At 56 Madonna Masters The Stage With Her New Music Video ‘Living For Love’

Madonna was the first artist to premiere a music video on the file sharing app Snapchat with 100 million active monthly users with roughly 70 percent of those being woman Madonna’s targeted audience.

In her new her music video for “Living for Love” Madonna plays a matador to men dressed as bulls in a red arena that glitters red electric, infused with the excitement of the Moulin Rouge. This is Madonna at her best, in control and master of the stage which has kept her at the top of the charts for an unprecedented 33 years.

“Living for Love” was directed by French duo Julien Choquart and Camille Hirigoyen, otherwise known as J.A.C.K., and edited by Danny B. Tull, who worked on “4 Minutes” and has also worked on several other Madonna videos. The full CD Rebel Heart will be released on March 6, 2015.

Madonna will take to the stage Grammy night on CBS  Sunday Feb 8 to to slay the bulls in “Living for Love”.

I’m attending the event as a special guest of Microsoft’s Lumia team and will provide special coverage of red-carpet fashions, the awards show and the after-event parties. Follow my Twitter feed and Instagram posts for exclusive content.

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1. “Living for Love”
Madonna Thomas Wesley Pentz Maureen McDonald Toby Gad Ariel Rechtshaid U. Emenike
Madonna Diplo

2. “Devil Pray”
Madonna Tim Bergling Carl Falk Rami Yacoub Savan Kotecha
Madonna Avicii Blood Diamonds Dahi Falk

3. “Ghosttown”
Madonna Jason Evigan Sean Douglas Evan Bogart
Madonna Billboard
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4. “Unapologetic Bitch”
Madonna Pentz Rechtshaid McDonald Gad
Madonna Diplo

5. “Illuminati”
Madonna Gad McDonald Larry Griffin Jr. Mike Dean
Madonna Kanye West Dean Charlie Heat

6. “Bitch I’m Madonna” (featuring Nicki Minaj)
Madonna Pentz Rechtshaid McDonald Gad
Madonna Diplo Sophi

7. “Hold Tight”

8. “Joan of Arc”

9. “Iconic” (featuring Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson)

10. “HeartBreakCity”

11. “Body Shop”

12. “Holy Water”

13. “Inside Out”

14. “Wash All Over Me”

Innocent Victims Of War: Dozens Of Animals Die Of Neglect At Gaza Zoo

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Dozens of animals have wasted away from thirst or hunger at Khan Younis zoo since its inception in 2008 in the impoverished Gaza Strip home to 4 other zoos in a densely populated coastal area of 1.7 million people ruled by Islamic Hamas militants.

There is no governmental body in Gaza that oversees zoos, and no animal rights movement in the region, this leaves the animals and facilities virtually unsupervised. A zookeeper is not on the premises at Khan Younis zoo and medical treatment is done by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt. With this level of care, animals are receiving basic or nonexistent treatment.

Dozens of the 65 animals have died at the zoo which included ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger. They were among the many animals that were left without food and water zoo owner Mohammed Awaida says during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  During Israel’s 2008 military offensive against Hamas which began in December and continued for 3 weeks, Mr Awaida says his staff was unable to reach the zoo and many of the animals died from neglect and starvation.

The zoo has a tradition of stuffing and embalming the animals that die and return them to their enclosures. The zoo has ten embalmed animals on dismay in makeshift exhibits fashioned from fencing salvaged from Jewish settlements that Israel dismantled in 2005. Gaza’s zoos have also resorted to painting white donkeys with black stripes to look like zebras because it was too expensive to replace them during the Israeli offensive.

Hassan Azzam, director of the veterinary services department in Gaza’s ministry of agriculture, said: ‘We have humble capabilities,’ but the ministry encourages zoos.

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This zoo is an extreme example of the mistreatment and neglect of animals due to extenuating circumstances but there are other zoos worldwide where the treatment of captivate animals is deplorable.

From an animal rights standpoint, we do not have a right to breed, capture and confine other animals, even if they are endangered. Animals in captivity suffer from stress, boredom and confinement.

The vast majority of captive breeding programs do not release animals back into the wild. The offspring are forever part of the chain of zoos, circuses, petting zoos, and exotic pet trade that buy, sell and barter animals exploiting them.

If people want to see wild animals, they can observe wildlife in the wild, visit a sanctuary or watch them on TV.  A true sanctuary does not buy, sell, or breed animals, but takes in unwanted exotic pets, surplus animals from zoos or injured wildlife that can no longer survive in the wild.

If zoos are teaching children anything, it’s that imprisoning animals for our own entertainment is acceptable.

