Famous for their magnificent natural beauty, the 118 islands and atolls comprising Tahiti and Her Islands cover a land area of 40,145sq km. There are five archipelagoes altogether - the Society Islands Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, the Austral Islands, the Marquesas, the Tuamotu atolls and the Gambier Islands. The islands of Tahiti are known for their intriguing blend of Polynesian, French and Asian culture. Papeete, on the island of Tahiti, is the capital. Population:
245,405. 86% live in the Society Islands, 7% in Tuamotu-Gambier, 4% in the Marquesas and 3% in the Austral Islands Capital city:
Papeete on the island of Tahiti Area:
The central Pacific Ocean , 5700km from Sydney (8hrs flying time), 3,900km from Auckland (5hrs flying time), and 5000km from Noumea (6hrs flying time)
Climate: Sunny and pleasant year-round. Average daytime temperatures are about 26ºC. Hot season:
November to March. Rainy season:
Most rain falls during the most humid months from December to February.Cooler season:
April to October. Time zone:
GMT minus 11 hours. The Marquesas are half an hour ahead of the rest of French Polynesia Major attractions:
Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Austral Islands, Beaches & Lagoons, Gambier Islands, The Marquesas, fishing, snorkelling, diving, cruises, surfing, golf, horse riding, walking, historic sites and buildings, cultureAttractions:
- Society Islands
This group of eight islands includes Tahiti, home to the country's capital, Papeete. Dubbed the Garden of Eden by early European explorers, Tahiti's natural beauty has inspired famous artists such as Gaugin and Matisse. Its sister island of Moorea, with its majestic volcanic peaks, lies 17km north-west. Further afield is the rugged volcanic island of Bora Bora, world-famous for its beautiful lagoon.
- Tuamotu Archipelago
This collection of 76 islands is the largest group of coral atolls in the world, and renowned for its pearl farms, rich scubadiving sites and clear lagoons.
- Austral Islands
About 1300km south of Tahiti, these five fertile volcanic islands are known for their traditional arts and unspoilt natural environment.
- Gambier Islands
About 1650km south-east of Tahiti lie the Gambier group, 14 small mountainous islands and motus (islets) offering historic stone buildings, famous pearl farms and fine lagoons.
- The Marquesas
In the north-east, 1400km from Tahiti, are the rugged Marquesas, a chain of 12 volcanic islands known for their sheer cliffs and natural splendour.
Tahiti and her islands are a rich fishing ground, and outside the coral reefs, the waters teem with game fish including marlin, tuna, bonito and mahi mahi. Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and the Marquesas offer good facilities to charter boats for deep-sea fishing.
- Diving & Snorkelling
The clear waters are ideal for scubadiving with lagoons, oceanic reef slopes and reef passes to explore. Divers can see schools of manta rays and sharks which forage in the warm waters, and Morea and Bora Bora offer shark and ray feeding excursions. Inside the reefs there is excellent swimming and snorkelling.
More than 20 companies offers cruises throughout Tahiti and the islands, including honeymoon, sunset, lagoon and dive cruises. Options include half-day and day trips, with longer cruises on request. Boats can be chartered with or without crew. Many of the yachts are based in Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea and the Marquesas.
The islands are a surfing Mecca famous for their excellent beaches, and attracting some of the world's top surfers. Tahiti is a key centre for international competitions.
- Horse Riding
Horse treks are a good way to explore the interior of the islands. The Australes and Marquesas are ideal spots for trekking, and some of their beautiful forests contain paved paths for riding. Other islands offer beach riding.
Tahiti has the country's only golf course - the Olivier Breaud International green. This 18-hole course is built on the site of a former plantation and rum factory.
- Walking & 4WD Tours
A chance to explore the unspoilt interior of the islands, with their secluded valleys, cascading waterfalls, lush rainforests and secret caves. Scenery is particularly spectacular in the rugged volcanic groups, such as the Society Islands and Marquesas.
- Historic Sites
Tahiti and her islands have many preserved archaeological sites, known as 'Marae'. These sacred religious sites are usually built of raised and aligned stones.
- Historic Buildings
Many of the islands have historic chapels, in particular the Gambier group. Known as the Cradle of Polynesian Catholicism, the Gambier group hold more than 100 stone buildings dating from the 19th century.