Unbeknown to many visitors to Bora Bora the striking buildings fashioned from vegetal materials that so beautifully frame the Heiva Ceremonial area are, in fact, a series of enchanting restaurants.
In an array of ingenious designs, the ‘baraques’ as they are known to locals, are crafted totally from local vegetal material offering visitors a glimpse into the culture & the dexterity of these people & a walk back in time – a not too distant time either as many of the island’s ‘matahiapo’ (baby boomers) who grew up in the districts of Papeete or in the islands such as Bora Bora remember clearly wonderful childhood days in such structures.
The baraques, situated along water’s edge in the area behind the Heiva ceremonial area (not to be confused with the snack & games area alongside the road), offer visitors a unique dining experience. Diners are offered the choice of seating with toes in the fine white sands of Bora Bora or in more open structures overlooking Bora Bora’s beautiful lagoon with extensive views to Motu Tapu & beyond.
The fare is intentionally ‘traditional home cooking’ – here’s a photo of the menu at Mami Pori’s for guidance. English is not a problem – Le Tropicana, in fact, has an American on staff! Most restaurants are fully licensed & all are more than reasonably priced.
It is here that you must head during the day for a welcome luncheon break whilst following the many & varied activities happening during the Heiva & certainly before a night witnessing the sensational signing & dancing of the Heiva, &/or indeed after the night’s celebrations as the baraques are open until the wee hours of the morning.
In broad terms the major materials used in the structures include wood from the ‘purau’ (a large member of the hibiscus family) – the wood is cut before its bark is removed. The bark is retained – nothing is wasted here – & used to tie the wood together in construction. The wood is then left to mature in the salt water which controls not just any insects & fungae but also the actual shrinkage & warping of the wood. Ultimately once dried the wood is used to construct the framework of the baroque.
The roof & walls are then fabricated in a series of varying plaits using niau (coconut fronds) as the base. Such roofs can resist heavy rains for 5 or more years if necessary (pandanus – around 15 years!)
The internal walls are then decorated with a level of artisanal skill rarely seen in today’s world. To complete the setting the floors are covered with the fine white sands of Bora Bora. It’s simply mesmorising!
The ‘vanilla bar’ at Chez Lena’s – that’s a vanilla plant climbing it’s way up a support fashioned fro purau & over the bar fashioned from local marumaru:
A wonderful water feature at Restaurant Fleurs Des Iles separates 2 inner dining areas; there’s a further over-water section. This restaurant also features tifaifai (traditional hand-made Tahitian quilts) which adorn the walls.
A traditional fishing basket fashioned from cane makes for an excellent pot-plant decorated by a traditional hat quickly fashioned from a coconut front by an expert:
The above shots were purposely taken just moments prior to the opening of the Heiva so as to give readers a visual insight into what awaits them. I’ll add some shots with the establishments full of happy clients – as you’ll find them every night during the 5 week long celebration of joy that is the Heiva: