10 surprising facts about French Polynesia

On the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, which belong to French Polynesia, a total of 193 atomic bombs were detonated between 1965 and 1996, first in the atmosphere and then, after growing international protests, underground. To compensate for the damages caused by the nuclear tests, France has developed a compensation plan for the victims that amounts to $194,000,000. It is not only the French military but also the inhabitants of the atolls. The situation is complicated by the fact that France refuses categorically to publish the data on radioactive contamination on Mururoa.

French Polynesia received internal autonomy in 1984. Although even former French Polynesian President Oscar Temaru advocated complete independence of Polynesia from France, this idea is supported by no more than 20% of the local population.

The tiare is a sacred flower, the symbol of French Polynesia. Captain Cook and Bly, Jack London, Paul Gauguin, Somerset Maugham and other famous personalities enjoyed wearing the crown and garlands of tiaras. From December 5 to 8, Tahiti hosts the annual Tiare Festival, a fun and colorful floral competition that brings together amateurs and professionals. The competition is held in two categories – small arrangement and large arrangement. In the second category the flower bed area must be at least 50 m². In everyday life, all Tahitians wear a tiara behind the ear: men wear a bud and women wear a blossoming flower. The tiare has its own language and communicates important information about family status. If the flower is behind the right ear, it means that the person is lonely and ready for adventure. If behind the left, on the heart side, the person is married or married. And if there is a flower behind both ears, it means that the person is married, but, nevertheless, ready for romantic adventures. The aborigines in the olden days knew the time about the tiara flower: the bud opens between twelve and two o’clock in the afternoon. And no one needs the exact time in this paradise.

The islands of French Polynesia provide perfect conditions for recreation, diving and surfing, and the local cuisine – a combination of French sophistication with tropical spices – is able to satisfy the tastes of the most sophisticated gourmets.

There are 13 letters in the Tahitian alphabet. The Tahitian alphabet has all the same vowels as the Latin alphabet – a, e, i, o and u – but, only 8 consonants – f, h, m, n, p, r, t and v. The Tahitian language was purely oral until the early 19th century. The “B” sound is absent from the indigenous language. So, the notorious Bora Bora is actually called Pora Pora.

The word “tabu”, or more precisely “tapu”, in the Tongan language (one of the Polynesian language family) referred to the property of the chief and other nobles, which could not be touched by anyone except the owner. Everything the chief touched became taboo: dwellings, food, slaves. If he stepped on the ground, it was also considered taboo, so he was carried on his arms.

Fakarawa Island is a protected coral atoll and has the second largest lagoon in the Tuamotu Archipelago. It is also home to one of the oldest Catholic churches in Polynesia, Jean de la Croix. The interior of the church is made entirely of coral.

In the history of French Polynesia a great role was played by Russian citizens: the navigators F.F. Bellingshausen, M.P. Lazarev, O.E. Kotzebu, artist P.N. Mikhailov, General M.N. Leontiev and his descendants. Islands discovered by Russian seafarers and their Russian names: the islands of Russians (Tuamotu Islands), atoll Bellingshausen (Leeward Islands), as well as atolls of Volkonsky, Raevsky, Rurik, Emperor Alexander, Field Marshal Suvorov, Spiridov, Rumyantsev, Lazarev, Krusenshtern. The grandson of General M.N. Leontiev, Alexander Leontiev was elected from Polynesia to the French Parliament, where he promoted the acquisition of internal self-government. In 1987 he became President of the Government of French Polynesia and held this position until 1991. Grandson Boris founded the New Star Party, which advocated greater rights for indigenous Polynesians. Grandson Igor was a multiple Tahitian bodybuilding champion and eight-time Mr. Polynesia title holder. The general’s granddaughters are also famous: Lisa advertises Tahiti to the world and carefully preserves the family archive, Tatiana – air traffic controller, the first in Polynesia among women.

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The legendary bungalows on the water were invented in Tahiti in the 1960s.

