French Polynesia

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French Polynesia is halfway between California and Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. Its status is that of an overseas country (pays d'outre-mer), ruled by France, which administers education, justice, defense, and internal security while a local parliament takes care of other day-to-day affairs. Tahiti and her islands cover four million square kilometres of ocean which is the same area as the European Union. However the land above sea level accounts for some 7,000 square kilometres consisting of 118 islands, grouped into five archipelagos (4 volcanic, 1 coral). Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru. (less...) (more...)

Population: 277,293 people
Area: 4,167 km2
Highest point: 2,241 m
Coastline: 2,525 km
Life expectancy: 76.59 years
GDP per capita: $22,000
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  • Metropolis over 100 hotels
  • Big city 50-100 hotels
  • Medium city 20-50 hotels
  • Small city 5-20 hotels
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  • Beach Beach
  • Business object Business object
  • Casino Casino
  • Civic property Civic property
  • Education Education
  • Entertainment Entertainment
  • Golf course Golf course
  • Green space Green space
  • Harbor Harbor
  • Historic site Historic site
  • Interesting place Interesting place
  • Medical Medical
  • Monument Monument
  • Museum Museum
  • Shopping Shopping
  • Skiing Skiing
  • Sports facility Sports facility
  • Theater Theater
  • Winery Winery

About French Polynesia

History

The Polynesians inhabited these islands for several hundred years before their discovery by western explorers. Several marae (religious sites) still exist, scattered throughout the islands as evidence of this inhabitation.

The British discovered Tahiti in the mid 1760s and Captain Cook visited there in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus before sailing on to the south and west in search of the fabled Terra Australus Incognita with the assistance of a Polynesian navigator.

The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century.

During the 1960s and 1970's, the French conducted atmospheric nuclear tests in the islands, primarily at Mururoa atoll. Testing later moved underground after international protests from other Pacific countries, including a flotilla of yachts and a warship from New Zealand to monitor tests in 1974. Testing continued into the early 1990s, despite attempts to disrupt them by environmental activists. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996.

In recent years the islanders have been working towards autonomy and economic independence from France. However, the process is a gradual one and is expected to take a decade or two to occur.

Climate

Tropical, but moderate. Natural hazards : occasional cyclonic storms in January. Very humid.

The average ambient temperature is 27°C (80°F) and the waters of the lagoons average 26°C (79°F) in the winter and 29°C (84°F) in the summer. But do not worry, most resorts and hotel rooms are air conditioned or cooled by ceiling fans.

Summer is from November through April, with a warmer and more humid climate and winter is from May through October, when the climate is slightly cooler and drier. When you step out of the aircraft, you'll immediately notice that the air is warm and humid.

Food

Fine food in Tahiti and nearby islands is typically a natural style of cooking based on fresh products exotically blended. There is a presence of European cuisine within a tropical setting. Asian cooking has also added its own tastes and textures.

Fish of all kinds, whether tuna, bonito, mahimahi or the many varieties of lagoon fish are prepared in many different ways: roasted, boiled and raw.

The top rated dishes are raw fish a la tahitienne which is marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk and the very popular Chinese ma'a tinito (which is a mixture of pork, kidney beans, Chinese cabbage and macaroni.)

Family occasions and celebrations are the time for a huge tamara'a Tahiti (Tahitian-style feasts) where a meal consisting of suckling pig, fish, breadfruit, yams and fe'i bananas is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in an earth-dug oven over layers of hot rocks.

The larger hotels organize big buffet evenings that offer a vast panorama of local culinary delights accompanied by traditional dance performances.

Do note that tipping is not a custom in Tahiti or the nearby islands.

Drinks

Bottles of water are readily available. Being a French territory, wine is common and easy to find. As this is a tropical island, a multitude of fruit juices from pineapple juice to coconut milk are to be found everywhere. Pineapple juice from Moorea is not to be missed! It is sometimes better to crack open your own coconut yourself and drain it for lunch. Orange juice is the states favorite drink and oranges are grown all along the coastlines.

If you're a fan of beer, the Hinano Beer will definitely be one you will like to taste and bring a few cans home.

Shopping

Be aware that everything is very expensive in French Polynesia. Even budget accommodation is tough on the budget, as is food, even groceries. So if you visit, take lots of money, you will need it.

