"The Wise Gardener!"
The Sensual Pulse of the Tropics!


French Polynesia: Oo-La-La!!!
The Tropics of Old France!

saint pierre bay.jpg (32539 bytes)The islands of French Polynesia are a selection of volcanic islands and atolls strewn across the eastern South Pacific. These islands have allured, inspired and enamoured visitors since the time the islands were first discovered. Visiting these islands is a special experience. The lure of these islands is not only due to the hospitable Polynesian people, and their spectacularly beautiful islands. There is real ambiance here - from the warmth of the air, scented heavily with tropical flowers through to fiery romantic sunsets that signal the end of another fabulous Tahitian day.  Although most of today's visitors arrive by scheduled airline flights - from all over the world - the Tahitian welcome is still very much the same today, friends!!  Warm, friendly, & genuine!

The 118 islands of French Polynesia were born from volcanoes some 20 million years ago.  The islands in the Society, Marquesas, Austral and Gambier Island groups remained high islands, while the islands of the Tuamotu Islands group became atolls.  Atolls are islands that have long since sunk below the ocean surface, leaving only the barrier reef.  The total land area of the islands is equivalent to the total area of Europe.

The remoteness of the islands of Polynesia kept the people insulated from the rest of the world until European world travel began in the 1700's.  Polynesian origins are believed to be in the area of Southeast Asia, more precisely the eastern are of Indonesia or the Philippines some 4,000 years ago.  The early Polynesians were master navigators.  Their migrations took them through Melanesia to the eastern edge of Polynesia.  The Polynesians settled in Polynesia between 1000 BC and 1000 AD.  Polynesia is roughly described as the "triangle" with the northern point in the islands of Hawai'i, the southeast at Easter Island, and to the southwest at New Zealand.

BoraBora.gif (43432 bytes)The Polynesian migration lasted about 2000 years.  Not all Polynesian cultures are exactly alike.   Adaptation to different island groups as well as the great distances between islands of Polynesia resulted in similarities and differences in the culture, languages, religion, daily practices and forms of artistic expression.

Spanish explorers discovered the Marquesas Islands in 1595.  However, true contact between the Polynesians and European explorers did not begin until the discovery of Tahiti by the Englishman Wallis in 1767.  These contacts resulted in an upheaval of the economic and social structure of the Polynesians.  The Christianization by Protestant and Catholic missionaries resulted in the abandonment of traditional religious practices and places of worship, "marae".

After decades of rivalries between Britain and France over the ownership of the islands of Tahiti, France declared the islands as a protectorate in 1843.  In 1944, the islands were declared to be ancocoharbour.gif (151519 bytes) overseas territory of France.

On October 25, 1946, a decree by France allowed the Polynesians to manage their own public matters, while still maintaining institutional control.  On July 22, 1957, the territorial assembly is instituted in "French Polynesia" with control over such affairs as commerce, transportation, and education.    In December 1958, France reclaims some of the controls lost to the formation of the territorial assembly the previous year.   But in 1977, the responsibilities of the territorial assembly are returned to their 1957 level.  

A law passed on September 6, 1984, begins the first real move toward autonomy for French Polynesia.   The statute recognized the identity and personality of French Polynesia, allowing it to its distinctive signs (such as flag and national anthem).  The position of President of the Government is established, which placed local control of the government. The local government was also allowed to enter into international agreements.  Additional local government responsibilities were secondary education, postal and telecommunications.

Additional autonomy was granted in 1996 and 1998.  Today, French Polynesia is largely responsible for its own affairs, with some responsibilities remaining with France, such as currency and defense.

Since French Polynesia is located in the tropical zone of the southern hemisphere, the weather can only be described as "tropical".  Also, being south of the equator, their seasons are opposite of those in the United States.

Moorea.gif (19661 bytes)The winter season is May through October. During this period, the early morning low temperatures go no lower than the high 60's. The daytime highs are generally in the mid-80's. There is less rain during this time of year and a little less humidity than in the summer. However, being tropical, the humidity is usually 75 to 80%.

tahitipalms.gif (149202 bytes)The summer season is November through April. At night, the low temperatures are usually in the mid-70's and daytime highs range anywhere from 85 to the low 90's. This is when they get their heaviest rainfall, which can reach as much as 15" in one month.

Severe tropical storms are not very common in the area of French Polynesia. The last hurricane that caused any significant damage was in December 1989. The most severe weather heads for these islands during years when the El Niño is occurring.

The weather described above basically pertains to the Society Islands. The Marquesas Islands are much closer to the Equator, so their weather tends to be warmer with more rainfall. At the other extreme, the Gambier Islands are about as far south of the Equator as the northern part of Mexico is north of the Equator.

There are so many things to consider when planning a trip to French Polynesia that it would be difficult to list everything on this web site. What I will do here is give some suggestions of the best resources to consult and I will also give some suggestions in areas that I have not seen in print anywhere else.

The main obstacle that most people describe, if they've never been to Tahiti, is the cost of traveling there. Obviously, it is not the most inexpensive place in the world to travel. The lowest price I have seen is a package deal offered by Islands in the Sun for about $799 per person. This includes roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete on AOM/French Airlines, 7 nights at the Cook's Bay Resort, including transfers. Considering that the average roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete is about $750 per person, that's not a bad deal. By describing this package, I am simply providing the information. I am not connected with Islands in the Sun.

From that starting price of about $1,600 for a couple, you can go up from there. The rooms at the Cook's Bay Resort on Moorea are a little less than $100 a night. At the other end of the spectrum are hotels like the Hotel Bora Bora, which can cost as much as $800 a night for a room.

I have been traveling to French Polynesia for several years now. The low priced package is a good way to become acquainted with the islands if you are on a limited budget. However, if you can afford to spend a little more on your vacation, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.

If you are considering a trip to French Polynesia, I recommend purchasing a travel book that covers the area. The following two books are excellent references:
Tahiti-Polynesia Handbook by David Stanley, published by Moon Travel Handbooks; and Frommer's South Pacific, published by Macmillan Travel. These books provide some very useful information for the first time traveller to the islands.

 

Useful Links to Explore!:

Tahiti Nui Travel

Discover More About Bora-Bora

Touriste Directory for French Polynesia

Lonely Planet's Guide to French Polynesia!

Tahiti Friendship Society

French Polynesian Paradise
 


 

Paul, "The Wise Gardener!"