The word “thetu” originated in Tahiti, from where it was brought to Europe by James Cook, mentioning it in an account of his voyage. The tattoo was a must because it was used to judge a person’s position in society. Also, the theta protected against evil spirits.

The mailboxes outside some houses were not for letters – they were for bread! There is no postal delivery, so, residents must go to the post office to pick up their mail.

French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and atolls that make up 5 archipelagos. The islands cover more than 2,00,000 m² of the South Pacific.

The painter Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) lived and worked on the island of Tahiti for a long time, where he painted his most famous paintings with Tahitian motifs. In Papeete there is the Paul Gauguin Museum, which presents sketches and studies made by the hand of the great master. After Gauguin, the most famous artist who lived in Papeete was the German Eduard Littag (Littag), who died in 1952. He painted on black velvet. He chose this material by chance, he simply had no money for canvas, and in a Chinese shop he was offered a large roll of velvet for next to nothing, which was not in demand. After the painter died, his paintings on black velvet rose in value hundreds of times over.

The Polynesians had always been skilled navigators and had developed their own system of orienting themselves according to the celestial luminaries. Thus, the star Sirius, which is directly over Tahiti, is a kind of beacon for Polynesians traveling in the Pacific Ocean under sail.

French Polynesia is home to the most photographed islands in the South Pacific. Not far from Bora Bora is Motu Tapu, which is considered the most photographed island in the South Pacific. Surrounded by pristine white sands and a turquoise lagoon, it was once a private refuge for Polynesian Queen Pomare IV.

The London Royal Society for the Advancement of Natural Knowledge sent Captain James Cook to Tahiti to observe a rare natural phenomenon: the passage of the planet Venus through the solar disk, which could be seen on June 3, 1769 in Tahiti. Cook named the Society Islands only the Leeward Islands, and only later, this name was used for the entire archipelago.

There is a belief that in the olden days on the Society Islands the natives were helped to build canoes by woodpeckers: if the bird began to chisel the wood, the trunk was discarded as unsuitable.

The process of discovering the Tuamotu Islands was slow, often the same island was “discovered” several times, giving it different names. For example, the French called the current island Takapoto – Bottomless (for the deep lagoon), the Dutch – Smart, the Russians – Spiridov’s Island (in honor of Russian Navy Admiral Grigory Spiridov). A similar story happened with Rangiroa Island: the French called it Mushy, the Dutch called it Good Hope Island, and the Americans called it Deaconess Island. By now, all the names have been replaced by Polynesian names rendered in the Latin alphabet.

Here is the only coral atoll vineyard in the world. Who would have thought you could grow grapes on a coral atoll? The French, of course! VIN Du Tahiti by The Domaine Dominique Auroy is located on Rangiroa Island, a coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. It is the only wine label in French Polynesia.

August 7, 1947 ended the expedition of the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and 5 of his companions on the balsa raft “Kon-Tiki”, which crashed on the reefs of Raroia Island. The purpose of the expedition was to prove the probability of a migration of presumed Polynesian ancestors from South America to Polynesia.

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French Polynesia has neither poisonous snakes nor poisonous insects.

Tahiti is famous for its black pearls. Here is the largest, most noble black (the color of wet asphalt), the most beautiful and most expensive pearls in the world! Tourists can visit Pearl Farms – the pearl plantations where they will see how pearls are formed in natural conditions under human control. Black pearls grow in the bivalve shells of pinctada margaritifera, also known as the red-lipped oyster: the flesh inside the half-opened shell, indeed, resembles lips.

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10 surprising facts about French Polynesia

1. The beautiful country of French Polynesia is an overseas community and constituent country of France.

2. True, many people have little idea where French Polynesia is. Maybe they’ve heard it’s somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. But probably many people know at least the names of the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora.

3. French Polynesia is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

4. French Polynesia is an archipelago that includes the Marquesas Islands. This country consists of 118 islands, the largest of which is Tahiti.

5. Among all the islands of French Polynesia there are 9 most notable ones. These islands are Rangiroa, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Moorea, Huahine, Fakarava, Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, and Maupiti.