Diane Sawyer To Interview Bruce Jenner: Keeping Up With The Transition

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Olympian and reality TV star Bruce Jenner, 65,  plans to sit down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer to discuss rumors that have been floating around in the media for the past year that he is transitioning to life as a woman.

Sawyer is “in the final stages of negotiating the interview” with Jenner, who reportedly is planning a docu-series on the E network about the gender transition, Jenner’s interview will air in May.

“He is finally happy and his family is accepting of what he’s doing,” an unnamed source reportedly told People. “He’s in such a great space. That’s why it’s the perfect time to do something like this.”

“It will air when he is ready to be open about his transition,” another source reportedly told People. “But he’s acting more and more confident and seems very happy.”

Jenner, who has not publicly confirmed the reports, divorced Kris Jenner, fellow star of the E! series “Keeping up With the Kardashians.”


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Sam Smith: From London Barback To 6 Grammy Nominations

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In a new cover story interview with Rolling Stone,  soulful crooner Sam Smith, 22, says he came out long before the album promotion for his Grammy nominated “In The Lonely Hour” CD. Smith, told the magazine that when he was just 13 years old he was asked point-blank by a classmate if he was gay.

“I turned ’round and I was just like, ‘Yeah,'” the Brit spilled. “And everything’s changed.”

The “Stay With Me” singer had teenage and young adult years full of love and lust — some unrequited and some regrettable.

“I had a lot of one-night stands,” Smith admitted. “I met a few dodgy friends, people I’m definitely not friends with now.”

“I fell in love with a straight guy last year, and he didn’t love me back,” he added. “I got trapped in my own mind.”

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He wrote the boy a confessional love letter, and the object of his affection wrote back, explaining that he liked him as a friend but not romantically.

“It makes me emotional, actually,” Smith told Rolling Stone, looking back on his one-sided crush. “He looked out for me for the rest of school. He just made sure that if anyone took the piss out of me, he would stick up for me. He could have made it hell for me.”

While Smith’s classmate was sweet to him, others have not been as kind. The “Money On My Mind” singer recalled a time when another student lent him an eraser, but he washed it off when Smith returned it to him. “He was like, ‘I don’t want to share my eraser with a gay man,'” Smith explained.

Another time, Smith was walking with his father in his town when someone hurled a gay slur at him.

“I was just embarrassed that my dad had to see that, because I could only imagine how you feel as a parent,” he said. “You just want to kill them. I was always embarrassed for the people around me. It never actually deeply affected me. You just ignore it, you know?”

Smith’s worst and most recent encounter took place after he moved to London and was kicking off his career. He was walking down the city streets while wearing makeup and was attacked. “I got punched in my neck, just out of nowhere,” he said. “It wasn’t the easiest.”

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Sam Smith’s smash “Stay With Me” helped him become the breakout male pop star of 2014, and with six Grammy nominations, he’s only gaining steam. Just a couple of years ago Smith was a barback in London’s financial district, eating customers’ leftover fish and chips for dinner. Now, he’s anxiously preparing to launch his first-ever arena tour after the smash success of his first CD.

Smith will be performing live at the 57th Annual Grammys Sunday, February 8 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

I’m attending the event as a special guest of Microsoft’s Lumia team and will provide special coverage of red-carpet fashions, the awards show and the after-event parties. Follow my Twitter feed and Instagram posts for exclusive content.

Premiere: ‘Earned It’ From The ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey Soundtrack’ – The Weekend

The 19 Shades Of Sons Of Anarchy Star Charlie Hunnam

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British actor Charlie Hunnam’s has been in the spotlight for more than a decade. Thanks to the popularity of Sons of Anarchy, his starring role in 2013’s Pacific Rim, and the fact that he backed out of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, Charlie has definitely been making  a name for himself in film and TV. Feast your eyes on a dose of eye candy and relive his sexiest moments on Sons of Anarchy.


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Vietnam’s Dirty Little Secret: Hell On Earth For Dogs And The Barbaric Dog Meat Industry

SOI DOG

There are no laws against animal cruelty in Vietnam.

Eating dogs is not only a cruel and barbaric activity practiced in Vietnam it has also become big business where activists say up to 5 million dogs are brutally slaughtered annually. Dog meat is more expensive than pork and can sell for up to $40.00 a dish in high-end restaurants in Hanoi.

The horror starts for many dogs as they are snatched from the streets and backyards in Thailand and tossed into cramped, fifthy cages. With no food or water and barely enough room to move, many will suffocate, be crushed to death or die from exposure. Shockingly, their torture has only just begun.

