Splattered across a small corner of the South Pacific are the islands of French Polynesia. These islands were originally settled by Polynesians in the 4th century and were later founded by James Cook during the 1700’s. Today, they still stand as beautiful as they did when the original settlers landed there so many years ago. Below is a walkthrough of some of the rich island wonder they offer:
While Tahiti is known as a chain of islands, within that chain is also the individual island of Tahiti. Papeete, the capital, is located on the northwest coast and home to the only international airport the islands offer. So if you’re flying to any part of French Polynesia, your journey will begin on the Island of Tahiti. As it is the most populated island in all of French Polynesia, Tahiti is home to landmarks, such as the Paul Gaugin Museum, and events such as the International Billfish Tournament.
Bora Bora is a mountainous island encased in a reef and surrounding aquamarine lagoon. Much of the island is comprised of the lagoon, which makes it a popular destination for those visitors who enjoy swimming.
Diving is also a popular activity, as Bora Bora boasts white sand beaches that are shallow and sloping. Hundreds of tropical fish, manta, eagle, and grey rays populate the lagoon and reef as well as black tip reef sharks, which have been trained to swim near the lagoon entrance for feeding time orchestrated by trained guides.
For those who prefer to stay closer to the water’s surface, snorkeling is also offered, making Bora Bora a vacation spot for any type of swimmer to remember.
Moorea means “yellow lizard” in Tahitian, which originated from the name of a former chief. There are no actual yellow lizards on this island, nor are there any dangerous insects in any part of French Polynesia.
Moorea is 11 miles northwest of Tahiti and formed in the shape of a heart due to its volcanic origin. Geologists speculate that, thousands of years ago, a large portion of the volcano either fell into the sea or was blown away by what was still left of the volcano, accounting for the island’s unusual shape.
Manihi is a tiny coral island located in the Tuamotu Archipelago, part of French Polynesia. It is home to no more than 400 inhabitants, as the majority of the island is comprised of a coral reef and a 19 mile long lagoon. The island offers yet another prime location for those who are more aquatically inclined. Diving and snorkeling are popular activities here and visitors can experience swimming alongside fish, rays, and turtles.
One of Manihi’s more unique features is its black pearl farms, which are spaced throughout the lagoon. These commodities can only be found in Manihi, although they’re actually on display in a museum in Tahiti.
The Marquesas Islands
Most know Marquesas from the popular television show Survivor. However, the Marquesas Islands have a history dating back even before 100 AD, when they were settled by the Polynesians and later named circa 1595 by Alvaro de Mendana de Neira.
These islands boast the largest tiki sculptures, large figures or totems usually carved into wood or stone, out of all the islands as well as ancient ruins and majestic waterfalls. Most impressively, they are the final resting place of Paul Gauguin.
French Polynesia is a group of islands that is both foreign and exotic. While comprising the same stretch of islands, each also has individual features that make it unique in its own way. Together, the islands make French Polynesia what it is today.
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