Bora Bora is undoubtedly the Instagram king of the South Pacific. There’s nowhere better for a spot of snorkelling and lounging on a beach with a cocktail. But put the pina colada down: we’ve discovered The Farm at Bora Bora Pearl Company and we’re going pearl diving.

Flickr image from Paul Sizek.

Since 1977, The Farm has cultured black Tahitian pearls (regarded as some of the best in the world). Harvesting pearls isn’t easy and it can take up to two years before they’re ready to be plucked out of the ocean. First the oyster shells are split just a tiny bit, then a tiny slice of mollusc shell is added, along with a small bead. The oyster shells are popped on a net and thrown back in to the sea (where they’re kept clean from algae to keep hungry sea turtles away from them). They’ll dangle on the strings for about 18 months and then you can remove the pearl and repeat the process.

Flickr image from Antonio Guerra.
Image via The Farm, Bora Bora.
Image via The Farm, Bora Bora.

You won’t need to go too far off the coast during your dive but the water is very, very deep. If you drop your oyster strings there’s no going to get them. Once you’ve chosen your haul and you’re back on dry land you’ve got a difficult decision to make: which oyster do you open? The rest are put back in the water so choose wisely.

It’s unlikely you’ll get a dud pearl (although only three in every hundred pearls are deemed perfect), but if you do you’re allowed to choose one from the shop up to the value of your experience. It’s not ideal, but there’s a little bit of luck involved with culturing pearls and it’s certainly better than going home empty-handed. The luck swings both ways: most of the pearls will be valued around £200, you could find a pearl worth ten times that value and if you do it’s yours to keep.

Image via The Farm, Bora Bora.

Your chosen oyster shell is gripped in a clever contraption and then the pearl is carefully extracted. This is the most exciting part of the experience: you have no idea how big your pearl will be or what colour it’s going to come out. It’s unique to you and a complete surprise. Tahitian pearls are known as ‘black pearls’ but they can be green, shades of blue and even pink.

Image via The Farm, Bora Bora.

The final part of your experience will really show off your bounty: The Farm has their own workshop and they’ll set your stone for you. You help them design the piece of jewellery but they’re experts and as it’s likely that your pearl will have a few small flaws, they’ll be able to help you choose a setting that hides them well. It’s the perfect memento of your experience.

Image via The Farm, Bora Bora.

If you’re a bit of a diving fanatic and want to experience something different, pearl diving in Bora Bora is perfect. And, if you haven’t done much snorkelling and want to just dip your toe in the water, The Farm’s diving experience is a wonderful way to see a different side of the South Pacific and take home a unique souvenir from your travels.

Gorgeous header images courtesy of Antonio Guerra, Ratha GrimesAlfredi, and SF Brit on Flickr.

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