In Hanoi Vietnam’ capital seven tons of live dogs are shipped (smuggled) to Vietnam each day from neighboring Thailand and Laos over the Mekong River. Once they arrive in Hanoi, the dogs are stored in deep pits before being slaughtered and sold on to restaurants to be cooked and eaten. One busy holding house processes around 2,000 live dogs every day, with up to 200 squashed into each cage.

Nguyen Tien Tung is one of the men that run a Hanoi slaughter house, frenetic and filthy the 42 year old has an open air concrete patio which leads on to a busy road lined with industrial supply shops. Mr. Tung reaches into a cage and caresses the dog closest to the door. As it starts wagging its tail, he grabs a heavy metal pipe, hits the dog across the head, then, laughing loudly, slams the cage door closed. Some of the dogs are still sporting collars, thousands of dogs are stolen from gardens and porches in Thailand with many being stolen at night in Vietnam.

On the leafy streets of north Hanoi’s Cau Giay district there are a number of dog meat restaurants no one knows when the Vietnamese started eating dogs but its consumption primarily in the north is increasingly popular for drinking parties, family reunions and special occasion. Vietnamese erroneously believe it is said to increase a man’s virility, warm the blood and provide medicinal cures.

That Rae is a sleepy little town in Thailand’s paddy-filled north-eastern state of Sakon Nakhon. That Rae has been trading dogs for 150 years when a group of Vietnamese Catholics fled persecution in Vietnam. Today, locals say at least 5,000 people one-third of the population supplement their meager farming incomes by snatching, selling or killing dogs for local and foreign consumption.

Many Vietnamese believe the more the dogs suffer before it dies, the tastier its meat, which explains the brutal way the dogs are killed in Vietnam, usually being bludgeoned with a heavy metal pipe 10 to 12 times, having their throats slit, being stabbed in the chest or being burned alive. The dogs are also force fed like foie gras in the West. They shove a tube into their stomach and pump solid rice and water in them to increase their weight for sale. Nguyen Tien Tung has a simple method for increasing the bottom line, “we just put a stone in the dog’s mouth.” He shrugs, before opening up his cage for another kill.

Demand for dogs in Vietnam has increased so dramatically where they have traditional been “farmed” in the countryside, this has led to 300,000 dogs yearly being tightly packed in metal cages in Thailand floated across the Mekong to Laos, then trucked hundreds of miles through jungles without food or water before being mercilessly killed. This creates unimaginable cruelty and suffering for the dogs in barbaric conditions that leads to many of them dying before they even make it Vietnam.

SOI DOG AD

Click On The Image Above To Visit The Soi Dog Website.

The route the smugglers take to reach Vietnam is Highway 8, a two-lane ribbon of road that cuts through Laos’s limestone mountain passes, past wooden shacks and the large, modern mansions of the wealthy. While still in Thailand, the dogs will have been crammed into poultry carriers or heavy metal cages, 12 to 15 dogs in each, six to eight cages per truck, every convoy worth around $5,000. They are driven, at night, to the border, before being floated across the Mekong and loaded on to other trucks.

This is a black-market industry, managed by an international mafia and facilitated by corrupt officials.

“At first it was just a handful of small traders wanting to make a small profit,” says Roger Lohanan of the Bangkok-based Thai Animal Guardians Association, which has been investigating the dogmeat trade since 1995. “But now this business has become a fundamental export. The trade is tax-free and the profit 300-500%, so everybody wants a piece of the cake.”

Transporting dogs without proper vaccination papers is illegal in Thailand, as is smuggling them into Laos without customs and tax documents. Eating them is not illegal.

Despite the large numbers of dogs that are smuggled out of the country every year, only a handful of people run the Thai operation, claims Edwin Wiek, cofounder of the Animal Activist Alliance, a Thai-based charity pushing to stop the trade. “We know these people: we know where they live, we know their names, we even have photographs,” says Wiek, whose alliance relies on full-time informants in Thailand and Laos. “Some of the photographs show their cars – their numberplates could be easily traced – but they get away with it because they pay a lot of money in bribes. And as long as they keep paying, there will be people in the system who accept it and turn a blind eye.”

Crackdowns have increased, however, thanks to a large network of informants working primarily with the Royal Thai Navy, which intercepted a shipment of nearly 5,000 dogs as they were being stacked on to boats and shipped to Laos. Leading the busts was Captain Surasak Suwanakesa, 45, naval commander of the regional Mekong River Patrol Unit, who oversees the Thai-Laos river border crossing. His desire is to end the dogmeat trade once and for all. “It really is a point of shame for this country,” he says, shaking his head.

