ADRENALINE AND LUXURY

 Marc from Huahine seemed nice enough. I was reasonably certain that he wasntrying to kill me.

Then again, my defenses were down. I had spent a good deal of the morning in the third position aboard a va a, which is what the French Polynesians call a six-person, single-outrigger canoe. Capt. Winston Joyce-Clarke of the 147-foot McMullen & Wing Big Fish arranged the paddling adventure for our charter group, a bunch of novices who spent the morning learning to paddle one”and turn the local surf into natureroller coaster. Then it was a three-mile paddle to one of the most picturesque beaches between Tahiti and Bora Bora, a quiet cove on Huahine where Marc organized a barbecue with fresh lobster, ukulele players and a spirited spear-throwing contest for our barefoot group. Big Fish was at anchor about a third of a mile in the distance. I swam back to her with a few friends while other guests used stand-up paddle boards or rode in the tender. It had been a solid six hours of exercise and playing in the sun, and my brain had blissfully slowed to somewhere between autopilot and standby.Society Islands

So, when Joyce-Clarke stood on Big Fish s afterdeck and asked, wants to go with Marc to feed the sharks?”I leaped before I looked or even considered thinking twice. So did seven other charter guests, along with four of Big Fish s crew. We piled into Triple Ripple, the award-winning, 28-foot tender that Big Fish uses for water sports of all kinds, and found ourselves donning swim booties and snorkels about a mile offshore.

climb down the ladder and hold onto the rope under water,”Marc instructed nonchalantly.

Society Islands

Beneath the surface, we lined up along an L-shape rope anchored so that it dangled about a foot below die surface, letting us hold on while our snorkels reached the fresh air. Once we were all in a row, I heard a splash and saw a man in the water a couple of feet in front of us. He held a large bucket of chum, which he began tossing in the casual manner of somebody spreading grass seed.

It took less than a minute for the black-tip sharks to arrive. They came in like missiles, firing themselves at the food and at each other in a churning white froth of predatory instinct. There werenjust a handful of them. I counted 30, maybe 35. They were about five feet in front of me —the only thing separating us was the rope. And then four feet. And then three feet. And then two feet. And then …They were looking me square in the eye. I burst through the watersurface, tore off my mask and shouted across the water, you crazy? These sharks are going to kill us!”Marc laughed the laugh of a well-practiced carny and explained that I was perfectly safe, standing in a sea of chum with several dozen circling sharks. have been doing this for many, many years,”he said. see by sonar, so when they come to the long row of people, to them it is a wall. They stop, and they turn back. If you hold the rope and stay together, then you have nothing to fear.”

Hold on and stay together words Iheard the day before too, when our group hopped onto seven ATVs and took off at about 20 miles per hour along the dirt trails on Moorea. We revved those red beauties through plantations of breadfruit and gentle streams, circling a huge, lush volcanic mountain that I swear was the inspiration for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We roared up, up, up until we had a stunning view of  what seemed like half of the South Pacific. Nobody in our group had a camera lens wide enough to capture the absolute grandeur. I think itimpossible for such a lens to be built.

 French Polynesia

By the time we returned to Big Fish, we were covered in reddish-brown dirt and fast realizing that this yacht charter was truly unlike any other. What Big Fish is offering in French Polynesia is a more adventurous version of relaxation, the kind that doesnso much ease you into a calmer state but instead shocks you out of your normal routine so that your mind is forced to focus on the here and now. Your thought patterns must instantly change, leaving your personal dramas behind, and the world somehow, suddenly, looks clearer. The view actually seems brighter. Itthe hallmark of any great adventure. It gets you to stop and, blessedly, look around, all while having a rip-roaring good time.

Thatspecifically what Big Fish was built to do too, with massive windows and drop-down terraces that make it feel like a sin to check a single e-mail instead of enjoying the world around you. She has been traveling the world since her March 2010 launch, visiting exotic destinations including the Baltic, Galapagos, the Amazon and Antarctica. French Polynesia remains a favorite destination of Capt. Joyce-Clarke, who has been visiting the region for more than a decade. His local connections, like Marc of the sharks in Huahine, allow Big Fish charter clients to experience the region in incredible ways.

are two regions in French Polynesia that I love for charter: the Society Islands and the Tuamotus,”Joyce-Clarke told me while reviewing charts in the pilothouse. a two-week charter, you can do both. The Tuamotus are an underwater paradise full of drift diving and great fishing. Itnothing but uninhabited atolls that look like fried eggs from above. The Society Islands, which include Bora Bora and Tahiti, are a better all-around destination. The scenery is mountainous, and we can show people some great underwater fun but also good stuff on land.”

 French Polynesia

After more than a decade of covering luxury yacht charters around the world, I am highly surprised to say that I experienced something new aboard Big Fish in the Society Islands every single day. Nobody asked to ride Jet Skis because we were already busy taking a private tour with the owner of a Tahitian pearl farm. (Bring your bankroll.) Not a single guest asked to get out the kayaks because we were being taught how to dance with torches and eat fire. (Bring your courage.) Big Fish s outstanding scuba instructors took us not only on a night dive, but also on a 90-foot day dive into the wreck of the Nordby with an air pocket 70 feet below the oceansurface. When was the last time you heard your own voice echo seven stories under water?

All the while, back on Big Fish, we had five-star accommodations, top-notch service and dynamite cuisine. I was lucky enough to enjoy the master cabin, which is on the bridge deck where a sky lounge might otherwise be. Every morning, I d press a button and the blackout shades would rise, revealing wall-size windows on three sides of the bed and a view across a private balcony to the world beyond. The water was impossibly blue, as if someone took the prettiest part of the Exumas and stretched it across incredible distances, sprinkling in pixie dust for additional effect.

During my last day with Big Fish, I snorkeled with the boatlocal partner, Tahiti Private Expeditions, in Bora BoraBay of Yairou. This is where the giant manta rays play. Our talented guide found them within about 15 minutes, and our group followed them from high above in fins and snorkels as long as our legs held out, like a wild-eyed posse being towed in the wake of nature.

In that moment, I realized the thing that will really kill you in life is not sharks feeding a few feet in front of  you in the Society Islands it s the slow march of everyday routine. A charter aboard Big Fish may not be the elusive antidote to mortality, but it sure is a much-needed adrenaline jolt to the soul.