View over Mangareva and the sumptuous lagoon - Tahiti TourismeView over Mangareva and the sumptuous lagoon - Tahiti Tourisme
©View over Mangareva and the sumptuous lagoon - Tahiti Tourisme|Frédéric Cristol

Four days in Mangareva

Mangareva, island of mystery

Looking for somewhere completely different, a world away from everything you know? Then the Gambier Islands is the place for you! The furthest archipelago from Tahiti, it is the most isolated as well. But it is also one of the most beautiful in Polynesia. An immense lagoon sheltering a dozen islands and islets, it is quite simply unique. You arrive by plane on the main island of Mangareva, which is where most activities and accommodation can be found. Historic monuments, excursions on the lagoon, tourist activities, hiking, swimming… Your stay in the Gambier Islands is guaranteed to be a unique and authentic experience!

Scenic View of Mangareva - Tahiti Tourisme © Asf AlesimediaScenic View of Mangareva - Tahiti Tourisme
©Scenic View of Mangareva - Tahiti Tourisme|Asf Alesimedia

Day 1

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. .

Day 2

Before setting off for the morning’s hike, make sure you have a good pair of hiking shoes and a hat. You’ll also need to take water, some fruit, a snack and your sun cream. There are two mountains that you should climb on Mangareva:  Mount Mokoto (423 m) and Mount Duff  (441 m). They are the two highest peaks on the island and it’s best to start early to avoid the hottest part of the day. You’ll appreciate the island’s lush and varied flora as you climb the well-prepared trail to the top of Mount Mokoto, from where you’ll have a superb view over Mangareva and the surrounding islands. Continuing along the trail, you’ll reach Mount Duff and have a magnificent panoramic view over the bay of Rikitea.

On the way back down, you can stop at one of the many beautiful beaches in Mangareva. Some of them are difficult to get to, but they’re worth the effort! One of the best is close to Rikitea, but it’s quite a long, though not difficult descent. Once you’re there, take off your shoes, relax, and spend the afternoon swimming and snorkeling.

Day 3

It’s a moment you’ll never forget! An excursion by boat to explore the many other islands in Mangareva’s lagoon. All the guesthouses and tourist guides will tell you that it’s something not to be missed during your stay. A chance to visit some of the most beautiful islands in the whole of Polynesia: Taravai, Akamaru, Mekiro, Aukena… You’ll enjoy magnificent scenic views, visit 19th century churches, and stop at beaches that are simply paradisiac. And the icing on the cake; you’ll have lunch on a remote motu and then spend the rest of the afternoon snorkeling, swimming and sunbathing on the beach. And if that isn’t a day well-spent, then what is?

Day 4

A tour of the island, stopping to stroll around some of the tiny villages, is the best way to get a feel for the true nature of Mangareva. You can rent a car or a bike, or simply go for a very long walk, which is obviously the best way to meet some of the islanders. Stop off at the scenic viewpoints to admire the superb views over the lagoon and visit some of the many sites and buildings on the island, such as Saint-Joseph’s church in Taku, which dates from 1836. There’s an awful lot to see in Mangareva !

It’s always nice to have a souvenir of a special moment, so spend some of your last day looking for a little piece of Mangareva to take home with you. In Rikitea village, you’ll find craftsmen and women selling traditional items made from mother-of-pearl nacres and pearls. You can also buy individual pearls which haven’t been made into jewelry. Perfect or imperfect, small or large with a choice of colors and shades that’s really quite remarkable. It would be almost a sin to go to Mangareva and come back without one.