To get to know the island of Mangareva, it’s best to start with a tour of the main village, Rikitea. Saint-Michel Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and dominates the village. Built from blocks of coral, its altar and wooden paneling are decorated with inlaid mother-of-pearl. It is a jewelof religious architecture.
A short walk along the coast road will bring you to the ruins of King Maputeao’s tower, which was built in 1850. Maputeao was the last king of Mangareva and his mausoleum is in Saint-Pierre cemetery, which is close to the highest point in the village. Not far from there are the vestiges of the old Rouru convent. A voyage back in time!
As you go back towards the village, stop off at the nacre engraving center. If you’re there during school term time, you’ll be able to watch students from Saint-Raphaël college learning how to make jewelry and other artifacts out of seashells from Mangareva lagoon. Their teacher will be able to explain the process to you and will show you a selection of some of their marvelously inventive creations. If you ask nicely, he might even let you buy some!
Snack jojo is the place for lunch in Rikitea. It’s a lively restaurant – snack bar where you’ll dine in the company of local villagers, visiting yachtsmen and other tourists. And you’ll eat a delicious meal of freshly-caught fish.
There are a lot of pearl farms around the lagoon in Mangareva, almost a hundred of them in all! So it’s not surprising that pearl culture is the island’s principal source of revenue. Most farms welcome visitors and will be pleased to show you the various stages of the process, from the initial grafting technique to the opening of the oyster shell to reveal the famous Polynesian pearl. And some of the farms will even let you accompany their divers when they harvest the oysters from the lagoon. An unforgettable visit and a chance to discover the work and skill involved in producing these much-prized gems. .