6. The development of the island territories of present-day French Polynesia began at the beginning of our era. The natives first settled on the Marquesas Islands.

When European travelers first arrived here, the most socially and economically advanced among the population was the people living on the island of Tahiti. They were ruled by members of the royal dynasty of Pomare.

8.France took the territories under its protectorate in 1842.

9. Then, in the 1890s, the islands became colonies. The archipelago received a new status in 1946, now these places became an overseas territory of France, and all the indigenous islanders became its citizens.

10. And since 2004 the archipelago has been called an overseas community of France.

11.Many islands of French Polynesia have second, Russian, names: Rurik, Lazarev, Raevsky and others.

12.Tuamotu archipelago itself has a second name – the islands of the Russians. And all because these islands were discovered and described by Russian explorers Bellingshausen, Lazarev and Kotzebue.

13.Also great importance in the fate of French Polynesia played the descendants of Russian General Leontiev. His grandson Alexander was elected from Polynesia to the French Parliament, where he helped Polynesia gain internal self-government, and later became president of the French Polynesian government (1987-1991).

14.The second grandson, Boris, founded the New Star Party, which advocated greater rights for indigenous Polynesians. The third grandson, Igor, became a multiple Tahitian bodybuilding champion and an eight-time Mr. Polynesian title holder.

15. The capital of the archipelago is a small but quite modern city of Papeete, located on the island of Tahiti, it is surrounded by natural beauty. The local air is saturated with a pleasant aroma of tropical flowers.


16. Papeete is the best example of harmony between the pristine nature and urbanism. And the pearl of the capital is the Museum of Black Pearl, opened in 1998 by Robert Wang. Numerous exhibits in the museum tell tourists about the importance of black pearls, their role in the original history and culture of the islanders.

17. French Polynesia is a wonderful place to relax. Nature on the islands of the archipelago is gorgeous. Here tourists can get an aesthetic shock. Since the islands of French Polynesia are really indescribably beautiful.

18.And the lagoon is really bright turquoise color. The water is really transparent. The green of the valleys is emerald. The sky is unbelievable. Mountain peaks are towering on horizon by scale teeth. And all this combined is a holiday for an aesthete, a photographer’s dream. And you can sit forever in warm water.

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19. The climate on the islands is tropical, sunny days prevail here. The average air temperature is +27C, the water in the lagoons warms up to an average of +26C. There is no exhausting heat, the air is constantly freshened by the winds blowing from the ocean.

20. The year is divided into two seasons: from December till February it’s hot and humid, and from March till November it’s the dry season, not so hot.

21. In French Polynesia there are differences in climatic conditions. This is due to the origin of the islands, some of them are volcanic, others are coral.

22. Volcanic islands have rivers and lakes, and a great variety of flora and fauna.

23.On coral atolls, because of the lack of fresh water, there is less vegetation and no rivers at all.

24.But the nature on the coral islands is delightful in its own way: a great climate, beautiful beaches, impenetrable thickets of exotic vegetation, the beauty of the native islanders – all this is characteristic of French Polynesia.

25. The population of the islands, despite the seeming seclusion, already exceeds 280 thousand people. As some may think, the area of the islands is small, but it is not. It reaches four thousand square kilometers.


26.Remoteness has allowed the inhabitants of the islands to maintain their identity. Tourists will be interesting to see the local wedding rituals, watch the Aborigines walking on hot coals and meeting the rising of the daylight by the Aborigines.

27.The islands of the archipelago are inhabited by people distinguished by modesty, honesty and hard work. The hospitality of the population is particularly remarkable: although the official languages of the archipelago are French and Tahitian, most of the staff of the hotels and restaurants, stores and places of entertainment know English.

28. Tolerance is a very natural phenomenon. Some may not like it, but in the minds of most people, fat people, thin people, Chinese, white people, poor people, rich people, and so on, all have the right to be treated equally. Russians, Germans, or Poles – Polynesians are welcome to all without distinction. They have only one requirement: everyone must abide by the rules of the community and live with everyone in peace.

