The islands that make up French Polynesia are:
Tahiti – part of the Winward Islands in the Society Islands
Moorea – part of the Winward Islands in the Society Islands
Tetiaroa – part of the Winward Islands in the Society Islands
Bora Bora – part of the Leeward Islands in the Society Islands
Huahine – part of the Leeward Islands in the Society Islands
Raiatea – part of the Leeward Islands in the Society Islands
Rangiroa – part of the Tuamotu Islands
Manihi – part of the Tuamotu Islands
Tikehau – part of the Tuamotu Islands
Fakarava – part of the Tuamotu Islands
Hiva Oa – part of the Marquesas Islands
Nuku Hiva – part of the Marquesas Islands
Rapa – part of the Australs Islands
Tubuai – part of the Australs Islands
Mangareva – part of the Gambier Islands
With 118 different islands making up French Polynesia that are divided into five different archipelagos in the South Pacific Ocean. These five archipelagos are: The Socitey Islands, Tuamotu Islands, Marquesas Islands, Australs Islands, and the Gambier Islands. Although the total surface area of the islands, 4000 km2, put together covers only about 1/100 the surface are of France, they are spread out over an area that is larger than all of the countries in Europe combined. Over 200,000 visitors come to Tahiti each year from all over the world, including the U.S., Japan, France, England, and all over Europe.
A Short History
Tahiti is the largest of the French Polynesian Islands that are nestled in the Society Islands in the south Pacific Ocean. With a population of around 169,000 people, it is also the most populated island in the chain. The capital of Tahiti is Papeete, and holds most of the tourist attractions and resorts. The main island of Tahiti is about 28 miles long and covers around 400 square miles altogether. The French Polynesian Islands consist of two major, round portions that are centered on volcanic mountains and connected together by a small isthmus. These islands boast some of the most beautiful rain forests in the world and offer guided tours through them daily. The wet season here in Tahiti is from November through April, with the drier months being May through October.
It is believed that the earliest Polynesians settled here sometime between 300 and 800 AD, but some scholars place that date earlier. The unique combination of tropical weather and ample fishing allows Tahitians to enjoy a wide variety of dishes and an abundant supply of food. Though these islands were originally spotted by Spanish explorers as early as 1600, they didn’t make any attempt to trade with or colonize the islands. Instead, an English sea captain named Samuel Wallis, is credited as the first European to visit Tahiti in 1767. After Wallis sailed back home, a French explorer came across the islands on his first circumnavigation of the globe in the name of France. Louis-Antoine de Bourgainville was just a couple of months too late to be credited with discovering the islands, but he did make the chain famous when he returned home to write “Voyage autour de Monde”, an account of his travels. In this published account, he describes the islands as a paradise where the people live happily, away from corruption and greed, and paints a picture that anyone living in Europe in the late 1700′s would love.
Captain James Cook landed on the island in 1774, and his accounts here have made for movies and books due to the fact that his ship, the HMS Bounty’s crew mutinied right after leaving Tahiti. This European influence began to change the shape of Tahiti, as it brought about prostitution, diseases, and alcohol to the natives who lived here. The diseases ran so rampantly through the islands that the population of Tahiti dropped from over 121,000 to 16,00 by 1797.
In 1842, Morocco’s European crisis gained momentum between France and Great Britain when a French Admiral managed to convince Queen Pomare IV to accept a French protectorate, against the wished of France. When news of this leaked out through Europe, the French claimed the islands but a war began to brew between the Tahitians and the French and lasted until 1847. In 1880, the French Polynesian Islands gave the sovereignty of Tahiti to France.
Today, Tahitians are French citizens with full rights. Both French and Tahitian is spoken on the islands, along with Japanese, English, Italian, German, Chinese, and several other languages since this is a very popular tourist spot. Lately, most Tahitians have become angry with the French government and the ways that they run the islands. Most have even rioted or protested the French rule in hopes of regaining their freedom.
Tourism is one of the main sources of industry in the French Polynesian Island.