Almost 20,000km from Paris, French Polynesia is made up of a myriad scattering of islands, of which Tahiti is the largest. Rugged volcanoes, dreamy beaches, ancestral traditions and a fervour for life make for an idyllic escape, a return to nature at the edge of the world. This distant family of 118 islands, divided into 5 archipelagos, has a population of 250,000 and covers an area larger than Europe. A French Territory since 1946, Polynesia now has internal autonomy and is today jointly governed by the French State and the Territory. Thus French Polynesia governs its own affairs whilst remaining an inherent part of France.
In a remarkable example of cultural integration, the Polynesian population is made up of four main ethnic groups. The Polynesians, of Maori origin, constitute approximately 66% of the population. 12% of the inhabitants are European, occupying positions in the civil service and the liberal professions. The Chinese, who arrived in Polynesia in the late 19th century, make up 5% of the population, and are the pillar of Polynesia’s economic society. The remaining 17% of the population are known as « demis », and are the descendants of mixed-race marriages between the indigenous Polynesians and the European and Chinese settlers.
Polynesia has a typical tropical climate, with predominately hot and humid conditions. The year is divided into two seasons: the « austral summer », a hot and rainy season running from November to April, and the « austral winter », a cooler, drier period between May and October. Temperatures remain high all year round, and are on average between 25 and 30 C. Water temperature below 50m altitude rarely falls below 26 C. The mountainous character of many of Polynesia’s islands has a role to play in the local climate, often triggering heavy tropical rainstorms. Luckily, cyclones are rare in this part of the South Pacific, tending to strike further to the west.
Some of Tahiti’s neighbouring islands
|Tahiti’s sister isle can be reached by boat in 30 minutes, or by air in 7 minutes.||The pearl of Polynesia, this Leeward Island is only 45 minutes from Tahiti by plane. Take a boat out onto the turquoise lagoon, and swim with sting rays and black-tipped sharks.||Owned by Marlon Brando, this protected island can be reached by catamaran and is one hour from Tahiti. Also know as the Island of Birds for its avian population.|