29. Since French Polynesia is part of France, French domestic culture, French politeness, French education and French safety rules prevail in providing any services to tourists.

30.But, what one may be able to appreciate more here is French food, with a selection of cheeses, half-finished products, pastries, oysters, and, of course, wines

. 31. Culinary traditions of the archipelago can be safely called unique, the ancient recipes of the tribes living in the South Pacific are combined with the traditions of French, Italian and even Chinese cuisine. The local cuisine is rich in fish, which is served in any form.

32.You can try exotic dishes both in luxury restaurants – there are a lot of them on the islands – and in ordinary cafes. Following the millennia-old tradition, local dishes are prepared in pits, dug in the ground and lined with stones. Food wrapped in banana leaves is placed on hot coals or rocks and baked for hours.

The food cooked in such ovens is called “tamaaraa. Tourists can enjoy their unique taste in a simple village tavern or in a fashionable restaurant in the capital.

The most popular dishes are: smoked fruit of the amazing breadfruit tree, papaya salad, Tahitian pork, all banana dishes, suckling pig, poisson-cru fish, small shish kebabs (made of meat, fish, seafood), pork in curry sauce, various steaks, fried chicken.

35. The main way to travel between the islands is by plane. Airports are available on all major islands. Flights are operated by Air Tahiti, a local airline company with flights between the 47 islands.


Regular public transportation is available throughout the day on two islands: Tahiti and Moorea. Between the islands of Tahiti and Moorea, you can travel by boat or passenger catamaran. Private air transport is also available: by airplane or helicopter.

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37. On the island of Rangiroa, part of the Tuamotu archipelago, is the world’s only vineyard growing on a coral atoll. The idea of growing grapes here was realized by the French. And now the only Du Tahiti wine brand from Domaine Dominique Auroy Winery is produced on the atoll.

38. The white flower Tiare Apetahi grows exclusively on the island of Raiatea and only in one place, on Mount Temehani. The flower emits a beautiful fragrance. It is worn by men and women as an ornament. Despite numerous attempts by botanists to transplant it elsewhere, the flower has not taken root anywhere.

39. According to the legend, the flower of Tiare Apetahi came from the hand of a fisherman’s wife, who had a quarrel with her husband and decided to commit suicide. She climbed to the top of the mountain and before committing suicide, she cut off her hand and stuck it in the ground and then committed suicide. In the morning the whole mountain was covered with white, fragrant flowers.

40. French Polynesia has the most photographed island in the South Pacific, Motu Tapu. It is located near the island of Bora Bora and is famous for its pristine white sands and a lagoon with turquoise water. Queen Pomare IV of Polynesia once took refuge there.

41. There’s also a Catholic church built out of coral. In the center of the coral atoll Fakarava Tuamotu Archipelago is not only the second largest lagoon, but also one of the oldest churches in Polynesia. Its name is Jean de la Croix. The entire interior of the church, striking in its beauty and luxury, is made of coral.

42. The French have provided French Polynesia with a European level of medical services with a huge modern hospital on Tahiti with specialists in various fields. Each island has a medical center, and there is a program of helicopter evacuations from remote islands.

43.47 Of the 118 islands of French Polynesia the local domestic airline Air Tahiti, which provides access to the most remote islands that make up French Polynesia.

44. It’s mostly clean and tidy here, with clear springs flowing down from the mountains, fish frolicking in the water, and you can sit on the sand without fear. The locals sweep the street in front of their houses, showing wonders of enthusiasm in the struggle for cleanliness with the leaves and fruits constantly falling from the many trees.

45. French Polynesia, with its sparkling blue lagoons and high mountain peaks, gives the impression of a promised land. But in fact these places are much more unique.


46.The above-water bungalow was created by the masters of French Polynesia. The first above-water bungalow appeared on the island of Moorea in the 1960s, and soon such houses, which appealed to tourists the world over, began to be built all over the country.

