If you’re wondering whether to fly and flop in Bora Bora or the Maldives this year, the real question could be whether it’s ever socially acceptable to use the phrase ‘fly and flop’? Travel lingo aside, we’ve been wrestling with the perennial Maldives vs Bora Bora debate ourselves. Not ones to leave any trip to chance, we’ve rummaged about in both of their best (and worst) bits to find the answer.
The Maldives opens pretty strong. Weighing in with hundreds of resorts and 1,200 islands – your choice is extensive. Bora Bora’s looking a little less flexible. Though having just one island and a few dozen hotels hasn’t stopped it being a honeymooner’s paradise. In terms of costs, Bora Bora’s holding its own with the Maldives. Though, with almost double the distance to cover, and a 24hr flight time, it’s losing ground to the Maldives 10hr hop. The basics covered, let’s dig a little deeper into the Bora Bora vs Maldives quandary.
For many, the crux of all holiday matters is, will my holiday neighbours see me languishing in the altogether outside my water villa? In the Maldives, probably not. Space, privacy and some carefully placed screens all combine to create a skinny-dipping nirvana.
In Bora Bora, you’re all on the same island. So, no matter how hard the lux resorts try, there’s nothing to stop a well-meaning jet skier catching a glimpse. Depending on your approach to exhibitionism, this may or may not bother you. But regardless of your clothing status, if privacy is the goal, the Maldives may be your better option.
Winner: The Maldives
Peak conquerers may find the Maldives a smidge disappointing. The loftiest hillock is a dizzying 17ft and, well, it’s on a very exclusive Maldives golf course. Though, not all explorers wear crampons, so a long walk will have to suffice. Again, the Maldives can leave you stumped. Fans of a stroll need to head to the Addu atoll. Linked by causeways to Hithadhoo, Feydu and Maradu, Gan has plenty of scope for an exploratory scamper. Though cast aside hopes of island idylls and turn your attentions to a much more urban Maldives than you’re used to.
In stark contrast, Bora Bora’s Mt Pahia will challenge the nimblest of ramblers. A 2168ft volcanic peak towers over the island, daring all comers to take it on. Set aside a good 6 hours for this one. And, no matter how many orienteering badges are sown onto your knapsack, you’re definitely in guide territory here. If just reading this has triggered your vertigo, there’s still plenty of low-level hiking romps. The Valley of the Kings is a 3-hour warm up trot that’ll set you up nicely for the Track of the Past full day hike.
Winner: Bora Bora
For wildlife encounters…
A Maldives diving holiday will not be short on sightings. After all, you’ll be sharing the waters with 30 species of shark alone. While it’s no secret that the Maldives is teeming with ocean life (over 2,000 species at the last count), it’s the big ocean players that really wow. Who among us knew that the Maldives is a whale watchers paradise? Clued up types have been quietly spotting sperm whales and whale sharks along with melon-headed whales schooling in some serious numbers.
Bora Bora’s species count weighs in at a mere 500, though they’ve got an ace card up their salty sea sleeves. Humpback whales. Every year the gentle giants swing by Bora Bora to give birth to their calves. Which could see you idly bobbing on a catamaran next to a whale and their mum. When it comes right down to it, Bora Bora or the Maldives is a tough ask on ocean life alone. Wherever you go, your snorkelling definitely won’t be boring.
Winner: Maldives & Bora Bora
Nature lovers may need to acquire some sea legs for either a Bora Bora or Maldives holiday. Land animals are rare in both destinations. Bird watchers may be intrigued by some of the species in the Maldives. With no endemic birds, resort owners have been known to release a budgie or two to brighten up the place. Whether the Maldives really needs brightening up is a discussion for another time, but there isn’t a bird you’ll spot here you won’t find elsewhere. Flying foxes are a great spot, though we’ll admit the 4ft wingspans are a tad daunting.
In Bora Bora, things get a little more interesting. French Polynesia has 27 native bird species to check off your list. The grey-green fruit dove and kuhl’s lorikeet are easy enough spots for the non-birders among us. Another easy win – geckos. You’ll find the captivating lizards in both destinations – often in your water villa. Bora Bora scores an easy point in the Bora Bora vs Maldives debate: the island is snake free. The same can’t be said for the Maldives, though the land snakes are non-venomous.
Winner: Bora Bora
For plant-based options…
Bora Bora vs Maldives would be a fruitless exercise for ethical eaters if neither catered for vegans. And while neither are brimming with plant-based menus, vegans will eat well in either destination. Though, the Maldives has the edge. Six Senses Laamu have a handful of vegan dishes to their name – and are always happy to cater for plant-based diners. Vegans and vegetarians may be happier at Just Veg – Atmosphere Kanifushi’s first vegetarian restaurant in the Maldives. Surely the first vegan outlet won’t be far behind?
Bora Bora’s definitely playing second plant-based fiddle here. Though your restaurant choices may be numerous, vegan brunches have yet to travel to French Polynesia. While some larger resorts have a separate veggie menu, vegan offerings are few. Not too much to inspire you, but you won’t go hungry. Bora Bora’s Aloe Cafe does have a respectable vegan poke bowl though, so all is not lost.
Travelling as a same sex couple in the Maldives may require the same level of caution you’d apply in Dubai. For example, holding hands in the airport isn’t advisable – in fact, PDAs aren’t strictly a go for any couple – but that shouldn’t deter you, as the reality in resorts is very different. The reason so many couples honeymoon here? Larger resorts sit on their own private islands – where sharia law is cast aside, allowing for a much more relaxed way of life.
All in all, same-sex couples enjoy holidays and honeymoons each and every year in the Maldives, so you can feel confident in your resort giving you both a very warm welcome.
And in Bora Bora? Whilst there is still progress to be made here, it’s very much a ‘welcomed with open arms’ vibe. Neighbouring Tahiti has a long history of progressing LGBTQ+ rights and their fellow islanders are just as inclusive.
Maldives vs Bora Bora: our verdict
Lux life is available in both destinations. So, it’s the finer details you’ll be rifling through. For us, the Maldives just about pips Bora Bora to the post. The huge choice of resorts, super-fine dining and ocean life that just won’t quit seals our idyllic deal. The shorter flight time from the UK also factors. Though, we could manage 24 hours on a plane to see those humpback calves …
Overall winner: The Maldives
If the Maldives has won you over but you’re unsure on where to go, check out our A-Z guide to the Atolls, where you’ll find our tips on the best destinations to visit within the island nation.
Or better yet, and if you’re still weighing up your Bora Bora or Maldives holiday options, download Orbzii to start dreaming, planning and booking your way to either destination. Or both…