This guide follows on the heels of last year’s outline that was greatly appreciated by readers. As a consequence it follows closely the layout of the first report updated for this year’s celebration.
In an exceptional article on this site covering the Heiva I Bora Bora, the celebrations & ceremonies involved were outlined in the following terms:
“The Heiva is Tahiti’s most emphatic statement of their deep history & rich culture. It’s a non-stop, month long celebration of joy through dance, song & other cultural events giving an understanding of Polynesian culture, history & life. It’s also one of the greatest shows on earth”.
The Heiva i Bora Bora is a world-class event, yet other than a brief ‘Calendar of Events’ there remains little if anything to assist visitors to understand how they can participate in & be rewarded with the culturally enriching experience that flows from witnessing a Heiva. This Guide is for you!
Let’s start with the ‘Calendar of Events’. Despite english speaking tourists making up around 60% of all visitors to Bora Bora & constituting the economic motor of the island, the programme, sadly, continues to be written only in French & Tahitian:
So here’s a quick interpretation of certain of the Tahitian terms in an endeavour to assist all our non-Tahitian speaking visitors, in other words ALL of our international visitors!
- Himene – ancient chants & song
- Otea – authentic Tahitian dancing
- Patia Fa – a javelin competition (part of the Tuaro Maohi – see below).
- Va’a – outrigger canoe racing (1 man/V1, 3 man/V3, 6 man/V6 & 12 man/V12).
- Tuaro Maohi – Traditional Polynesian Sports including javelin & ‘fruit carrying’ races.
- Amanahune, Faanui, Nunue, Tiipoto, Anau & Hitia – names of the districts competing in himene &/or otea. Each group actually performs twice during the Heiva – a first time (presentation) – & a second time (‘concours‘) the actual competition round.
I trust this helps those visiting Bora Bora this year but moreso that it will see a change in the island’s approach to tourism – it was a ‘suggestion’ last year that some consideration be given to tourists, but it seems to have been overlooked once more. I trust we will see an improvement next year ….. why do I have doubts!
SETTING FOR THE HEIVA I BORA BORA
Almost all the festivities take place in or around Place Tuvavau (previously Place Mutoi, a most interesting story) in Vaitape – this is the open area to your left as you arrive by boat at Vaitape Quay – in any case you will not miss it given the area is surrounded in eye-catching structures fashioned from local vegetal materials (see ‘Wining & Dining’ below).
HOW DO YOU GET TICKETS (for the singing (Himene) & dancing (Ori Tahiti))
The first thing you need to know is that you can watch ALL the Heiva events for free.
- In the case of the singing, dancing & orchestral competitions as well as on prize-giving nights simply install yourselves on either side of the spectacle or watch from behind – it’s free.
Alternatively you can purchase tickets – 1500xpf ($US15) – at 2 points of sale:
- The official office of the Heiva which is situated alongside Radio Bora Bora overlooking the ceremonial area, or,
- You can purchase tickets ‘on the night’ – same price – to be comfortably seated directly in front of the night’s spectacle. The point of sale can be found at the entrance to the seated area just to the side of the covered area set aside for the orchestras.
NOTE: There is no fee payable to witness any of the other events including – Va’a, Coprah, Tressage & Pandanus, Patia Fa, Tuaro Maohi, Porteurs de Fruits…..
Va’a: Tahitians are the best paddlers in the world. this is a thrilling outing for those lucky enough to see.
Coprah: An event all visiting these shores should attempt to see. Amazing skills in a technique & competition centuries old.
Patia Fa: A spectacular event.
Porteurs de Fruits: The fruit carrying competition is impressive…..if you watch the spear-thrower pictured above who will be ‘directing’ matters in front of the dignitaries present you may well see him rip the outer shell of a coconut off with his teeth before cracking open the actual coconut with his forehead! I lie not & you will be as stunned as the dignitaries present!
WINING & DINING
What you will notice instantly on visiting the site of the Heiva are the rows of marvellous “local-style” structures which frame the setting for the Heiva all with white sand floors, all meticulously decorated in a local style:
The buildings are, in fact, judged for their authenticity & design & it makes for a wonderful visual stroll into a time where Polynesians inhabiting these islands would have once lived.
Open for lunch & for dinner (late!!!) – for full & complete details see the report here: Heiva Wining & Dining – they offer a rare opportunity recorded as follows in an earlier report on this site:
“Authentic, brilliantly decorated, vibrant & serving good food at reasonable prices in a great ambience, the restaurants add greatly to the heiva experience.”
Clearly with the Bora Bora I Heiva running for a month there is wisdom in considering staying on the main island so as to have easy access to the festivities, be able to join others for an early start or a late ‘glass’, & indeed to save considerably on transport costs to & from the motus (islets).
Check out your options here at: ACCOMMODATION
- BACKGROUND TO & HISTORY OF THE HEIVA
- TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTS OF THE HEIVA – THEIR MANUFACTURE & USEAGE
- TRADITIONAL SPORTS
I trust this helps all those visiting Bora Bora to better understand, to be able to participate in & above all to enjoy the Heiva i Bora Bora.