Right at the bank of Faanui bay is located marae Fare Opu – once important ceremonial site, considered to be a royal marae.

Unfortunately part of this valuable cultural monument has been lost under the road and the remaining part is unsighty, it might resemble a common pile of stones.

Marae of Bora Bora

Marae is specific Polynesian cultural monument. In Leeward Islands most marae are rectangular, raised areas where the outer walls are laid with upright stones. Inside such rectangle is raised altar part (ahu), which is clad with stones.

Marae were used by Polynesians for ceremonial gatherings, such as religious rituals, important weddings, celebrations of military victories, enthronement of kings.

Earlier in Bora Bora were known 42 such structures, some 13 still can be seen today.

Largest marae in Bora Bora

Marae Fare Opu once was the largest in Bora Bora and was built in the 15th or 16th century as a royal ceremonial center. The land where it stands, still belongs to the same family, which ruled in this part of Bora Bora in the times when marae was built.

In the construction of this marae were used especially large slabs of coral limestone and the enormous ahu was 25 m long.

Marae Fare Opu, Leeward Islands
Marae Fare Opu / Makemake, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0


Two stones on the facade of ahu – in the center and to the right – are adorned with roughly cut petroglyphs depicting turtles. Turtles were sacred to ancient Polynesians, often used as ritual offering to the gods. Polynesian petroglyphs very often show turtles.

Disruption of the monument

Dismantling of this ancient monument started in 1820, when the missionary J. M. Osmond ordered to build the Vaitape pier. But the most disastrous consequences were left by the construction of the road along the sea in the 20th century – the court of marae now is under this road.

Although important part of Fare Opu remains, one can ask – was it not possible to choose a bit different route for the road?


  1. Tahiti Heritage. Marae Fare Opu et pétroglyphes. Accessed on December 17, 2011.
Marae Fare Opu on the map
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Location, GPS coordinates: 16.4794 S 151.7526 W
Categories: Prehistoric and ancient shrines, Megaliths
Values: Archaeology, History, Visual
Rating: 2 out of 10 stars
Where is located? Australia and Oceania, Polynesia, French Polynesia, Leeward Islands, Bora Bora, at the Faanui bay
Alternate name: Marae Fare-Opu
Age: ˜ 1400 – 1600 AD
Culture: Polynesians

Landmarks of Leeward Islands

Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora
Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora / rachel_thecat, CC BY 3.0
This group of islands is very rich with cultural heritage – archaeological monuments and living culture. Here are located some very impressive structures, such as the massive marae Taputapuatea and the abandoned royal town Maeva.

The islands are very picturesque, with mountains, lush tropical vegetation and incredibly rich marine life – it is no wonder that Leeward islands are beloved by tourists seeking idyllic retreat before the return to their daily lives.


Mnajdra, lower temple. Such structures were created long before Stonehenge and Egyptian pyramids
Mnajdra, lower temple. Such structures were created long before Stonehenge and Egyptian pyramids / steve deeves, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
One of the most fascinating groups of archaeological monuments are prehistoric structures made of stones – megaliths. Through the ages, people have loved to strain their minds to find a sensible explanation to the many riddles posed by megaliths.

Even today, we can admit with some pleasure, there are thousands of mysteries left for us.

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French Polynesia History and Culture: Early Settlement

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