The naval team depends on tipoffs from locals to crack down on the trade, but arrests are few and far between, activists say, with most smugglers paying only small fines and going back into business within days.

Pet ownership is still relatively new in Vietnam dogs here have traditionally been reared for either food or security purposes so activist have chosen to scrap the “cruelty” argument in favor of emphasising dogmeat’s effect on people’s health. It has been linked to regional outbreaks of trichinosis, cholera and, a point activists underscore as the region looks to eradicate rabies by 2020.

Activists in Thailand are pushing for a new animal welfare law that would protect pets such as dogs and cats from being consumed or traded for consumption. But the law has little chance of making a real difference, Lohanan says. Few in the Thai government openly oppose the trade. Of the nations involved in the dog meat trade, it is Thailand that is taking most action to curtail it. Activists in Thailand are pushing for a new animal welfare law that would protect pets such as dogs and cats from being consumed or traded for consumption. But the law has little chance of making a real difference.

‘Regulation is not a step towards banning they are completely separate legislative tools and regulating a fundamentally cruel business and should not be our aim. We should not spend time and resources arguing to win a battle that we don’t want to fight. Our time and money is better spent bringing a complete end to the suffering of dogs. There is only one goal and we need to focus on that for the sake of the millions of dogs who currently suffer from absolute indifference to their needs and misery.

VIETNAM’S DOG SNATCHERS

WARNING CRUELTY  TO DOGS  IS SHOWN IN THIS FILM

The dog meat trade is a highly contentious and emotive issue in most countries where it is popular. As a result of mounting national and international concerns for animal welfare, a rapidly increasing pet ownership in Asia, and a greater awareness of the human health risks associated with this industry, the opposition towards the production and consumption of dog meat has become increasingly vocal.

While no country has specifically legalized the dog meat industry, a number of Asian countries, including, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and the city of Hong Kong (where dog meat was once a popular dish), have banned the slaughtering and the sale of dogs for human consumption.

Our voice is becoming louder and our determination and commitment are resolute the tide of opinion is turning against an industry that has led to the endless suffering and cruelty of millions of innocent dogs annually.

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Barbra Streisand’s Homeless Stepson Jess Brolin Rummages In Trash For Food As Family Sits On $500 Million Fortune

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Jess Brolin’s family includes 3 Hollywood superstars Barbra Streisand, husband James Brolin and his brother actor Josh Brolin. Barbra Streisand’s net worth is to be believed in the range of $500 million yet Jess is left to sleep in the chilly air of Ojai Valley.

The trouble 41 year old stepson whiles away his days sitting on benches and rummaging public trash cans for food in Ojai, California, 80 miles north of Los Angeles.

JESS BROLIN

In 1995 Brolin received a six figure inheritance when his mother, animal activist Jane Cameron Agee died in a car accident. After depleting his inheritance and losing his $800 per month apartment in 2011 Brolin now lives on the streets and sleeps in vacant lots. The 41 year old is miles away from his father actor James Brolin and stepmother Barbra Streisand’s  multi-million Malibu estate.

A spokesman for the Brolin family admitted they’ve done everything in their power to help Jess.
‘We have offered help and support and we continue to do so,’ the spokesman said. ‘We love him very much and only want what is best for him.’

barbra streisand-james brolin-jess brolin

 

 

 

 

Chris Brown Steps In It Again With Ebola Tweet: ‘It’s Population Control’

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Nearly 4,000 people have died of the deadly ebola virus mainly in three West African countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Chris Brown has been ridiculed for a bizarre tweet Monday in which he claimed the virus was a form of population control.

After receiving hundreds of criticism from some of his 13.6 million followers he backtracked and tweeted “Let me shut my black ass up?”
His first post has so far received 12,000 retweets and has not been deleted by the singer.

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Comedian Warren Holstein tweeted: ‘Chris Brown tweeted that Ebola is “a form of population control.” He should try it.’
Kevin Hildebrand said: ‘Let’s keep in mind that Chris Brown is a complete idiot, so his theory of Ebola is equal to a rant from a village idiot.’
Wayne Durham tweeted: ‘The stupid gene is strong in Chris Brown.’

There is no vaccine for the virus, with the UN expecting the outbreak to continue for at least three months.

 

Experiencing Paradise in the Most Unbelievable Place on Earth: Bora Bora

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Some consider New York or L.A. as the center of the universe but Bora Bora in the South Pacific is proudly a world’s away.

