Islands at a Glance
118 Islands spread across 5 archipelagos
The Society Islands :
-The Windward Islands: Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa
-The Leeward Islands: Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora, Maupiti
The primary public services are based on these islands, especially Papeete (Tahiti) the capital city of French Polynesia. The development of French Polynesia today originates from the Windward Islands. Tahiti, the country’s largest island is made of two volcanic massifs: Tahiti Nui with its highest peak Mount ‘Orohena (elevation: 2,241 m) and Tahiti Iti with Mount Mairenui (elevation: 1,300 m). A short ferry ride from Tahiti lies the peaceful but nonetheless enchanting Moorea with its glittering lagoon and lush, sharp mountains.The second gem of the Society Islands is the Leeward Islands. From a geological point of view, they are older than their Windward “cousins”. They offer a more important fringing coral reef and are a little different than the other islands: mountain summits are not as sharp and have left room to the lagoon. Huahine, Raiatea and Taha’a (both circled by the same lagoon), Bora Bora and Maupiti are all neighbors and can easily be visited by either boat or plane.
The Tuamotu – Gambier Islands :
-Tuamotu: Rangiroa, Tikehau, Manihi, Fakarava…
-Gambier : Mangareva
Amazing white sand, beaches lined with coconut trees, crystal clear ocean that’s warm to the touch…The 76 islands and atolls within the Tuamoto archipelago are spread over an area of more than 20,000km2 and where the myth of Robinson Crusoe could truly exist!
Living up to its reputation, the Tuamotu’s are a must-see for keen divers. The atoll lagoons are a protected paradise where underwater life is spectacular. This area is also the cradle of the legendary Tahitian cultured pearl, grown with love, patience, and respect, lying in an elegant blue oyster. Pearl farms lie on the pa’umotu lagoons in a weightless manner where the pearls source their unmatched colors and shades.
Some Tuamotu atolls are just endless white sandy beaches with a few acres of coconut plantations. Others, such as Rangiroa, the second largest atoll in the world, are much larger.
These mini paradise islands, dotted idyllically amidst the aqua blue ocean, are remote yet easy to reach via boat/plane without having to transit via Papeete.
You will find family pensions/guest houses around most of the islands, and the largest atolls host international resorts, all welcoming visitors from around the world.
Located 1,600km South of Tahiti, following on from the Tuamotu atolls, emerge the most secluded and remote of the French Polynesian archipelagos: the Gambier Islands. It is a natural and cultural gem, which visitors sometimes discover by chance but from which they all come back totally seduced…
The Marquesas Islands :
Golden rays of light filter through the clouds suspended on sharp mountainous peaks, drawing an unreal and subtle ambiance….Lush and high islands emerge from the Pacific Ocean, a land of history and legend, all as fascinating as unforgettable: welcome to the magic environment ‘The Land of Men,’ the Marquesas Islands.
It is geographically isolated and one of the most remote archipelago from any continent. It is located 1500 km North-East of Tahiti and spread out over 12 islands of which only six are inhabited. In Hiva Oa, discover monumental tiki and follow Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel’s journey, both now buried in ‘Atuona’s cemetery. Opposite the island, Tahuata is a small paradise island sheltering a population of local handicraft experts. In Nuku Hiva, explore Taipivai’s bay and valley, Melville’s and Hatihe’u bay, which Robert Louis Stevenson fell in love with. Ua Huka, the driest of all, is also named “the island of horses” whereas in ‘Ua Pou, huge volcanic rocks and columns overlook the island. Discover Hanavave Valley in Fatu Hiva and the Bay of Virgins, one of the most stunning bays on Earth.
Although all very different, these islands have much in common – their beauty. They all feature spectacular landscapes, untouched and of a uniquely rich culture, treasures and mysteries.
Since the late 1970s, there is a strong cultural renewal all around these islands. Marquesans are taking ownership again of their songs, dances, carvings, handicraft and tattoos, which always remained in the islanders’ ancestral memories. Nowadays, pahu (large drums) can still be heard in the valleys and tūhuna – skilled and knowledgeable craftsmen are more talented and in greater numbers than ever.
The cradle of Polynesian art lies in the heart of these rugged landscapes away from the worldwide development. “Fenua ‘enata also called “Land of Men” is a genuine location of a simple and powerful world.
These are as many reasons why the Marquesas are currently applying to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
An extraordinary adventure on board the passenger – freighter cruiser Aranui 3 is a great way to discover these islands. From one bay to another, sailors unload goods to the local people eagerly awaiting the arrival of the famous South Seas cargo ship. In the meantime, passengers explore the natural and cultural discoveries of every island where they are warmly greeted by the Marquesans.
The Austral Islands :
The Austral Islands…. Untouched and mysterious lands, a land of tradition where white sand clashes with the intense blue of the lagoons… Although this group of islands is off the beaten track, it will offer travelers a memorable and genuine experience.
Discovered by the Europeans in the 18th century, the Australs are located 600km South from Tahiti’s capital city. The archipelago is made of 7 islands, 5 of them are inhabited, and the other four are within reach by air. One will quickly understand what makes them unique: their isolation, the untouched look, and their profoundly authentic nature.
Breathtaking landscapes, from sheer mountains to valleys and high plains, these islands are famous for their farming activities. Numerous archeological remnants are hiding around each island, witnessing a well-organized pre-European community of rich cultural and religious practices.
The cliffs and caves are places of legends… These areas used to be old burial grounds but are now a place where one can view the humpback whales. The whales come to the Austral Islands from August-October each year to give birth. Thus, one will enjoy ocean and land, memorable hikes and fabulous diving.
These contrasting sceneries blend well with the friendliness of the inhabitants. In the colorful, picturesque villages, one will discover the handicraft know-how of the Islanders, who mainly live off their artwork, but also fishing, farming, and basket weaving. You won’t leave these enchanting places without a hat or woven basket, as a memory of the fine work and the ancestral legacy of this know-how. The art of weaving is passed on from generation to generation… It seems that smiling goes along way…
The Austral Islands are a rare opportunity to discover Tahiti and Her Islands under a different light…