47. The locals depend mostly on tourism for their income, but they also harvest shark fins and pearls from the seabed and plant coconut palm plantations.

48.The word “tattoo” comes from the Tahitian tattoo. According to linguists, this word was used by natives as early as 1500 BC. Tattoos were an indispensable element of body decoration in Tahiti and symbolized rank, wealth, belonging to a particular tribe or group of families.

French Polynesia offers a lot of opportunities and lovers of traditional entertainment. There are entertainment centers, casinos, and nightclubs on the islands. In the evening, you can enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants, relax in a chic nightclub, try to beat the casino, spend time in the entertainment center.

50.While in Polynesia should go on excursions around the islands, visit the museum of pearls.


51.Diving on any of the islands of French Polynesia amazes tourists with its high level and unique features. Both for beginners and professionals all conditions are created here.

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The local diving clubs have international-class instructors. Divers can admire the countless and varied forms and colors of exotic fish swimming at the bottom of the ocean.

Many hotels have private coral reefs, and their guests can spend hours looking at the inhabitants of the sea depths. The main diving centers are located on the islands of Manihi, Tikehau, (Kruzenshtern Atoll), Taha’a, (Vanilla Island), Raiatea, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahiti.

54.As a memory of vacation from French Polynesia bring back the products of local inhabitants from sea shells and seashells, jewelry with nacre, fruit liqueurs with aromas of exotic fruits.


Tahitian black pearls are very precious – on the island they are half or three times cheaper than in Moscow stores. French Polynesia differs from other countries by its fixed prices. Bargaining is inappropriate here, locals consider it an insult, a doubt about the seller’s honesty.

56.In terms of security, French Polynesia is at an absolute height. And safety, both natural and social. There are no poisonous plants and animals. There are no snakes, except for moray eels, which certainly look a bit like them, but they live on the reef and prefer to hide between rocks and do not mess with people.

There are no poisonous spiders on the islands and no other harmful insects except mosquitoes. Tourists can also be bothered by gnats or sand flies, but their bites are not fatal.

58.There are sharks in Polynesia, of course, but they are well fed because of the variety of game around. Shark attacks on humans on the Community Islands, which include the most famous islands, have not been recorded. Walking through the jungle is quite safe.

59.To say that there is no crime here, of course, would not be true. But it is so minimal that any tourist can feel relaxed. And not at all because the peace is guarded by both French gendarmes and Polynesian policemen. It is simply because it is historically so.

60.The cultural and architectural phenomena here are not produced “for tourists,” but are the authentic fruit of people’s lives. The dances that are shown in the hotel are danced just the same for themselves, for the soul, so to speak. The Polynesian will play the ukulele regardless of whether the hotel pays him or not, the staff will smile to you not because he earns tips (which, by the way, are not expected here), but simply from the heart, just the same smile will greet you almost any passerby on the street.

61.Here people do not turn their identity into a beautifully packaged product for tourist consumption, they just live and proudly show visitors their achievements.

62.In French Polynesia, since prehistoric times, women have been equal to men, sometimes becoming queens, the country has a strict labor code, almost reflecting the labor code of France, and in general, the country lives by the laws of the French Constitution.

63.Ecology is the most important focus of the country’s domestic policy, a constant element of education. Calls for environmental responsibility can be heard from every corner. Tourists will be glad to know that the bathing water here is really clean, the fish are plentiful, and the jungle is present in all its glory.

64.French Polynesia is an expensive country. Polynesia has everything and the quality of life here is quite high. But, for remoteness and isolation have to pay. French Polynesia is an expensive, even very expensive country. There are expensive products, expensive hotels, expensive fruits and vegetables at the market, and expensive jewelry in the stores. It is also expensive to fly here.

65.The remoteness of the islands, many people do not consider a disadvantage, but a big plus. Here you will not meet the crowds of tourists who prefer not so long trips. And a very long flight is fully compensated by the pleasure received during the vacation.

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