The following forms of payment are accepted: all legal bank notes, international credit cards and traveller's check. The international banks with foreign exchange offices on Tahiti and the most frequently visited islands are the Bank of Tahiti, the Bank of Polynesia and Socredo. International hotels also provide this service but be careful: some atolls and islands in the Austral and Gambier group have no banking facilities.

Currency Exchange/Buy rates: As of 04/04/2011

  • 1 Euro = 118.79 FCFP
  • 1 USD = 83.65 FCFP
  • 1 GBP = 134.79 FCFP
  • 1 CAND = 86.39 FCFP

Jewellery

Black pearls are the high-end purchase in this part of the world. They are beautiful, and of varied quality, so the buyer beware, and the sky's the limit. There is lots of inexpensive mother-of-pearl jewellery that make very nice gifts. Created only by the giant black-lipped oyster Pinctada Margaritifera which thrives in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago, the rare Polynesian black pearl varies in colour from silver through dark grey with green and pink highlights. This Tahitian jewel makes an exquisite and unique souvenir.

For visitors who wish to discover the secrets of Tahitian pearls, a visit to one of the pearl farms on the island of Tahaa or on one of the low islands in the Tuamotu is an experience not to be missed.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article French Polynesia on Wikivoyage.

Cities in French Polynesia

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Bora Bora is a volcanic island in the Society Islands archipelago of French Polynesia. The Polynesian island in the South Pacific is ranked at the top of the list when it comes to most remarkably beautiful in the world. Best time to travel is in May. The best way to arrive is to take an international flight ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Matira Beach
  • Le Meridien Beach
  • Matira Point
  • Vaitape Harbor
  • Pearl Resort Beach
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Moorea is an island in the Society Islands archipelago, only a few kilometers off the northwest coast of Tahiti.

Interesting places:

  • Temae Beach
  • Belvedere Lookout
  • Moorea Tropical Garden
  • Moorea Dolphin Center
  • Moorea Green Pearl Golf Course
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Interesting places:

  • Turtle Conservation Center
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Papeete is the largest city in and capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.

Interesting places:

  • Papeete Market
  • Parc Bougainville
  • Papeete Town Hall
  • Cathedrale de L\'lmmaculee Conception
  • Mt. Orohena
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Tikehau is an atoll in French Polynesia.

Interesting places:

  • Tikehau Church
  • Tikehau Dock
  • Tikehau Port
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Huahine is an island in French Polynesia.

Interesting places:

  • Maroe Bay
  • Huahine Bay
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Rangiroa is an island in the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia. It is the second largest atoll in the world.

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Interesting places:

  • Museum of Tahiti
  • Tahiti Lagoonarium
  • Punaauia Beach
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Papeete is the largest city in and capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.

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Interesting places:

  • Notre Dame Cathedral of the Marquesas
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Interesting places:

  • Marae Taputapuatea
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Interesting places:

  • Fautaua Waterfall
  • James Norman Hall Home
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Raiatea is an island in Tahiti. Raiatea is unique among the Tahitian Islands. It and its little sister Tahaa and far removed from the more touristy islands like Moorea, Bora Bora, and so forth. Raiatea is the administrative center of the Western islands and so has some actual businesses working and going on. ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Raiatea Marina
panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in French Polynesia

  • Point Venus was the site of Captain Cook's observatory, built to record the transit of Venus across the face of the sun to try to calculate the distance between the sun and the earth. Today it's a popular, shaded black-sand beach overlooked by an impressive lighthouse.

Matira Beach - Bora Bora

Papeete Market - Papeete

Temae Beach - Moorea

Pointe Venus Lighthouse - Mahina

Gauguin Museum - Taravao

Marae Taputapuatea - Opoa

Raiatea Marina - Uturoa

Maroe Bay - Huahine

Museum of Tahiti - Punaauia

Notre Dame Cathedral of the Marquesas - Nuku Hiva

Marae Vaiahu - Maupiti

Marae Arahurahu Temple - Paea

Tahiti International Golf Course - Papara

Parc Bougainville - Papeete

Le Meridien Beach - Bora Bora

Matira Point - Bora Bora

Vaitape Harbor - Bora Bora

Pearl Resort Beach - Bora Bora

Papeete Town Hall - Papeete

Cathedrale de L\'lmmaculee Conception - Papeete

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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