I am intrigued by the number of people wishing to see the cannons and by their constant disappointment at being unable to locate them when using any of the guidebooks.
Those wishing to see the cannons, which are 8 in total, should be aware of the following:
- Four (4) cannons can be reached by 4×4 (high ground clearance/’nobbly’ tyred) 2 others require a longish but relatively level walk. The 2 cannons at Matira, being set in thick jungle high up in the mountainside, are extremely difficult to locate and involve a strenuous climb.
- Such vehicles are not readily available for the private use of visitors, so a guided tour is usually the option taken. It’s the only option for those whose health does not permit strenuous climbing.
- The advantages of a guided tour are that with relative comfort, an experienced driver (with a good guide) can offer an informed insight into the history (WW2) and the significance of the sites that you are visiting.
- The downside – often unknown to visitors – is that the cannons are on private property & to reach them, the permission of the landowners is required. This often means that most tours will, in all likelihood, will take you to 4 cannons only.
- The only way to see 6 of the cannons (excluding those at Matira) is to organize a special tour separately or to independently drive, motorcycle, or bicycle between the sites then climb to the cannons by foot. This means you’re crossing into private property, so be prepared to ask permission. However, I have never seen or heard of such politeness being refused (see below).
- Concerning the remaining 2 cannons at Matira. Firstly DO NOT believe any of the current guidebooks or information appearing on the internet. The access indicated as being opposite the Hotel Matira will lead to nothing other than your getting lost or in difficulty.
- Read the following article & then decide what assistance you will need – it may be that you might require to hire a guide uniquely for the cannons at Matira (or to take you to all the cannons).
The Americans left behind 8 cannons after WWII – Navy 7-inch built in 1907, each individually numbered and with a range of around 9,500m:
Here is the ONLY accurate report on how to find all 8 cannons.
Head north out of Vaitape some 150-200m past the deep-water cargo vessel quay of Farepiti. You’ll find a larger electricity pole beside which is an uneven track running towards the hillside as photographed below:
In the middle of the photo, where the road turns, you’ll find a metal bar painted orange at its top to which a loose chain can be connected. I will not submit a photo of every access point, but these indications are useful to confirm that you are ‘on the right track’ when seeking the access road to other cannon sites such as Point Tereia or even the Point Taihi (Popoti) lookout that the Americans used as a radar & lookout station during the war.
Those reading this post may well be interested in visiting this historical site offering nothing short of sensational views all over Bora Bora.
For those in good health it’s a 15 minute hike to the top. The initial section fairly demanding but landing you on a nice plateau with pleasant views over Mts Otemanu & Pahia to one side & Motu Ahuna on the other. It’s then an easier climb to find 2 cannons perched high on the mountainside above Point Pahua.
Most intriguingly the area where the cannons are located is named nothing less than Poo Poo Uri Roa. Given uri is Tahitian for a man’s’ private & roa means big, the derivation of the name is worthy of greater investigation.
The site offers splendid views over Vaitape & Teavanui Pass from one cannon & over Pearl Beach Resort & the motus leading out towards the airport from the other.
The 2 cannons, the first overlooking Motu Tapu & the pass into Bora Bora, the second looking across to the Pearl Beach Resort on Motu Tevairoa (a 4 year old in the second photo who climbed by foot to the top without a problem & was delighted by what he found):
Returning to the main road, follow it around for several kilometers past Faanui & its prominent church at the foot of the bay. Continue on a couple more kilometers to where you see the sign for the ferry to the Pearl Beach Resort (you’ll need to be alert so as not o miss it, ask locals if you are concerned) on the lagoon side.
On the mountainside, some 20m further on, you’ll find the access route, easy to recognize by its rough surface and metal pole to support a lose chain. It’s a fairly straightforward 2-3 minute hike up to the Point Tereia cannon site offering wonderful views over the Pearl Beach Resort & nearby motus.
You’ll find the barrel of the first cannon missing – I’ll explain later where to find it. The second cannon, slightly higher up, is intact:
Continuing once more along the main island road, just before Point Taihi, there’s a somewhat difficult-to-find access track to Popoti Lookout (meaning – from where boats can be seen) the site of the American WWII lookout & radar facility.
The lookout offers absolutely sensational, the best views, bar none, of the island of Bora Bora. As it’s part of the American war history that those looking to find the cannons are seeking it’s worth putting a note here to help those interested find the site.
Keep your eyes open for a dirt 4×4 road turning hard right off the main island road & ascending quickly up the mountain. The road is in a fairly wooded area on the western side of Taihi Point just before the point itself.
It’s not easy to find but you’ll know you’ve found it if you see the same sort of steel post painted orange at the top ready to support a lose single chain fence. Ask locals in the neighbourhood & be sure to enquire if they are the owners of the road & if so would mind if you climbed up to the lookout.
Leave yourselves several hours to do so for the climb & return as well as several hours more just taking it all in! More information & photos can be found in the report on a Road Tour of Bora Bora.
Back to the main road & the cannons – the next two cannons are to be found on Point Fitiiu (Haamaire or Tuaihora) in the district of Anau. Stop on the hilltop (lagoon-side) as its the only hillside in the area, so no confusion there. Just as the sensational view of Mt Otemanu pictured below comes into vision:
Behind where the above photo was taken you’ll see an inhabited pink/red house and above it an incomplete house in cement. Access to the well maintained & relatively simple track that will take you to the canons is behind the cement building.
You will need the permission of the very pleasant & approachable Tahitian owners of the house to cross their property to reach the track. Look for someone working on the cement house or alternatively request permission of someone in the pink/red house & they’ll be only too pleased to oblige.
It’s a pleasant walk taking you directly past the massive piece of solidified lava known as Hiro’s Finger (or another part of his anatomy to the more joking guides):
From here, you’ll get wonderful views out over the 5-star hotels & their overwater bungalows for which Bora Bora is famous & you’ll be able to see the cannons further along a track that you can follow out along the peninsular.
Walk down to the cannons to find one facing the Four Seasons Resort & the other Mt Otemanu:
The two remaining cannons are to be found in Matira overlooking the restaurant Matira Beach. Access to these cannons is difficult as you need the permission of the owners of land you need to cross to reach them.
Additionally they are hidden by thick jungle – a haven for wasps – & locating them requires precise instructions leaving some disorientated as to how to retrace their steps. For only the very keen, if you are genuinely interested, it is strongly suggested that you arrange a visit through a qualified guide.
An easier means to reach the cannons has, by default, been recently established – we can advise you how to proceed.
The two cannons at Matira:
This brings me back to my original comments about the disappointment of ‘cannon seekers’ at being unable to find the cannons using reputable guidebooks. An article once appeared on the web indicating that access to the “Matira cannons’ could be achieved via a route opposite the Matira Hotel.
It would appear to have been accepted as gospel by all & propagated everywhere. Forget it! You have absolutely no chance of finding the cannons from this non-existent access, let alone crossing a number of private properties, encountering their dogs & so on.
I suppose this also explains why those who tell you there are only 7 cannons have clearly never even climbed to see them.
I mentioned earlier that the barrel of one of the cannons at Tereia had been removed. As you head on from Matira back to Vaitape keep an eye out for the “Galerie Alain & Linda” a kilometre or so past ‘Bloody Mary’s’.
Behind the fence of the house directly opposite the gallery, you’ll locate the missing cannon barrel.
Happy cannon hunting!