It’s an impossible to describe the waters of Bora Bora.

I heard the “oohhs” and “aahhs” on the propeller plan carrying 75 passengers to paradise on Earth.

Unfortunately, because I was on the right side of the plane, I wasn’t catching the spectacular views. I jumped out of my seat and rushed to the left side to catch a glimpse of what half the plane was experiencing.

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The Beauty Of #BoraBora Has To Be Seen To Be Believed, No #PhotoShop Needed! #FSBoraBora #boraborabirthday #Tahiti #FourSeasons #tropics #beaches #frenchpolynesia #marlonbrando #paradise #moorea #sunsets #luxurytravel #tropical #chocolate #nature

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Unbelievable Views

The view was that spell bounding that the French woman turned me down for a peak through her window. My optimistic inner-self told me it’s because she didn’t understand my English.

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When we landed, I saw the turquoise blue waters that would be the first splash of my adventure in paradise on Earth.

The Air Tahiti Nui overnight flight from the Los Angeles International Airport into Paipettee, Tahiti lasted a little more than eight hours – about 3 three hours more than Hawaii or approximately the same timeframe if we were traveling from the East Coast of the U.S.

Air Tahiti Nui sports colors Boeing airplane befitting its destination’s tropical colors. The jade and bunt orange interior colors with paintings of French-born artist Paul Gauguin helps transitions passengers to the Tahitian spirit.

I was surprised that the trip to Tahiti didn’t require a Visa nor did we need to cross the International Date Line. In fact, it’s directly south of the equator from Hawaii.

unnamed Bora Bora

Charming Early Tahitian Surprise

We arrived early in the morning at Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti’s capital of Papeete and had a long layover until taking a 45-minute Tahiti Air flight to Bora Bora.

Since the shops at the airport hadn’t yet opened, we went outside to a delightful surprise: encountering local women making beautiful flower leis for arriving tourists.

Almost everything was closed in the early hours at Tahiti's airport but smiling women making colorful leis for international visitors, including the open hearts of hospitality of Fabienne.

Almost everything was closed in the early hours at Tahiti’s airport but smiling women making colorful leis for international visitors, including the open hearts of hospitality displayed by a new friend, Fabienne.

Bora Bora has become synonymous with overwater bungalows and romantic honeymoons.

My special trip was to celebrate my 45 years living on this planet, but little did I know that I would soon be transported to paradise on Earth.

Travel brochures and websites often liberally proclaim their tropical destinations as such heaven on Earth and a slice of paradise, etc. But after experiencing Bora Bora for a week, I can unequivocally state that no other travel destination will match its vivid physical beauty and emotional resonance.

Bora Bora is located northwest of Tahiti, which is the largest island in a group of South Pacific islands called French Polynesia. French is the official language although Tahitian and English widely spoken – especially in Bora Bora.

Airport Amnesia

The islanders have a special place in their heart for Americans with the natives being conversant with all things Americans – at least with pop culture.

The Bora Bora airport was built by Americans and used by the U.S. military during World War II. Upon landing at the airport, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The white sands sparkled alongside the sky blue hues of the lagoon. “If the airport looks this beautiful, I can’t imagine what the rest of the island looks like,” I exclaimed.

Other passengers forgot their luggage as they were too occupied capturing the first sights of paradise at the airstrip as if it were a mirage that would soon vanish.

Used to the distractions, flight attendants would reunite luggage, purses and backpacks to the otherwise occupied tourists.

The airport makes finding your final destination easy with kiosks with all the resorts.

We spotted the Four Seasons one with the service agents greeting us by name and offering traditional Tahitian leis of the Tiaré flower that had a unique gardenia-like citrus aroma that will forever forge in my mind and heart as the scent of the best vacation I’ve experienced – ever.

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Transported to Paradise

We boarded a classic wood yacht for a 30-minute ride across the near placid lagoon.

In addition to the immense beauty of the water, all eyes were transfixed on Mount Otemanu with its jagged volcanic peak rising magically above the swirling clouds.

Named “Bird of Paradise” by the Tahitians, the extinct volcano would serve as my constant compass of comfort and luxury throughout my five-day adventure in the South Pacific.

Seconds after the hospitality team gave us Tiaré-scented refreshing towels and cold water bottles, all of the 15 passengers on the boat rushed to snap photos. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful in my life,” a visitor from Canada exclaimed. “Every angle is a photo-op,” remarked another tourist from California. “It’s unbelievable.”

And so my unbelievable 45th birthday in Bora Bora begins. Hashtag #BoraBoraBirthday!

