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Wonders of the Tuamotu-Gambier Islands

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

WorldBlue  Highlights

This administrative unit of French Polynesia 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 a higher diversity of such monuments thanks to their geology and a larger area of islands. Some Tuamotu islands though have better preserved, exotic nature – tropical forests and interesting lagoons while Gambier islands in the past were deforested.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 15 wonders of the Tuamotu-Gambier Islands

Geological wonders

Mataiva lagoon

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 coral. At the bottom of each smaller basin are rich deposits of phosphates.

Ana Torea Caves

In the impressive Moumu cliffs have formed numerous caves. There are numerous legends about these caves – about treasure left by Spaniards, about ghosts. Caves served as burials for local noblemen before the coming of the Spanish. Many caves are adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.

Ana Pu (Pierced Cave)

A natural arch, a former shelter for old people. Found human bones and different other artifacts.

Biological wonders

Taiaro lagoon

Enclosed, hypersaline lagoon. As this lagoon is sealed from the surrounding ocean, it often is used for biological research. Here live at least 125 species of marine fish.

Taiaro island with lagoon, Tuamotu Islands
Taiaro island with lagoon / NASA, public domain
Niau tropical forest – feo

One of the rare areas covered with a specific ecosystem – Tuamotu tropical moist forest. The whole island – atoll is some 20 km² large. The island has a green, hypersaline lagoon. The only habitat of the very rare Tuamotu kingfisher (Todiramphus gambieri).

Tou of Hitianau soccer field

Enormous and picturesque tou tree (Cordia subcordata), reputedly planted in 1906.

Archaeological wonders

Ana’o Tetea

A cave – a royal burial site and site of legends. Unfortunately, the burial was desecrated by foreign tourists in 2005.

Te Ruara observatory

Ancient observatory. In Mangareva are several such observatories: a unique landmark for Polynesia. This structure consists of a mountaintop observation post with benchmarks (a place between two stones) that shows the location, where the sun rises or sets in winter and summer solstice. This particular observatory is well-suited for the winter solstice.

Vaimarui Cave

A cave with two burial platforms and with human bones.

Marae Hitiagateata

Well preserved and reconstructed marae, with 27 standing stones on the top of ahu.

Marae Apataki

Large marae. Earlier it had two ahu (altars), one is destroyed now, and another one – in a good condition. Places for two standing stones, one is still standing. One more stone stands in front of the marae.

Arutua fish ponds

Large stone enclosures in the reef (seen in satellite images), made by Polynesians as traps for fish. Numerous diverse fishes always are caught in it.

Marae Tevaihara and Tu Paure Chair (Marae Papiro)

A marae with a chair made from coral blocks. Marae is 16.7 by 8.8 m large.

Legendary wonders

Tepoto treasure

This small atoll is a possible location where has been hidden a treasure. This legendary treasure was 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 something more has been found.

The cave of the Spanish princess in Makatea

A site of legends – a cave where reportedly is a treasure. In the cave is located a coffin of a girl. Locals believe that everyone who searches for treasure has bad luck.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Treasure Islands: Sailing the South Seas in the Wake of Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson

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Hidden Tahiti and French Polynesia

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