Sara Fondo standing on top of a mountain in Tatra National Park, Zakopane, Poland

Bora Bora Coconut Factory: The Wild Story of Mica from Motu Piti Aau

A photo of Michael from Bora Bora Coconut Factory in the wild with a knife and a coconut in his hands

On a remote motu in Bora Bora lives a man who went from being a Canadian Computer Scientist to a Polynesian Medicine Man. This is his story.

As I step foot on Motu Piti Aau in Bora Bora a wave of heat immediately smacks me in the face, prompting droplets of sweat to dribble from my forehead. Looking out at the water here in the bay of Taurere, I am reminded of a drink I used to skull as a teenager, called “Polar Bear”. Pour 3 cl of vodka into a tall glass, add 1 cl of blue curaçao and 8 cl of lemon soda, and there you have it – an electrifying blend of cerulean, azure, and turquoise hues, much like the bay’s waters that meld seamlessly.

One might think that the paradisical scenery would be the most captivating aspect of my day. Yet, enter Mica, whose charisma and a narrative so uniquely his own, had me completely under its sway. Add porn, a 180, coconuts and a splash of crazy, and there you have it – the recipe for Mica’s tale that had me sipping on a whole new kind of paradise.

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The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Michael, the founder of Bora Bora Coconut Factory, holding a knife

Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Within the Realm of Coconuts

Today I am visiting Bora Bora Coconut Factory, the fancy name for Mica’s home. Hidden behind the lush palm trees on the beach lies the location. Two playful puppies – one snowy white, the other white with a splatter of brown on its head – come to greet me as I walk the path leading to the house.

A man appears with a warm smile, sporting a faded brown cap and blue shorts. You can tell by his rich tan that sun rays have been dancing atop it for an extended pas de deux. His beard is a tale of time; brown, grey, and white.

As our hands meet each other in a shake, the roughness of his skin gives away the countless hours he’s spent shredding coconuts. “I’m Michael,” he says, “but you can call me Mica,” he adds, “everyone does.”

The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: A puppy lying beneath a plastic chair behind some coconuts
The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: The house where Michael lives

It’s like snorting a cacophony of flowery and fruity smells, walking around the premises. I try to make out the different components. Coconut, of course. A hint of ash. I expand my nostrils, taking in air like a hound dog on the scent of something. Undefined flowers, I note. An earthy, nutty, bitter smell lingers in the air too, but I can’t quite make out what it is. Yet.

“I make everything myself,” Mica says as his hand makes a sweeping gesture to the land in front of him. A bonfire is burning to the left of us, where the husk of the coconuts are tossed and burned. The oils that Mica produces here are all unrefined, which I believe is quite rare these days, and he even sells them at a considerably lower price than the other places I’ve come across here in French Polynesia.

Want to visit Bora Bora Coconut Factory during your visit to the island? Find Michael’s information here

The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: A close up of coconuts
The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Michael, the founder of Bora Bora Coconut Factory, explaining the properties of Tamanu

The Porn Programmer

Mica starts to demonstrate how he peels off the brown and rough husk of the coconut that surrounds the hard, woody shell that protects the inner fruit and its liquidy goodness. Smash the coconut onto the metal rod, poking out of the ground, and wiggle it profusely from side to side. Repeat this process until you can peel away the outer layer.

As much as I’d love to know about the process of making coconut oil, I’d love even more to peel away the outer layers of Mica. I want to know who this man is and how he ended up on a remote motu, living in a primitive house with his family, worshipping coconuts.

The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Michael's daughter, Lili, with coconuts
The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Michael, the founder of Bora Bora Coconut Factory, tearing apart a coconut

With a knife in one hand, a coconut in the other and a cigarette dangling from his lips, Michael tells me that he’s 47 years old and originally from Montreal, Canada. He used to be a computer programmer, but not just any type of programmer. “I worked in porn,” Mica says with a grin on his face. This was back in the 90s, when the development of the internet skyrocketed. “The internet would’ve never become what it is today, if it weren’t for us [the porn industry],” Mica states.

So apparently the military created the internet, but porn popularized it and brought it to the masses. “We were the front-runners for services like Amazon,” Mica lectures me.

Pornography actually helped spread new technologies like VCRs, ecommerce, streaming services and affiliate marketing, “Porn has had a massive impact on everyday technologies, but because of its steamy content, we don’t really talk about it,” Mica concludes.

Some weeks, Mica worked 100 hours, the glow of his computer screen replacing the natural light of day. I never asked how this workload actually affected him, but he told me this with a pensive look in his eyes: “I quit everything and sold everything, and then I went to Tahiti having only booked a hotel for three days. I had zero plans.”

So, what followed this crazy 180?

The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Michael's son, Nathan, eating a coconut
The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Michael's wife working

A Tropical Escape to Bora Bora

Mica moved to French Polynesia in 2011. He met his wife in Tahiti, and in 2016 they moved to Bora Bora where her family owns land.

In the beginning he continued working in IT for the St. Regis resort, also located here on Motu Piti Aau, but eventually the call of the wild was too loud to ignore. Today, Mica lives off this land that he cultivates with his wife while their two kids, 5-year-old Nathan and 4-year-old Lily, run around and play with the puppies.

Here, the rhythm of nature dictates Mica’s day. He walks me through the garden, his enthusiasm radiating through his eyes as he’s telling me about his crops.

“What is that smell?” I ask Mica, “Tamanu,” he offers. Tamanu is a tree that produces oil, which is extracted from the nuts of the tree. “It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine because of its healing powers,” Mica says as he cracks one open to show me the inside.

“Look,” he says, pointing to a wound on his knee. “I got this a few days ago, but I’ve been using tamanu, so it’s already way better.”

For a minute I stand wondering, if tamanu has done more for Michael than fix a physical wound.

The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: Sara Fondo holding a coconut with a straw
The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: A coconut with a straw

“We could use some rain,” Mica states as he strokes the leaves of a pineapple. In addition to pineapples, his agricultural endeavors encompass papaya, dragon fruit, coconuts, tamanu, lemongrass, ginger amongst many other things, and then there’s the delicate flowers – hinano, fara, tiare and kahai – that he uses to create his Monoi (Monoi is an infused perfume-oil and also a Tahitian word meaning scented or sacred oil.)

After almost getting sick from stuffing my face with coconut seven hundred different ways, I’m ready to leave this tropical haven, but not before buying some of Mica’s amazing products.

Tamanu cream, coconut oil, kahai oil, citronelle oil, fresh coconut water. With bags full of memories and unrefined oil, I bid my farewell with Mica. “Come back anytime,” he smiles.

The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: A photo of Michael in the bush with a knife and a coconut in his hands
The Coconut Sorcerer of Motu Piti Aau – Bora Bora Coconut Factory: A close up of shredded coconuts

Let There Be Rain

Later that night, I reflect on the drastic change of life Michael had undergone. Even though our lives are miles apart, his story resonates with my 24-year-old self; I sold all my belongings and quit all my responsibilities to escape the hustle and bustle of capitalist life and travel the world. For a brief moment I tried doing that life again, but nek minute I found myself in Polynesia. Tamanu for the soul, I guess.

I did ask Mica if there was anything he missed from his old life, his response was succinct – “Nothing.” He found fulfillment through the fruits of his labor – both metaphorical and literal, and I wonder if I myself will ever return to a “normal” life.

As I sit with a newfound appreciation for the paths people choose, and the extraordinary stories they craft along the way, a drop of rain trickles down my forehead. Rain is coming.

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