Nuku Hiva is the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. Herman Melville wrote his book Typee based on his experiences in the Taipivai valley in the eastern part of Nuku Hiva. Robert Louis Stevenson's first landfall on his voyage on the Casco was at Hatihe'u, on the north side of Nuku Hiva, in 1888.
The coastline of western Nuku Hiva is characterized by a steep, but fairly regular coastline, indented occasionally by small bays leading to deep valleys, which lead into the interior. There are no villages on this side. The coastline of the eastern part of the island has few places to land by sea and takes the brunt of the ocean swells. The north, on the other hand, is indented by deep bays, the largest of which are Anahō and Hatihe'u. 'A'akapa bay is not as large but has a village of the same name. The south has fewer bays, among which those of Taioha'e, Taipivai, Ho'oumi, Hakapo'ovai (the last three are parts of the larger Baie du Contrôleur) and the bays of Hakau'i and Hakatea both accessed by the same narrow entrance.
The central part of the island is a high plateau called To'ovi'i, covered primarily by a tall-grass prairie. On the western edge of To'ovi'i rises Tekao, the island's highest peak, which reaches an elevation of 1224 metres. The western and northern edges of To'ovi'i are a mountain ridge, which catches much of the rain that waters the island. Pine forest plantations covering large areas all around the crater of To'ovi'i give an overall impression of the lower Alps and parts of Germany, Wales and Switzerland. In one place, Vaipō Waterfall, the collected water falls off a highland and falls 350 metres. The slopes of the north western side of the island are much drier than the rest of the island, and are often described as a desert named Te Henua a Taha or "Terre Déserte" in French.
Temperatures in the Marquesas are stable year around, but precipitation is highly variable. Precipitation is much greater on the north and east (windward) parts of the islands and much less on the western (leeward) parts.
The Aranui III is a mixed passenger/cargo vessel that operates between Tahiti and the Marquesas. In its 14-day voyages once or twice a month it visits atolls of Tuamotus and 6 inhabited islands of Marquesas.
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