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Tuamotu-Gambier Islands

Main attractions

Mangareva Island
Mangareva Island / Makemake, CC BY-SA 3.0

This administrative unit includes two island archipelagos - Tuamotu and Gambier islands. Tuamotu islands are low lying atolls, Gambier islands are volcanic and mountainous.

Both island groups are rich with archaeological heritage - Gambier islands have higher diversity of such monuments thanks to their geology and larger area of islands. Some Tuamotu islands though have better preserved, exotic nature - tropical forests and interesting lagoons while Gambier islands in the past have been deforested.

Natural landmarks

Taiaro lagoon
Taiaro island with lagoon / NASA, public domain
  • Mataiva lagoon – Rangiroa, Mataiva. The lagoon of Mataiva atoll is almost totally surrounded by the land. The 5.3 by 10 km large lagoon is divided into some 70 smaller parts by the ridges of decaying corall. At the bottom of each smaller basin are rich deposits of phosphates.
  • Niau tropical forest – Fakarava, Niau. One of the rare areas covered with Tuamotu tropical moist forest. Whole island – atoll is some 20 km² large. The island has green, hypersaline lagoon. The only habitat of the very rare Tuamotu kingfisher (Todiramphus gambieri).
  • Taiaro lagoon – Fakarava, Taiaro. Enlosed, hypersaline lagoon. As this lagoon is enclosed from the surrounding ocean, it often is used for biological research. Here live at least 125 species of marine fish.
  • Tou of Hitianau soccer field – Anaa, Faaite atoll, Hitianau village. Enormous and picturesque tou tree (Cordia subcordata), reputedly planted in 1906.

Man made landmarks

Ancient cave settlements and cave burials

  • Ana'o Tetea – Gambier, Taravai, north of Agakauitai. A cave – royal burial site and site of legends. Unfortunately the burial was desecrated by foreign tourists in 2005.
  • Ana Pu (Pierced Cave) – Gambier, Aukena. A natural arch, a former shelter for old people. Found human bones and different other artifacts.
  • Ana Torea Caves – Rangiroa, Makatea. In the impressive Moumu cliffs have formed numerous caves. There are numerous legends about these caves – about treasure left by Spaniards, about ghosts. Caves have served as burial for local nobleman before the coming of Spanish. Many caves are adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Vaimarui Cave – Fakarava, Niau. A cave with two burial platforms, with human bones.

Marae

  • Marae Apataki – Fangatau, Fakahina. Large marae. Earlier it had two ahu (altars), one is destroyed now, another one – in a good condition. Places for two standing stones, one is still standing. One more stone stands in the front of marae.
  • Marae Hitiagateata – Reao. Well preserved and reconstructed marae, with 27 standing stones on the top of ahu.
  • Marae Tevaihara and Tu Paure Chair (Marae Papiro) – Rangiroa, Mataiva. A marae with a chair made from coral blocks. Marae is 16.7 by 8.8 m large.

Sites of legends

  • Tepoto treasure – Makemo, South Tepoto. This small atoll is possible location, where has been hidden treasure, looted in Pisco church, Peru in the 19th century. One treasure seeker has found a cache of medallions from South America, but it is unknown whether somebody has found here something.
  • The cave of Spanish princess in Makatea – Rangiroa. A site of legends – a cave where reportedly is located treasure. In the cave is located a coffin of girl. Locals believe that everyone who searches for treasure, has a bad luck.

Other man made landmarks

  • Arutua fish ponds – Arutua. Large stone enclosures in the reef (seen in satellite images), made by Polynesians as traps for fishes. Numerous diverse fishes always are caught in it.
  • Te Ruara observatory – Gambier, Mangareva. Ancient observatory. In Mangareva are several observatories, unique in Polynesia. Consists of mountaintop observation post with benchmarks (place between two stones), which shows the location, where the sun rises or sets in winter and summer solstice. This particular observatory is well suited for winter solstice.

List of described attractions by communes

Tuamotu-Gambier Islands is an administrative subdivision of French Polynesia. Islands are divided into 16 communes:

Anaa
Arutua
Fakarava
ArrowNiau tropical forestEcosystem
Fangatau
Gambier
Hao
Hikueru
Makemo
Manihi
Napuka
Nukutavake
Puka-Puka
Rangiroa
Reao
Takaroa-Takapoto
Tureia

Map of Tuamotu-Gambier Islands

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