Wonders of the Tuamotu-Gambier Islands
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 forest and interesting lagoons while Gambier islands in the past were deforested.
Map with the described wonders
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Top 15 wonders of the Tuamotu-Gambier Islands
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 have 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.
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.
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.
A cave – 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.
A cave with two burial platforms and with human bones.
Well preserved and reconstructed marae, with 27 standing stones on the top of ahu.
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.
Arutua fish ponds
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.
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.
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 Spanish princess in Makatea
A site of legends – a cave where reportedly is located treasure. In the cave is located a coffin of a girl. Locals believe that everyone who searches for treasure has bad luck.
This is the story of two resourceful women. The one, psychologist and wife of Billy Connolly, Pamela Stephenson—the other, Fanny Stevenson, intrepid wife of Robert Louis. Both married to maverick Scots, both in search of adventure, both drawn to the coral islands, lagoons, natives, and customs of the South Seas. A love of Joseph Conrad, a desire to escape the travails of an LA lifestyle, and a fascination with Fanny all inspired Pamela’s voyage to the other side of the world.
This guide to Tahiti, French Polynesia, and surrounding islands surveys outdoor fun including 74 dive sites, 30 surfing beaches, and 41 hiking trails. Hidden spots include the author’s favorite picks, with maps that zoom in on each area.