Geography Of French Polynesia -
French Polynesia, an archipelago that is located in the South Pacific Ocean, lies nearly midway between the Australian and South American landmasses. It is part of Oceania and encompasses an area of about 4,167 square km which includes about 130 islands. French Polynesia has a coastline of 2,525 km and does not border any other country of the world. The region experiences a moderate, tropical climate and the terrain is a mixture of low islands with reefs and rugged, high islands. The highest point in French Polynesia is Mount Orohena (2,241 m). Only 0.68% of the land in French Polynesia is arable, and the archipelago’s major natural resources include hydropower, fish, and cobalt.
Bass Islands -
Bass Islands are the southernmost of the French Polynesia islands and have two main parts, the Rapa Iti and the Marotiri. The Bass Islands are located several degrees outside the tropics. Rapa Iti is not only the largest island of this group of islands but also the only inhabited part of the Bass Islands. This region of French Polynesia was possibly inhabited at the same time as Tahiti and the Marquesas. Nearly 500 people live on this island of 40 square km, and its highest point is 650 m in height. Ahuréi is an important town in the Bass Islands. Maotiri constitutes a group of four volcanic rocks in the sea that are completely uninhabited. Maotiri is the most isolated part of French Polynesia. The nearest landmass is Rapa Iti at a distance of 75 km to the northwest but separated from the same by an ocean depth of 1,500 meters. The rocks of Marotiri attract a large number of migratory birds and is an important bird sanctuary.
Austral Islands -
The Austral Islands archipelago is often considered to be the southernmost archipelago of French Polynesia if the Bass Islands are regarded as part of its territory. The other group of islands that are part of the Austral Islands archipelago is the Tupua'i islands which consist of the Tupua'i Island proper ( Rimatara, Rūrutu, Îles Maria) and Ra'ivāvae. The Austral Islands have a population of around 6,300 people, and Tupua'i is the capital of the administrative division of this region. Several small islets and rocks of the archipelago are not suitable for sustained habitation.
Gambier Islands -
The Gambier Islands are a group of small (30 square km) and inhabited (1641 residents) islands located at the Tuamotu archipelago’s southeast terminus. Also known as the Mangareva Islands, these French Polynesia islands are of volcanic origin and often treated as a separate island group from the Tuamotu because of their origin as well as distinct language and culture of the people. The notable high islands of the Gambier Islands are the Mangareva, Makaroa, Mekito, Akamaru, Kouaku, and others. A coral reef surrounds the Gambier Islands proper, and only three passages lead to the open sea. The town of Rikitea on the Mangareva Island is the main town of the island group. French nuclear testing was carried out in the Moruroa atoll of the Gambier Islands which led to high volumes of nuclear wastes polluting the waters in and around this atoll.
Tuamotu Archipelago -
Regarded as the world's largest chain of atolls, the Tuamotu archipelago, part of the French Polynesia islands, stretches from the northwest to the southeast in the South Pacific Ocean and includes 80 islands and atolls within its area. The archipelago houses 1,600 residents and has a land area of 850 square km. Hao, Anaa, Makemo, and Fakarava are the main islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago. The region experiences a warm, tropical climate. It lacks rivers and lakes, and rainwater filled catchments are the only sources of freshwater in the Tuamotu region. Copra from coconut palm and vanilla are produced on a commercial scale. Yams, taro, breadfruit, and other tropical fruits are grown here. The reefs in the region house a large number of underwater fauna. A variety of seabirds, lizards, insects, etc., are also sighted in the Tuamotu. Ten endemic species of birds reside here including the Tuamotu sandpiper, Tuamotu reed warbler, and the Tuamotu kingfisher.
Society Islands -
The Society Islands is an archipelago that is politically a part of French Polynesia. The name was probably given by Captain James Cook during his voyage to the islands in 1769 to honor the Royal Society of Britain that sponsored the exploration of the islands. Two groups of islands the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands comprise the Society Islands archipelago.
Marquesas Islands -
The Marquesas Islands are French Polynesia islands with a volcanic origin. The highest point on this archipelago is the Mount Oave at an elevation of 1,230 m above sea level on the Ua Pu Island. As per the 2012 census, the population of the Marquesas Islands was 9,264. The capital of this administrative division of French Polynesia is the settlement of Taiohae.
The Largest Island Of French Polynesia -
Tahiti, the largest and most popular island in French Polynesia is located in the Windward group of the Society Islands. The picturesque island has a volcanic origin and has a mountainous terrain, and is surrounded by coral reefs. 68.5% of the population of French Polynesia resides in Tahiti, and it is also the economic, political, and cultural center of French Polynesia. Tahiti hosts the Fa'a'ā International Airport, the only international airport in the region. Till 1880, Tahiti was part of the Kingdom of Tahiti and was annexed by the French after that. A large number of tourists visit Tahiti each year, and tourism is one of the primary sources of the economy in the region.