Tuamotu Islands

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Tuamotu Islands



The Tuamotus Islands are a French Polynesian chain of almost 80 islands and atolls, stretching from the northwest to the southeast over an area of the southern Pacific Ocean roughly the size of Western Europe, with a land area of 850 square kilometres and 16,000 inhabitants, forming the largest chain of atolls in the world. Its major islands are Anaa, Fakarava, Hao and Makemo.

The Tuamotu islands were initially settled by Polynesians, so Tuamotuans share a common culture and language. The people of Tahiti originally referred to the islands as the Paumotus, which means the "Subservient Islands", until a delegation from the island convinced the French authorities to change it to Tuamotus, which means the "Distant Islands".




Despite the vast spread of the archipelago, it covers a total land area of only about 885 km2.




King George Islands

  • Manihi - a ring shaped atoll that forms a lagoon perfect for scuba diving and black pearl farming. With only 400 local inhabitants working at either the pearl farms or the single resort, this destination is truly at the edge of the world.
  • Inhabited Islands - Ahe (100 people), Takapoto (440 residents), Takaroa (1,000 residents)
  • Uninhabited - Tikei.

Palliser Islands

  • Fakarava - also great for diving. It has 2 passes, the north Garuae pass and the south Tumakohua pass. They are quite far away from each other, but local dive operators will take you to both. Sharks are aplenty in the south pass of Fakarava!
  • Rangiroa - one of the largest atolls in the world, and the most populous island in the Tuamotus. Very popular with SCUBA enthusiast and those looking to get away from civilization.
  • Tikehau - one resort, plus great diving and birding.
  • Inhabited Islands - Apataki (400 residents), Arutua (1,750 residents), Kaukura (500 residents), Mataiva (200 residents), Niau (100 residents), Toau (40 residents).
  • Uninhabited - Makatea (one ghost town and a visit from Harrison Ford in Six Days Seven Nights).

Raeffsky Islands

  • Inhabited Islands - Anaa (400 residents), Aratika (250 residents), Faaite (250 residents), Katiu (250 residents), Kauehi (670 residents), Makemo (900 residents), Nihiru (25 residents), Raroia (150 residents), Taenga (Mormon community of 75 residents), Takume, (100 residents).
  • Uninhabited - Haraiki, Hiti, Marutea Nord, Motutunga, Raraka, Tahanea, Taiaro (private), Tepoto Sud, Tuanake,

Disappointment Islands

  • Undeveloped - Napuka (250 residents), Puka-Puka (100 residents), Tepoto Nord (50 residents).

Duke of Gloucester Islands

  • Inhabited Islands - Hereheretue (50 residents), Nukutepipi (2 residents).
  • Uninhabited - Anuanuraro, Anuanurunga.



Sights and Activities

Scuba Diving

Rangiroa offers some of the best dives in the world in and around the Tiputa Pass, which lies at one end of the one main road and runs 3.5 kilometres to the Avatoru Pass. Sedentary common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) regularly play group in the Pass. They can be viewed from the mainland but it is also one of the few places where they can be approached in scuba diving. Because of its large size and the existence of only two passes, each high tide creates a strong incoming current while each low tide creates a strong outgoing current in those two passes. When the current is flowing inward through Tiputa Pass, about 200 shark specimens gather at the entrance to the Tiputa Pass, at fifty meters deep. Led by the strong current, sharks can remain motionless and allow divers to observe them without any difficulty. Large manta rays, green sea turtles, and humphead wrasses can also be seen. Occasionally, tiger sharks and hammerhead sharks can also be spotted. In January, large number of stingrays gather in the Tiputa Pass, as well as hammerhead sharks that feed on them.

A notable site in the atoll is the famous Blue Lagoon, which is a smaller lagoon formed on the southwestern edge of Rangiroa. Its shallow waters accentuate the bright blue color of the water. The Pink Sands are sandbars surrounded by numerous ro'a are located on the southeastern portion of Rangiroa.




The climate is warm tropical, without pronounced seasons. The annual average temperature is a relatively continuous 26 °C (79 °F). Water sources such as lakes or rivers are absent, leaving catchments of rain as the only source of fresh water . The annual average rainfall is 1400 mm (about 55 in). Rainfall is not markedly different throughout the year, although it is lowest during the months of September and November.



Getting There

By Plane

Air Tahiti flies into Rangiroa from various Polynesia islands such as Bora Bora, Papeete, Fakarava etc. Rangiroa Airport is located at the main motu of Avatoru, near the village and near most hotels and pensions. The airport has an Air Tahiti agency, snack bar, souvenir boutique and public restrooms.



Getting Around

Most travellers stay at Avatoru motu (Tiputa motu is only accessible by boat). Not much point renting a car, it is probably best to hire a bicycle, there is only one main road on Avatoru after all, and it is just a few kilometers long!

You will need someone with a boat to bring you to the outer motus.


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This is version 6. Last edited at 12:58 on Jul 14, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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