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As the boat docked, about 15 team members greeted us at the lobby greeted with the traditional Tahitian greeting, “Ia Ora Na,” and offered us a passion fruit smoothie.

Marketing Specialist Aurelie Voituron and Resort Manager Christophe Chabaud gave us a warm welcome to the Four Seasons Bora Bora.

Within a few minutes, we were whisked away on a golf cart with Aurelie, a native of Paris, who proudly gave us a tour of the expansive and perfectly landscaped tropical resort surrounded by private lagoons and sparkling white sand beaches set amidst lush tropical gardens.

Optimizing Private Luxury

Architects and landscape designers planned the resort with location, privacy and luxury in mind after learning from all of the other resorts built before the Four Seasons.

The 100 overwater bungalows and seven private beachside villas are strategically positioned to maximize the sweeping vistas yet they all somehow retain a level of privacy.   Beach Villa cq5dam-2.web.1280.1280

We divided our trip to take advantage of both accommodations. Riding on the pontoons above the fantastical waters, I couldn’t help to feel transported to another world.

Stepping into the bungalow, my eyes became immediately transfixed onto the deck and spacious outdoor area with commanding views of Mount Otemanu.

The water was beckoning me to enter. I listened as Aurelie provided a tour of our luxury accommodations, but I all I wanted to do was to take a plunge into the lagoon just steps away.

Built on stilts over the turquoise lagoon, the overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons Bora Bora offers luxury and tranquility but best of all -- your own lagoon.

Built on stilts over the turquoise lagoon, the overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons Bora Bora offers luxury and tranquility but best of all — your own lagoon.

That’s true desire especially for somebody who doesn’t know how to swim. But luckily, I had both patience and a life vest with snorkeling gear waiting.

The 1,000-square-foot overwater bungalow featured native dark woods on the floor, walls and ceilings with all the modern amenities – Wi-Fi, CD and DVD player, iPod docking stations and private bars – one would expect from the Four Seasons brand.

Teak furnishings and native artwork exuded tropical charm. The high ceilings with traditional-thatched roofs created an elevated ambiance, taking full advantage of the natural light.

The floor even features cut-outs to bring in the colors of the waters glistening below. The unique lighting effect is even more brilliant at night with flooring lights illuminating the waters.

Capturing the mystical beauty of Bora Bora, New Zealand photographer Trey Ratcliff sharing his experiencing on Twitter and Google Plus as he arrived at the Four Seasons Bora Bora at night.

Capturing the mystical beauty of Bora Bora, New Zealand photographer Trey Ratcliff shared this photo on Twitter and Google Plus as he arrived at the Four Seasons Bora Bora.

One of my favorite moments was waking up in the middle of the night and going out to the bungalow’s deck.

I would lie there eyes stretched in almost every possible direction at the bright stars of the Southern Hemisphere that formed the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross. It was such awe-inspiring sight that will forever live in my mind.  

My Private Water Oasis

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Diving into the next 45 years of my life! #boraborabirthday #borabora #tahiti #bungalow #jumpingshot #instagramphotooftheday #nofilters #lagoon   View on Instagram

At last, it was time for my plunge. I put on my life vest and took a dive into my own private paradise.

Floating in the calm lagoon, I felt I was the only person in the world. There were no other sounds than my breath and the splashes of waves lapping against me. I suddenly felt the layers of stress and anxiety built over 45 years melt away.

I would revisit that feeling numerous times during my stay. After devouring a mid-afternoon snack of tropical fruits, juices and cheeses, I had an appointment with marine biologist Oliver Martin at the resort’s Ruahatu Lagoon Sanctuary.

Preserving Marine Life

I had known about Oliver from his blog showcasing his worldwide travels with young daughter, Alyx. Since 2008, Oliver and his team have created one of the largest aquatic areas in French Polynesia.

It’s a testament to his passion for preserving the most sensitive of sea creatures against the tide of global warming.

After a three-year research study of French Polynesian reef ecosystems and a six-year world tour to research worldwide anthropogenic impacts, he now works with the cutting-edge program to protect the delicate marine ecosystem.

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Today is World Oceans Day! Saluting hardworking people that protect our oceans like @FourSeasons @FSBoraBora marine biologist Oliver Martin #worldoceansday #marine #marinebiologist #borabora #boraborabirthday #fourseasons #southpacific #tahiti #lagoon #paradise #tropics #tropical #pufferfish #coral #tropicalfish View on Instagram

He leads guests on snorkeling tours of the inner lagoons to enhance their knowledge about marine life.

