You finally pulled the trigger on that dream trip to Bora Bora. Congratulations! But vacations are short and the return to reality comes much too soon, so of course, you want a memento of your fabulous experience.
Since French Polynesia is pretty far from everywhere, it’s likely you spent a fair amount just getting to the island, and then there are those pesky airline baggage weight limitations, so you need to choose your souvenirs wisely.
T-shirts and tikis might be good enough for the kids, but you probably want something a little more special, which makes the local specialty, mother of pearl jewelry, the perfect choice.
Other possibilities include the versatile fabric squares known as pareos, or the fine basketwork locals weave into things like hats, handbags, and placemats. Everyone in Bora Bora wears flip flops too, called savates. The local custom is to remove your shoes upon entering a person’s home and so if you don’t bring any slip-on shoes, you’ll definitely want to pick up a pair (or six).
On the ‘maybe’ list of things to buy is Tahitian vanilla. Its incredible fragrance and flavor are famous around the world, but since bringing food through customs can sometimes be tricky, you might prefer to enjoy it on site.
Another ‘maybe’ item could be a local painting or carving, but they can be bulky, delicate and difficult to pack. Of course, there’s also that other famous South Seas specialty, a tattoo. But if you’re looking for something that is memorable but has a more subtle kind of beauty, nothing beats local pearls.
Tahitian black pearls are world-renown, and in case you don’t get a chance to visit a pearl farm, here’s a cheat sheet. First of all, natural pearls are extremely rare. Only about 1 oyster out of 15,000 has a pearl in it, so luckily, they are now cultured.
But even with culturing, pearls are extremely slow-growing and it can take up to 20 years for a pearl to achieve a decent size! Also, saltwater pearls are considered to be superior to freshwater due to their more regular shape and nacre, aka that luminous glow.
Black pearls come from black-lipped oysters but the local folklore is much more exciting: the story goes that Oro, the god of fertility, rode a rainbow down to earth and offered the princess of Bora Bora a black pearl as proof of his love.
But since hand-selection by fertility gods hardly ever happens these days, if you’re thinking about buying pearls in Polynesia, it would be a good idea to consider what you want ahead of time. And while you probably don’t need to worry too much about the durability of your pareos or flip flops, you’ll want to get your pearls from a reputable source. Only buy certified Tahitian pearls that have undergone strict quality control, ensuring your pearls will retain their elegant luster for years to come.
While it is not customary to haggle in most shops, bargaining is acceptable in the pearl industry, so don’t be shy about asking for a discount. It would also be wise to visit several stores before making your final decision. Be sure your pearls come with a ‘Tahitian Cultured Pearl’ certificate.
If luxurious elegance is what you’re looking for, Tahitian pearls are a must, and black pearls will add a truly unique and exotic element to your wardrobe.
Even if pearls aren’t in the budget during your stay, you can always pick up a reminder of that magical land after you return home. Laguna Pearl sources many of its pearls from the South Seas, all of them of premier quality that will transport your spirit right back to what many consider to be the most beautiful island in the world.