Skip Navigation

Gambier Islands

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Gambier Islands

edit

Introduction

The Gambier Islands or Mangareva Islands are a populated (1641 people), small (30 km2) group of islands, remnants of a caldera along with islets on the surrounding fringing reef, in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They are generally considered a separate island group from Tuamotu both because their culture and language (Mangarevan) are much more closely related to those of the Marquesas Islands, and because, while the Tuamotus comprise several chains of coral atolls, the Gambiers are of volcanic origin with central high islands. Because of their proximity, the Acteon Group, and the nearby atolls of Maria Est, Morane, Marutea Sud and Temoe, all permanently uninhabited, are sometimes included among the Gambiers.

Top

edit

Geography

The commune of Gambier is made up of the Gambier Islands (with uninhabited Temoe Atoll 40 km southeast of the main Gambier group), the uninhabited Acteon Group to the northwest (Matureivavao, Tenararo, Tenarunga, Vahanga), and the also uninhabited atolls of Marutea Sud, Maria Est and Morane. This group of islands and atolls covers an area of 35 km². AlThough these archipelagos are administered as a single municipality (commune), the main village is Rikitea, on the largest island of Mangareva.

The Gambier Islands proper have an enclosing coral reef which is broken by only three passages to the open sea. Besides Mangareva, the other notable high islands of the group are Akamaru, Angakauitai, Aukena, Kamaka, Kouaku, Makapu, Makaroa, Manui, Mekiro and Taravai. These are primarily of volcanic origin. A number of others are actually coral islands, hence of secondary volcanic origin, including Papuri, Puaumu, Totengengie and the Tokorua group.

The islands proper are located at 23°09′S 134°58′W and are approximately 31 km² in area. The total population in 2007 was 1,641. The primary town is Rikitea, located on Mangareva, as is the highest point in the Gambiers, Mt. Duff, rising to 441 metres along that island's south coast.
The more distant atolls of the Gambiers in the broad sense are all uninhabited.

Top

edit

Regions

Gambier Group

  • Mangareva - the largest island and only island developed for tourism. The only method of traveling to the Pitcairn Islands without your own boat is through Mangareva.
  • Inhabited Islands- Akamaru (11 pop.), Aukena (30 p), Taravai (3 p), Kamaka (1 p).
  • Uninhabited - Angakauitai, Apou, Atumata, Gaioio, Kouaku, Makapu, Makaroa, Manui, Mekiro, Motu-O-Ari, Motu Teiku, Papuri, Puaumu, Rumarei, Tarauru Roa, Tauna, Teauaone, Teauotu, Tekava, Tenoko, Tepapuri, Tepu Nui, Teohootepohatu, Tokorua, Totengengie, Tuaeu, Vaiatekeue.

Acteon Group

All the four small atolls in the group are uninhabited: Matureivavao, Tenararo, Tenarunga, and Vahanga.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

  • Rikitea Ruins - At Mangareva's main village, Rikitea, visitors will find a number of ruins. Among these archeological relics are a convent, a triumphal arch, several watchtowers, a prison and a court. These abandoned remains have been noted for their dark, eerie feel.
  • Rikitea Rectory - Across the path from St. Micheal of Rikitea Church is a well-maintained 140 year-old rectory, occupied by the parish priest.
  • St Michel of Rikitea Church - Constructed of fired limestone, this neo-gothic Catholic church was built under the auspices of Father Honoré Laval. The church, which is still in use today, is inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Air Tahiti has flights to/from Tahiti, stopping en route on several small islands/atolls. Flights are expensive and usually cost around US$ 500 return.

By Boat

Mangareva is the gateway to the remote Pitcairn Islands. You can travel to the islands on the Pitcairn Islands government chartered passenger shipping vessel the Claymore II which departs Mangareva for Pitcairn, in as many as 4 rotations, 4 times a year. The crew of the Claymore will meet you at the wharf in Rikitea and transfer you to the ship. 32 hours later you’ll be at Pitcairn. You can stay either 4 or 11 days on Pitcairn before going back to Mangareva.

The MV Claymore II visits several times each year. The boat stays at the Pitcairn Island for 4 nights before heading back. This first trip is then followed by another one shortly after, which you can catch back if you want a slightly longer trip. After that second trip, it's a couple of months until the next boat arrives.

Top

edit

Getting Around

There are no rental cars. Arrange with your pension to be picked up at the dock (after taking the ferry from the airport on the motu). The island's 25-kilometre long circle road can be walked in 4-6 hours. It's a great walk. If you wish to see one of the other islands in the group, ask your pension about day trips. Pension Moroi offers a great day trip to see several other islands. It's a fascinating day.

Top

edit

Eat

There are 1-2 restaurants in Rikitea. You can also eat at the pensions (let them know ahead of time as they only prepare enough food for those they know are coming for dinner). Food at the pensions is simple, tasty, and plentiful and you will not go hungry. The hospitality is heartwarming.

Top

edit

Drink

Despite the legacy of French nuclear testing at nearby Muraroa atoll, the water is safe to drink, and bottled water is available from small shops in town. Many of the locals, the soils, and groundwater have been tested for residual radiation by the French government and Greenpeace. All results were negative for radionucleotides. There are no surface streams or wells, and all potable water is collected by catchment from roofs, and thus quite safe to drink.

In Rikitea there are two small markets. One has a decent selection of alcohol, but you will pay dearly for anything but beer. A bottle of Absolut Vodka was priced at nearly USD100. If you wish to have anything specific for you trip you'd better bring it with you to save money, as prices even in Papeete are high.

At night the pensions and small restaurants in Rikitea serve beer (Hirono). Prices are high, but reasonable given the remoteness of the islands.

Top

Gambier Islands Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Gambier Islands

This is version 3. Last edited at 12:58 on Jul 14, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License