One of the highlights of my trip was getting to know Oliver and meeting his daughter as well as to experience the underwater living creatures of tropical fish and corals.

Snorkeling in the lagoon was like swimming in a tropical fish aquarium with a kaleidoscope of colorful fish darting about. But as soon as I emerged from the water, I could see the majesty of the surroundings – with Mount Otemanu as the constant background.

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I miss my tropical fish in Bora Bora, especially the rare yellow puffer fish that followed me around in the lagoon. #tropical #tropicalfish #boraborabirthday #borabora #tahiti #snorkel #snorkeling #fsfotog #lagoon #pufferfish

 

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Cultivating Corals

I had the chance to graft corals on large sheets of concrete. They look like exotic herbs in an underwater version of Alice in Wonderland.

I took my turn in grafting five corals which can grow up to 10 inches long a year. I hope to return someday to see Oliver’s dream realized of creating a center on the Pacific side of the island – and to see how my five corals are faring.

Though Tahiti certainly attracts honeymooners and couples celebrating special occasions, I noticed there were many multi-generational families and groups of friends spending quality time in and out of the lagoon.

We spent a brilliant day on an excursion with other guests at the Four Seasons Bora Bora – a family of seven from Japan and a couple from our hometown of Laguna Niguel, Calif. The extended family was made up of grandparents, parents and grandchild – all on a group vacation.

Swimming with Friendly Sharks and Families

Knowing that I had on the internary of the shark and stingray excursion rattled my nerves partly because I couldn’t swim but mostly because of the sharks and stingrays.

The resort helped prepare me for the trip after explaining to me that the sharks were lemon sharks and reef sharks that did not eat humans and that the stingrays and manta rays would be harmless.

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The excursion began with two cousins – Manu and Ray – of Lagoon Tours welcoming our group with some fast-playing ukulele and soothing songs to calm anxious nerves. I wonder if they really are cousins because in that part of the world, your close friends are considered family. I also think their names sound suspiciously close to manta rays.

But the reality is that the duo delivered an amazing day. It began with musical ride on a motorized outrigger canoe that took us to the other side of the main island of Bora Bora where we could see the other resorts along the way. The common comment from the group was how much bigger the Four Seasons bungalows looked compared to the others and the view of Mount Otemanu wasn’t as impressive from those vantage points.

The other consensus of the group was the spectacular shades of blue changing from minute to minute depending on the depth of the water. The first stop along Manu and Ray’s “ocean office” was to feed the stingrays and manta rays. Still a bit hesitant, I safely stood away from the feeding frenzy about neck-deep in water.

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So unreal to be swimming with sharks! #snorkel #snorkeling #boraborabirthday #borabora #sharks #tropicalparadise @fsborabora @fourseasons #diving #tahiti View on Instagram

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Not a boring Bora birthday with life teeming underneath. #borabora #boraborabirthday #tropical #fish #tropicalfish #snorkel #snorkeling #instagramphotooftheday #nofilters

 

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I was in awe as I saw the couple of my hometown embrace the stingrays while the Japanese grandmother kiss another sea creature. I put on my snorkeling gear and became entranced by the rays gliding around as giddy humans – old and young alike – squealed in pure delight.

It was magical. It happened all too fast. The time had come for us to return to the canoe for the second part of the trek – the sharks. After singing Steam’s or Bananarama’s versions of “Kiss Him Goodbye,” we took a plunge into a deeper sea coral garden where schools of tropical fish circled our boat, and eight to 10 sharks awaited their uneasy friends.

I waited for a while next to the boat to get my sea bearings and my strength. But I mostly wanted to watch to make sure it was perfectly O.K. to be in the water with sharks. Conquering my fear of the ocean, I made the plunge and was mesmerized by what I saw under water.

It was impossible to describe colors of translucent fish darting about along with how to describe the engineering marvel of giant lemon sharks and reef sharks flying through water. The near silence under water provided me an extra level of insulation of a shark grazing inches away from head – its body and tail zipping through the water while pummeling me away.

Mantu appeared next to me and asked via hand gestures under the water if I needed help. I gave him the thumbs up sign, and he grabbed by GoPro camera as he made a quick dive toward the gentle giant and filmed it as it was swimming all around us. After getting back on the canoe, I realized I conquered three fears – swimming, sharks and swimming with sharks. I survived my birthday vacation. 

Private Island Picnic

As we all took turns sharing our close encounters with sharks, Mantu and Ray took us to a private motu or small island where we would have lunch. I would have my next surreal experience – being served red wine by Tahitians wearing loincloths.

