French Polynesia is composed of 118 islands divieded into 5 archipelagoes located in the middle of the South Pacific ocean. Spread over a surface larger than Europe, these 118 islands barely occupy 4,000 km² of land (less than 1/100 of the surface of France).
Of this surface, the atoll of Rangiroa alone with its huge lagoon -that could fit entirely the island of Tahiti- is the largest with 1,600 km² followed by the island of Tahiti with 1,000 km².
Annually, around 250 000 visitors, mostly coming from the U.S., Japan and Europe, are expected during the next decade.
An Exotic Past
Tahiti, Otahiti for the first Europeans, the “Island of Love”, the “New Cyther” for Bougainville, the myth of paradise, of Rousseau’s “good savage”, all those names to describe the same beauty of this island, symbol just by itself of the entire French Polynesia.
Two volcanos emerged from the waters compose the island of Tahiti : 3-million year old for the Tahiti Nui (the Big Tahiti) volcano, and only 500,000 years for the one of Tahiti Iti (the Little Tahiti) also called thePeninsula (Presqu’ile). Those two extinct volcanoes are joined together by the Taravao isthmus. Not only one of the most recent island of Polynesia, Tahiti is also the largest (1,045 square kilometres) and the most populated (150,371 persons).
Expected white sand beaches bordered by coconut trees and overwater bungalows will be encountered at Bora Bora or in the Tuamotu islands rather than Tahiti. However, Tahiti is full of pleasant surprises for those taking the time to observe it and to discover its secrets…
Circle shape, Tahiti is entirely surrounded by a lagoon except for a north coast part going from Mahina to Tiarei. Its reef barrier is cut by 33 passes, the one of Papeete being the largest. From the Taharaa viewpoint (Mahina), you will overhang the Matavai Bay where the first explorers anchored more than 250 years ago.
Tahiti Nui is dominated by abrupt mountains like Mount Orohena (2,241 m), famous Mount Aorai (2,066m) and Diadem (1,321 m) – names given by Dumont D’Urville – and Mount Marau (1,493 m) cut by deep inhabited and luxuriant valleys. Those valleys – described by French writer Loti – feature numerous waterfalls pouring into refreshing basins which will be highly appreciated by curious visitors. Tahiti also conceal many archaeological sites and mysterious caves.
Tahiti Iti is dominated by Mount Ronui (1,332 m) and Mount Meirenui (1,306 m). Surrounded by a coral reef and a lagoon with white sand beaches, Tahiti Iti is bordered by the “Te Pari” vertical cliffs which are accessible only by boat or by foot (with a guide !) and it offers many treasures such as the “Devil Pass”, the “Giant Umete of Taapeha”, caves, petroglyphs, archaeological sites full of legends, hollow rocks called the “Honoura Drums” … all this taking you over to some enchanting spots at the edge of the world.
Tahiti offers splendid diving excursions, especially in Tahiti Iti, and spectacular basalt black sand beaches around Papara and on the east coast, both spots being suitable for surfing.
At Tahiti It, you will also discover the refreshing Plateau of Taravao dedicated to cow breeding and agriculture, with its strange landscapes for a tropical zone. A splendid view over the Taravao isthmus and the two Tahiti Nui volcanoes awaits for you there.
But Tahiti is also the economic heart of French Polynesia. Papeete, its capital, is built along a friendly waterfront (recently renovated) welcoming many shops and luxury ships. It is the unique city at 4,000 kilometres around and one will find here everything needed, markets, jewellers, bars, nightclubs, restaurants (French, Chinese, Italian…), hospitals, and all commercial services.