The Gambier Islands
Away from it all

Gambier Islands

Each island is unique

Ena koe, ena kotou ! Welcome, one and all! These are the words that will welcome you to Mangareva, the main island in the Gambier Islands. This archipelago is the furthest from Tahiti and possesses a unique architectural heritage as well as the magnificent scenery typical of The Islands of Tahiti.

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Rikitea, an original adventure

History and unsurpassed beauty

Landing at the airport on motu Totegegie after a four-hour flight from Tahiti and the change of scenery is stunning. Deep blue sea and white sandy beaches at the foot of lush green mountains The Gambier Islands consist of five main islands and a dozen islets which all share the same turquoise lagoon.

As you head towards Rikitea, the main village of Mangareva, eapart from the steep cliffs and pearl farms, you can’t help but notice a building that has played an important role in the history of the island, Saint-Michel Cathedral.

The treasures of the Gambier Islands

Pearl and mother-of-pearl

Merchants and jewelers from all over the world come to buy the highly-reputed pearls of the Gambier Islands.

Their success is due to a combination of the expertise of local producers and the effect of cooler sea temperatures than elsewhere in Polynesia. A by-product of the pearl industry is the mother-of-pearl nacre of the oyster shells and Rikitea has the only school that teaches nacre engraving in The Islands of Tahiti. During term time you can visit the school and purchase jewelry made by the students.

A religious heritage

Saint-Michel Cathedral

It was in the Gambier Islands that Catholicism gained its first foothold in The Islands of Tahiti.

Each of the Gambier Islands has vestiges of the passage of the early Catholic missionaries who played an important role in their history. The most important is Saint-Michel Cathedral whose restoration was completed in 2011. It is the oldest monument in The Islands of Tahiti and visitors are welcome. Inside you’ll find a veritable treasure in the altar decorated with flowers of inlaid mother-of-pearl.

Churches, chapels, convents… the rich religious past is in evidence on the other islands as well: Aukena, Akamaru and Taravai. You can take a day trip to explore these treasures from the past.

On August 15th each year, all the Catholics in the archipelago (almost 700 people) gather in the blue and white church of Notre Dame de la Paix in Akamaru to celebrate the Virgin Mary.

The island of Aukena has one of the most beautiful beaches in The Islands of Tahiti, as well as the vestiges of the very first college in French Polynesia.

Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with the celebration of the Virgin Mary on August 15th at Akamaru, the church is still worth visiting. It is built out of white coral in the style of Chartres Cathedral in France.

Taravai is the second largest of the Gambier Islands. It has a magnificent white sandy beach and a rather strange archway in the remains of an ancient wall. Above the arch are two red hearts, the emblem of a religious order ‘Les Sacrés-Coeurs de Picpus’. The island has a second church, Saint-Gabriel, which is the newest church in the Gambier Islands.

Kamaka is like a pebble floating on the ocean. This tiny island is only inhabited one year out of two and at the last census its official population was recorded as…one!

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