An après shark indulgence is a traditional Tahitian picnic on a private motu or  island with feet splashing about.

An après shark indulgence is a traditional Tahitian picnic on a private motu or island with feet splashing about. The friendly hosts weave the palm leaves into a pineapple plate with traditional Tahitian fare perfectly complemented by French and California wines.

The dining experience certainly qualifies as a gourmet one with any Four Seasons resort but in the most special of settings.

The delectable meal was prepared by a Tahitian family. And by the pure genuine hospitality, one could tell it was shared with much affection for their guests and pride in their warm culture.

We feasted with Manu and Ray and their extended family on picnic tables in the lagoon.

Never before had I experienced small fish swimming between my toes while dinning. Yes, only in Bora Bora and with cousins named after fish.

Pampered in Paradise

With all the excitement, it was time for relaxation.

I think taking a nap would suffice but I’m one to always indulge in some massage time. The spa at the Four Seasons Bora Bora could easily be summed up by one word: Heavenly.

Spa

The spa’s architecture resembles a cathedral with high-pitched roofs. It’s nestled between the calm inner lagoons and the energetic waves of the Pacific with large trees and colorful flowers surrounding the sanctuary of well-being and relaxation.

I opted for the traditional Polynesian massage inspired by the French Polynesians’ love for graceful and soothing dance-like motions called “taurumi.” This treatment along with the selection of vanilla and tiara natural oils quickly put me into a zen-like state.

A Culinary and Cultural Fiery Feast

A trip to the South Pacific would not be complete without the traditional luau.

I’ve always preferred the luau’s cultural performance over its food, I found the Four Season’s interpretation of luau cuisine to be just as delectable and delightful as its entertainment.

The appetizers feature traditional luau fare of fresh seafood, native root vegetables with an Asian twist. The main course consists of quality preparations of beef, pork, chicken and fish with savory side dishes.

Vegetarians also will delight in the bountiful assortment of meatless offerings. I marvel at the variety of fresh produce and protein that must be shipped in by boat or airplane that are expertly prepared per the high standards according to the Four Seasons brand.

Tahitian dancers entertained guests with traditional performance. And for those who indulged in dinner too much, they can shake off some calories with some hip-swirling routines to the sheer delight or utter bemusement of their loved ones.

The highlight of the night’s luau was the traditional Tahitian fire knife dance with high-fueled fire on both ends of the sharp knife.

I noted that all of the performers had burn marks on their arms and legs – likely earned from entertaining guests like myself. At the end of the high-octane performance, I joined the crowd in clapping until my hand hurt in appreciation of the team’s work.

Private Beach Villa

A private villa features all the comforts of top-end indoor amenities while maximizing outdoor activities -- all on a private stretch of a white-sand beach with unsurpassed views.

A private villa features all the comforts of top-end indoor amenities while maximizing outdoor activities — all on a private stretch of a white-sand beach with unsurpassed views.

I went back to what was even a more luxury accommodations than Bora Bora’s iconic overwater bungalow.

It was a 2,000-foot private villa with two master suites with enough entertainment space for the U.S. presidential family and their guests.

The tropical gardens surround the villa provided privacy yet offered sweeping views of the lagoon and the main island. It came complete with an outdoor spa, swimming pool and a lovely hammock on a private beach with soft powder white sand.

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Thanks, kind @fsborabora team, for the delectable apres jet ski snacks and the delightful visual treats! #boraborabirthday #borabora #tahiti #luxurytravel #luxuryvilla #tropical #paradise

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A Fond Farewell

I awoke from my slumber with the realization that it was my last day of my Bora Bora birthday. I spent the day absorbing every minute of the sights, scents and sounds of paradise. It also gave me one last chance to go snorkeling in the lagoon with my fish friends.

One rare fish – a gold puffer fish – had followed me around from one end of the lagoon to the next before. And it was trailing me again. As I got out of the water, it circled around and splashed water on my eyes as if it were waving its fond farewell to me.

I was trying to savor every last detail of the Bora Bora Four Seasons as we were checking out, and I noticed the sad faces on the others checking out.

Among the long faces were two newly wed couples – one straight and one gay – along with a multi-generational family of five.

We all agreed that it was the most magical place we’ve ever experienced and relished the opportunity to visit paradise again.

Perhaps it will be for Bora Bora Birthday No. 50 for me.

More Travel Tedbits

No travel article – even this multimedia feature – could capture the mesmerizing beauty and charm of Bora Bora. I’ve included audio podcasts and a video to help you experience this mystical island paradise. But you truly have to experience it for yourself.

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