Island Overview -
Tahiti and her islands are situated half way between California (6,200 kms) and Australia (5,700 kms). These islands cover a huge ocean surface of 4 million km2 (the same area as Europe) but the total land area of these island and atolls adds up to only 1,544 sq. miles. Tahiti (17''32 S. and 149''34 W) is 17,100 kms from Paris, 8,800 kms from Tokyo and 7,500 kms from Santiago de Chile. Tahiti's 118 islands are scattered accross 5 different archipelagoes:
The Society Islands,
Comprised of the Leeward Islands (Raiatea, Huahine, Tahaa and Bora Bora) and the Windward Islands (Tahiti, Moorea and Tetiaroa), this archipelago is made up of high tropical islands. Papeete the administrative capital of French Polynesia is located on the island of Tahiti, the largest of all the islands.
The Tuamotu Group
To the east of the Society archipelago is the largest of all with a surface of 600 sq. miles and formed by a collection of 80 low islands or atolls. Here is a very special landscape, situated between sky and sea. Islands are encircled on their own lagoons by a coral ring. This environment is favorable to pearl farming. The most frequently visited atolls are Rangiroa (the widest one), Manihi, Fakarava, Anaa, Kaukura, Taaroa and Tikehau.
The Marquesas Archipelago
Near the equator, this group of high islands is located 1500 km north-east from Tahiti and consists of 9 islands with steep mountains inhabited by wild horses, goats and pigs. The main islands of the archipelago are Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua Pou and Ua Huka.
The Austral Archipelago
consists of 5 high islands located far to the South (each island is situated 160 to 230 km to each other). These high islands are surrounded by a coral reef either at the coast level itself (fringing reef) or at the ocean level (barrier reef). The farthest island from Tahiti, Rapa is 1500 km from Papeete.
The Gambier Archipelago
situated in the far eastern corner of French Polynesia, it consists of the high island of Mangareva and its nine fringe islands which are the eroded remains of its former gigantic crater. These islands are rarely visited but consitute an exellent place to grow pearls.