turboprop, and a soon to start service using a Cessna Caravan seaplane.

Waiting in PPT for your next flight: If you get stuck on a later flight, take a quick 5 minute taxi to the Intercontinental for some breakfast or lunch. The taxi takes US cash, and Euro (but expect any change in French Polynesian Francs or just leave as a tip).

Charter Options:

Private Charter KingAir: TASC FBO Tahiti Air Services

Response Time: Poor

Bargain Pricing: No. They have the monopoly, so don’t expect much.

Sample Charter Fare: 09 mars 2018 ar 07.15AM LT Papeete to Bora-Bora Beechcraft 200 720kgs (220kgs maximum for the luggage) Price One Way: $7200 (all taxes inclusive and the use of our VIP lounge for the passengers) 15 mars 2018 at 2.30PM LT Bora-Bora to Papeete Beechcraft 200 720kgs (220kgs maximum for the luggages) Price One Way: $7200 (all taxes inclusive and the use of our VIP lounge for the passengers)

Contact: Cannelle BALDASSARI MERMET Customer Service Executive TASC FBO – Tahiti Air Services NTAA – Tahiti, French Polynesia 24/7: (+689) 40 50 44 11 Fax : (+689) 40 50 44 12 www.tascfbo.com

Better Charter Option (still waiting aeronautical approval as of March 2018): Service: Excellent.

Response Time: Amazing.

Friendly: Yes. Emmanuel BONIFAIT Responsable Ventes et Marketing Sales & Marketing Manager Tél : +689 40 50 57 94 Fax : +689 40 43 61 37 Skype : emmanuel.tcv

www.tahiti-air-charter.com

 

Pearl Beach Resort

Pearl Beach Resort and Spa – Bora Bora – French Polynesia March 2018

Over the Water Villa 43

Polynesia Beauty and Nature at its Best

Summary – Snapshot Review:

Resort: Pearl Beach located on a motu Tevairoa surrounding the island of Bora Bora.

Suite: End of Pontoon Overwater Villa. Great view and well maintained.

Views of Sunrise and Sunset: Good view of sunset and sunrise.

Sunset Bar: No.

Service: Good. Staff is excellent. A bit slow on service for poolside and dining.

Dining: Tevairoa (general breakfast and dining), Miki Miki (poolside, lunch and dining), Taurearea Sushi

Dress Code: Casual.

Breakfast: Usually included. Good selection of buffet offerings. Made to order eggs.

Food Quality: Breakfast good. Lunch, dinner, and sushi, average.

Lagoon Water Quality: Amazingly clear. Lots of fish to see, and snorkel right off your villa. Rays and sharks (the docile ones). Probably the most wildlife available to view at any resort.

How to get around resort: Walk. Everything is a 5-10 minute walk.

Over-the-water Villa: Yes. With good view of Bora Bora and Mount Otemanu.

Booking: Book through website or directly via email to reservations at the resort. Confirm pricing by checking Expedia.

SPA: Excellent staff.

Didn’t Work in Villa: Everything worked well. There was a shortage of outlets (more is better), but you can manage without too many devices.

Needed as part of the Experience: Hammock on the villa deck would be great.

Website: Excellent information and white background. Easy to navigate and good user experience.

Full Review:

The Pearl Beach Resort and Spa is a solid authentic Polynesian (family owned versus a chain) resort located on a motu Tevairoa surrounding Bora Bora.The location, staff, and feel, is great. The location in the crystal clear blue water, put you in touch with nature. The sugary white sand beach and lagoon bottom welcome you to incredible vistas, and evening fish watching.

Overall Impressions: My primary reason for visiting the Pearl Beach was to experience and review the electric boat which is located there, completely solar and battery powered. While I generally do only high-end luxury travel, this is a gem in the Bora Bora resort offerings, and I highly recommend a stay there.

Check-in: The still antiquated check-in still exists. Even though I had already provided my credit card (paid a deposit for stay in advance) and had emailed passports, they were still requested at time of check-in. I don’t know about you, but when I arrive, I want to get right into relaxation. The Four Season’s and The Brando are the only top-end resorts which take you directly to your villa. This is one opportunity the Pearl Beach could learn, for a better guest experience. A better process would be to have the guest complete that information via email, prior to arrival. I would recommend organizing the check-in prior to arrival, and provide a seamless experience.

End of Pontoon, Mountain View, Overwater Villa: We had four in our group, so we actually got two of the end-of-pontoon overwater villas. It’s a long walk out to the end, but you are so enamored by the beautiful water and colors as they play with the sky, that each walk is pleasurable. The villas are efficiently organized to one main room which has a bed, lounge/couch (which can also be used as a bed), glass coffee table (for direct viewing of the mystical green/blue waters below) and small desk. There is a small bar fridge (empty) and a coffee machine. The bathroom with two sinks is in a separate room behind the main bed area, with a enclosed toilet and bathtub, and also a separate shower. While the resort is trying to promote the eco-tourism feel, I always felt we needed more towels. There was one 110/220V outlet and one French outlet under the sink area for the hari dryer. The outside deck had two loung chairs and small outside table for dining. Below the main deck level is the swim deck, and a swim ladder which went down reach the water. The depth is only 3 feet, and crystal clear. The white sand bottom is great at night for a good backdrop to view the fish, ocassional ray, and sharks.

