Society Islands

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Society Islands

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Introduction

The Society Islands includes a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It is, politically and legally, part of French Polynesia. The archipelago is believed to have been named by Captain James Cook during his first voyage in 1769, supposedly in honour of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands; however, Cook, himself, stated in his journal that he called the islands Society "as they lay contiguous to one another.

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Regions

Windward Islands

  • Tahiti - the main island with the airport, the country's capital Papeete, and more than half of the population of French Polynesia in its entirety. The place is not as interesting as you might think and, for the most tourists, serves as break point after a long journey. From here you can reach all of the other minor islands by ferry or by air.
  • Maiao - uninhabited.
  • Mehetia - uninhabited.
  • Moorea - one of the most beautiful islands in the Societies. It's a "high island", which means it's mountainous, as are most of this group. It's easily accessible from Tahiti by ferry.
  • Tetiaroa - private island. Once the vacation spot for Tahitian royalty, the atoll is widely known for having been purchased by Marlon Brando. The only inhabitant is Simon Teihotu Brando, one of the many sons of Marlon Brando.

Leeward Islands

  • Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful islands in the Society group. A popular destination but very pricey. Bora Bora is known for the beauty of its lagoon, the most beautiful in the group. The best known resorts are the Four Seasons and Intercontinental Thalasso. The best rooms are the Bungalows with lagoon view.
  • Huahine - a good choice for a resort vacation with a little more cultural activities and on a quieter island than the more popular islands nearby. Home to Maeva Marae, one of the most important archaeological sites of the archipelago.
  • Manuae - an atoll with fifteen inhabitants.
  • Maupiti - a beautiful and undeveloped island with just over 1,000 residents, which might be best to visit quickly before any resorts, restaurants, etc. go up.
  • Maupihaa - an atoll with ten inhabitants.
  • Motu One - uninhabited.
  • Raiatea and Taha'a are a pair of islands within the same lagoon. Taha'a has a beautiful lagoon with lots of motus, and a few high-end resorts. Raiatea is more known by yachters. It is considered the cradle of Polynesian civilization, and contains an important archaeological site, the Taputapuatea marae.
  • Tupai - uninhabited.

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Cities

  • Papeete - capital of French Polynesia, home to nearly half the country's population.

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Events and Festivals

  • Bastille Day, the French national holiday, is celebrated here on July 14th. People flock to the streets of Papeete to watch the military parade.
  • Heiva i Tahiti' - The biggest of all Tahitian festivals begins on June 29, the day of French Polynesia‘s Autonomy celebrations, and extends into July 14, when French territories celebrate Bastille Day. Papeete’s paved waterfront To’ata Square is where much of the action takes place in between. People from across French Polynesia’s five archipelagos take part in Heiva i Tahiti’s countless sporting competitions, beauty pageants, parades, and food tastings. There are also competitions in stone weight lifting, palm tree climbing, and coconut cracking. Colorfully dressed Tahitian dance troupes perform to traditional music on To‘ata Square’s open amphitheater and stage as vendors sell their handicrafts nearby.
  • Hawaiki Nui Va'a is a canoe race takes place over three days in early November. Over 100 traditional canoes race from Huahine to stunning Bora Bora island, covering more than 50 kilometres in a bit over 4 hours. There are several other canoe races at other times of the year as well, but this is the big one.
  • Chinese New Year - Most of Tahiti’s Chinese population is the descendants of migrant workers who came from China to work on the island’s cotton plantations in the 1860s. Today, most of the five percent of Tahiti’s population who are of Chinese descent are shopkeepers who celebrate Chinese New Year in the heart of Papeete. This early to mid-February event starts with official opening ceremonies at Papeete’s town hall, then culminates with a lantern march through the streets of Tahiti’s capital and a grand ball filled with Chinese cultural performances.
  • FIFO Tahiti - Tahiti’s Pacific International Documentary Film Festival, better known as FIFO Tahiti, takes place at Papeete’s Te Fare Tauhiti Nui cultural center for six February days each year. The event includes television conferences, documentary film screenings, and competitions for filmmakers, who can also attend workshops and round table discussions.
  • Billabong Pro - Each April and May, the Tahiti Iti community of Teahupoo hosts one of the world’s most prestigious surfing competitions. The surfers are towed across Teahupoo’s lagoon on jet skis before they brave some of the world’s highest and most challenging waves.
  • Tahiti International Tourism Day - This annual September festival is geared especially towards Tahiti’s tourists, who are treated to endless traditional sporting events, food tastings, arts and crafts demonstrations, and other spectacles. Tourists also receive discounts on museum fees and shopping bargains. Locals also get into the spirit of this national holiday dedicated to Tahiti’s biggest industry by wearing colorful traditional clothing complete with exotic flowers tucked beneath their ears.
  • Tahiti Carnival - Papeete’s exuberant October Tahiti Carnival, like its South American and Caribbean counterparts, is filled with street parties, colorful dancers, and elaborate floats. Townships across Tahiti build their own floats under the greatest of secrecy before unveiling them at the Papeete parade attended by nearly 10,000 spectators. The crowning of the Queen and King of Tahiti is another carnival highlight.
  • Tahiti Pearl Regatta - This mid-May sailing regatta takes place over three stages and three days between Tahaa, Bora Bora, and Raiatea. Each night of the regatta, the winners of each stage receive trophies at dinners with traditional Tahitian entertainment. Although the main Tahiti Pearl Regatta race is open to sailing boats of all sizes, a separate race called Défi Pro is open only to professional and sponsored crews.

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This is version 5. Last edited at 13:02 on Jul 14, 17 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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