Tahiti-Helicopters, Bora Bora / Tupai – Closed!

As of today Tahiti-Helicopters is no longer operational. After 10 years of operation & around $US8 million invested the company has handed back to the government its permit to land on Tupai & closed its doors permanently reportedly on the basis of on-going financial difficulties.

The heart shaped atoll of Tupai, just 17 kilometres off Bora Bora & the world’s most photographed atoll, will be missed by lovers & adventurers alike. A favourite spot amongst those wishing to marry in Bora Bora, in paradise, the atoll was particularly popular with the Japanese.

Thousands of others have gasped in awe at the fabulous vista provided by the world’s most beautiful lagoon as they glided by helicopter gently past Mt Otemanu where legend holds god descended upon Bora Bora, this paradise on earth blessed by a most generous Mother Nature.

Here’s an intriguing & informative report copied from Bora Bora Insider :

“Lying just 17 kms off Bora Bora is the world’s most photographed atoll – the heart-shaped Tupai, symbol of love, the dream spot for many to seal their union for life:


During the last population survey (ISPF 2012) 2 people are recorded as living on Tupai; presumably reflecting the fact that the atoll reportedly has a guardian! A small number of Bora Borians pass by spasmodically to harvest the motu’s coconuts for copra. In yet another moment of political folly 2 over-water structures were constructed for the sole enjoyment of a single man. At the same time the motu’s pass was dynamited to make a shallow entrance into the lagoon & what a stunningly beautiful lagoon it is. As safe access for yachts is not possible to the atoll but it can be achieved using smaller keel-less craft & it’s a thrilling entry adding to the overall ‘buzz’ of the outing:



Tupai is not without it’s own unique place in history – in 1777 two sailors jumped ship from Captain Cook’s “Discovery” whilst she anchored in Huahine.. They headed for Tahaa before deciding on Tupai but were captured there by locals & handed back to Cook. Tupai has also been long-held as the place where the Chilean mutineers from the ‘Araucano‘ buried their considerable treasures in the early 1820’s. More recently many hold that Tahiti’s GIP, said to be akin to a private army for a most recent President of Polynesia, were reportedly trained  in armed warfare on Tupai by former members of the French Foreign Legion.

Tupai was inhabited many years ago but cyclones saw residents moving to safer shores, a move which has seen Tupai preserved in it’s natural state, a the true Robinson Crusoe experience. It’s here that one can truly say: ‘I got away from it all’. Tupai has also a primitive stone tidal fish trap – Tupaiofai – initially constructed many hundreds of years ago. It is sited between the passes of Apooparai & Teavamoa. Needless to say the marine-life is exceptional – during a recent visit whilst diving off a famous wall there a massive humpback whale descended down to check us all out!”

Or this from Alain Lepresle soon to be published “Bora Bora – the first born”:

“A mission to assess the situation (on Tupai) was conducted on the atoll by Gaston Tong Sang and Yolande Vernaudon, Special Advisor to the Presidency, in October 2015. It was with consternation that members of the delegation discovered, on the edge of a lagoon with greenish and turbid water, the ruins of what was once one of the beautiful residences reserved for a select group of visitors, built under the governance of Gaston Flosse. A few selected dignitaries of the State, such as Christian Poncelet, then President of the Senate, stayed there, whilst other prestigious guests, including the Chinese President, refrained from going there. Yet in 2003, Gaston Flosse had put the small plates in the large to accommodate the President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac, his eternal friend, with: the run-way lengthened by 170 meters from 730 to 900 meters and widened by 12 meters to 23 meters, a luxurious bungalow constructed on the lagoon, the pass to the east of the atoll expanded, all for a total budget of 1.34 billion Fxcp. Jacques Chirac never set foot on the atoll, his daughter Claude refusing that the President of the French Republic stay in a place with such a sulphurous reputation. Carl Ruderman, a former king of pornography, was reportedly stayed there several times as did a number of French parliamentarians and businessmen.

The offer was nevertheless quite enticing if one believes “Tahiti Tourism” which writes on its website: “It might seem too beautiful to be true. There are places so well preserved that to go there is the greatest of privileges, even supernatural. It is, however, the characteristic of this atoll of 11 km2 with its incredible shape of a heart appreciated when seen from the sky … It is endowed with a double lagoon and motu covered with coconut palms. The birds live there in quantity as well as the marine turtles that come to lay on its beaches from November. There are no inhabitant nor hotel on Tupai. The atoll is devoid of passes, but with a small airstrip inaugurated in 2001 … “. There can be no doubt that the editor of this “honey pot” article never set foot on the atoll!

Unfortunately the truth about Tupai is very different and it must be said, even at the risk of upsetting some. The only truthful point in the Tahiti Tourism article is that the atoll as seen from the sky deserves photography; and as for getting there! There are no turtles, no birds and no more fish in a lagoon that has suffered the last outrages of men and their destructive madness. The coconut plantation has degenerated totally, the humus rendering the soil once fertile on certain plots has disappeared, mosquitoes abound there, the private, luxury residence built to be used on rare occasions for the benefit of a “happy few” friends or collaborators of the former President has returned to the vegetation after being ransacked and pillaged in somewhat strange circumstances given that the atoll has always been under guard initially of the former GIP then of the SAS. The planks of the pontoons are worm-eaten, its small pass widened in 2002 is blocked with gigantic blocks of concrete deposited there in order to make access to the atoll impossible when it was abandoned, and seeing the intra-lagoon life slowly dieing off with the atoll being at the end of its life as the waters of the lagoon can no longer renew themselves due to the size of the atoll’s reef & motus. This is the sad reality of what has become Tupai, one of the jewels of the Leeward Islands which has become an ecological disaster.”

One has to wonder if these guys have ever been there – you don’t need to be Einstein to know what I think:



Notwithstanding it is sad to see the depart of Tahiti-Helicopters for not only did they take tourists to an island of their dreams but they also assisted regularly in important fire-fighting operations on the islands & in providing much needed & greatly appreciated emergency medical flights.

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