For Couples and Families: The resort is great for couples and for families. There were plenty of activities for all ages.

Feeding the Fish: While it’s probably not the best for fish food, bread worked pretty good. As an evening activity, fish feeding and observing is fun and entertaining.

Sea Life: The Pearl Beach Resort offers one of the best for viewing rays during the day, and small fish and sharks at night, and the water at the resort was very clear and great for snorkeling. The water is much clearer than the Four Season’s (which is a murky clarity below the over-the-water villas).

Dining: You have multiple options.

– Tevairoa Restaurant: Dinner and where they serve breakfast. 6:30am-10:00am breakfast. 6:30-9:30pm dinner. When it’s open for dinner, the sushi bar is closed, and vice versa.

– Miki Miki Pool Bar and Grill: Pool drinks and lunch. 11:30am-4pm lunch. 4pm-9:30pm dinner.

– Taurearea Sushi Bar: Dinner 6:30pm-10pm dinner.

– Room Service: Available 24 hours.

SPA: The spa has excellent treatments, and highly recommended. The facility is beautiful, with an amazing water lily pond with eels. Very relaxing. One glaring eye sore is the lockers (most which don’t work) that have masking tape with the locker numbers written in pen. Presentation is everything.

Wifi: The Wifi connections throughout the resort are very good, and good bandwidth, and worked consistently througout our stay. The signal worked so good that I was able to even use it at the Yacht Club Restaurant, some distance away.

Cell Signal: Excellent. There was also good 3G data. Save the roaming and just use the resort Wifi.

Activities: While you can do many island tours, we elected to just stay on the resort, and enjoy the beach and watersports.

Electric Boat: What originally got my attention to this resort was the availability of the only (as far as I know of) electric boat in all of the South Pacific. I chartered the boat for two sunset cruises, and for transportation to our next resort review/stay at the Conrad Hilton. The boat is amazing, and by itself a stay at the Pearl Beach.

Staff: The staff was friendly, helpful, and always with a smile. Service was a bit slow at the pool bar. There is a mix of local Polynesian staff, and interns from France.

The Beach: Clean, sugary white, and inviting.

Front Desk: Friendly and very courteous.

Housekeeping: Usually there is morning service, and then a evening turndown service. Housing keeping was excellent.

Transportation: To and from the airport, there is a boat to transport you and your luggage dock-to-dock (wet but fast ride). There is another (free) shuttle boat that goes to and from Viatape, the main village and port on the mainland of Bora Bora. The ride is only about 5 minutes and very close by. The stop is about a 10-15 minute taxi or bus ride to Viatape.

Buying Suggestions (extras): There is a resort store, that is expensive. When you land in PPT there is also a store you can buy suntan lotion for about $35 Euro a bottle (yes, it’s that expensive). If you’re going to buy anything, go into Viatape on the main island of Bora Bora, and go to the Chinese owned market, where you can buy suntan lotion for $5 Euro, and buy any type of more expensive items for 1/5th the price. The main market is Chin Lee’s Market located a few blocks from the main shuttle drop-off dock, which sells fresh vegetables, soda, bottles of wine, sundries, and just about anything you want for a small store.

Suggestions: While this resort ranks very good in my list, there is always room for improvement.

– Broom. Would be nice to have a broom to sweep up any sand, before housekeeping can take care of it. Since you can snorkel and walk in the waist-deep water off the villa, we found there to always be some amount of sand in the room. I’m happy to sweep it up, as long as you provide a broom in the villa.

– Towel hanging line or bar outside for pool towels, swimsuits, and snorkel gear.

– Hammock: On the balcony. Replace one of the two sunbathing lounges with a hammock.

– Solar or Wind Power: I would like to see more solar PV and wind as well. The resort already has an array of solar PV, and of course the electric boat (which is amazing).

– Small washer/dryer: This would be a great add-on for each villa, and make the guest experience even better.

Greetings in Polynesian:

Good Morning: la ora na   (pronounced ur honor)

Thank You: Mauruuru (prounouced ma ru ru)

Thank You Very Much: Mauruuru roa (prounouced ma ru ru rowa)

Good-bye / Until We Meet Again: Nana (prounouced nana)

Cheers: manuia (prounouced manueea)

Getting There:

LAX-PPT: I used to exclusively fly on Air Tahiti Nui, but their service has fallen recently, and I suggest trying Air France, which has more comfortable (and newer) aircraft, and better on-time service. If you’ve ever had to wait three or more hours at the Papeete terminal in Tahiti, you’ll understand. Air France has a app which makes booking easy, allows seat selection, buying upgrades, etc. Air Tahiti is very old school, and really needs to invest in better on-time flight management, and convenient booking. Make it easy, and you’ll get more customers.

PPT-BOB: You basically only have two fight options, Air Tahiti (local commuter turboprop) or private charter. For private charter, expect to be price gauged. There used to be helicopter service, but now there is only a KingAir Turboprop, and a soon to start service using a Cessna Caravan seaplane.

Waiting in PPT for your next flight: If you get stuck on a later flight, take a quick 5 minute taxi to the Intercontinental for some breakfast or lunch. The taxi takes US cash, and Euro (but expect any change in French Polynesian Francs or just leave as a tip).