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Mangareva

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Gambier Islands Mangareva

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Introduction

Mangareva is the central and largest island of the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. It is surrounded by smaller islands: Taravai in the southwest, Aukena and Akamaru in the southeast, and islands in the north. Mangareva has a permanent population of around 1,200 and the largest village on the island, Rikitea, is the chief town of the Gambier Islands.

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Geography

The island is approximately 8 kilometres long and, at 15.4 square kilometres, it comprises about 56% of the land area of the whole Gambier group. Mangareva has a high central ridge which runs the length of the island. The highest point in the Gambiers is Mt. Duff, on Mangareva, rising to 441 m along the island's south coast. The island has a large lagoon 24 kilometres in diameter containing reefs whose fish and shellfish helped ancient islanders survive much more successfully than on nearby islands with no reefs.

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Villages

  • Rikitea - the main village

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 12:49 on Jul 14, 17 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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