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Austral Islands

Main attractions

View towards Avera bay, Rurutu
View towards Avera bay, Rurutu / Jonathan Burckel, / CC BY-SA 3.0

The remote Austral Islands are a treasure trove of exciting cultural heritage. Many monuments here are unusual - the cave settlements of Rurutu, hilltop fortresses of Rapa Iti, the tatoo workshop in Tubuai and the countless sites of legends.

Notable natural monuments here are caves - including the phantasmagoric Toarutu Cave (Rurutu).

Natural landmarks

  • Ana Pu'uru – Rurutu. Cave with gours, straw stalagmites and other amazing speleothems.
  • Ana Vairua'uri – Rurutu. An underground stream with a lake, which is up to 7 m deep. In the stream are living enormous shrimps. Several sinkholes have formed along the route of stream. Legend about an octopus who lived here and killed horses.
  • Mount Purau rainforest - Rapa Iti. Remnant of unique montane rain forest with huge number of endemic species of plants (89 species) and animals.
  • Taupe'e Cave (Maperevaru) – Rurutu. Beautiful cave with stalactites, stalagmites, gours, cave pearls and other cave formations.
  • Toarutu Cave (Mouth of Dragon) – Rurutu. Amazing cave with numerous columns, resembles a mouth of giant dragon. It formed at the times when sea level was 10 m higher than now.

Man made landmarks

Ancient settlements and fortifications

  • Hatuturi fortress and other mountain fortresses of Ra'ivavae – Ra'ivavae. Ancient refuges of defeated people from other parts of Polynesia. Contains terraced fields, areas laid with stones, marae.
  • Morongo Uta – Rapa Iti. One of the most impressive inland fortifications in Rapa Iti, built around 1500 AD in the top of 258 m high mountain. This small island has 13 - 14 prehistoric mountaintop fortifications.

Ancient cave settlements and cave burials

Sculpture from Raivavae, now in museum, Tahiti
Sculpture from Raivavae, now in museum, Tahiti / Wmpearl, / CC0 1.0
  • Ana Ae'o (Grotte Mitterrand) – Rurutu, Vitaria. One of the last inhabited caves in Rurutu. Rurutu island has many grottoes well suited for human habitation – it is possible that people lived even in more than 100 caves here. Caves are adorned with amazing stalactites and other cave formations.
  • Ana Apiti, Naairoa – Rurutu. Ancient shelter, located at the base of steep sea coast. Here was found large amount ot human remnants.
  • Ana Maniana – Rurutu. Legendary, elusive cave with treasures. King was hiding in this cave and keeping the valuables of his family here. The cave reportedly can be found only by the use of secret words.
  • Anapiro Cave – Rapa Iti. One of the four ancient burial caves in Rapa Iti.

Marae

  • Marae Hano – Tubuai. Large, well preserved marae, 30 by 30 m large, extended by a stone clad path towards the sea. In the centre stands 1.6 m high stone with a possible face cut in it. Several more petroglyphs.
  • Marae Pomavao – Ra'ivavae. Large, interesting marae. Contains forty standing stones, up to 1.8 m high, one is 2 m high. Interior and access road is paved with stones. In the middle once was a statue.
  • Marae Unurau – Ra'ivavae. Important, large and well preserved marae, with some 30 standing stone slabs which are up to 3 m tall. A stone clad pathway leads to the sea.

Other archaeological monuments

  • Haurii tatoo workshops – Tubuai, Haurii valley. Unique site with different adjustments for making tatoos. Includes stone tools for making the ink, utensils for making the ink, oven. Site contains several workshops – one for making facial tatoos, one for tatoos on feet, one for the tattoos for men.
  • Ra'ivavae tiki – Ra'ivavae. The only remaining tiki – sacred stone statue – in Ra'ivavae. It represents a child of Moana and Heiata – two other stone statues now in Papeeete. Mysterious, legendary stone.

List of described attractions by municipalities

Austral Islands is an administrative subdivision of French Polynesia. Islands are divided into 5 municipalities:

Ra'ivavae
Rapa
ArrowMorongo UtaFortifications
Rimatara
Rurutu
Tubuai

Map of Austral Islands

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