Gambier Islands

The Gambier Islands are a group of coral reef islands in the southeast extreme of the Tuamotu Islands archipelago of French Polynesia.

Regions

Gambier Group

Acteon Group

All the four small atolls in the group are uninhabited: Matureivavao, Tenararo, Tenarunga, and Vahanga.

Understand

There are no ATM's or banks. Please bring enough French Polynesian Francs for your holiday. Locals here deal with cash only. You can exchange USD/Euros for French Polynesian Francs at the post office in Rikitea. The pensions sometimes accept credit cards (ask first).

Talk

Speaking French (or Mangarevian) will serve you well as very few locals speak English at a conversational level. The pension operators know very basic English - with a bit of French, you can get by. If there is an emergency speak to Monica the mayor/police officer, and she help you find an English speaker. John who lives on Kamaka is fluent, as is his son who lives in town. Remember to say "merci" and "nana" after someone has helped you. They mean "Thank you" (French) and "See you later".

Get in

There are flights once a week from Tahiti by Air Tahiti. Flight Number VT951 leaves at 0540 and arrives at 1105 and the flight back on the same day is from 1155 and arrives at Tahiti at 1450.

Once at the airport you will need to catch a taxi boat to the city of Rikitea.

Get around

There are no rental cars. Arrange with your pension to be picked up at the dock (after taking the ferry from the airport on the motu). The island's 16 mile circle road can be walked in 4-6 hours. It's a great walk. If you wish to see one of the other islands in the group, ask your pension about day trips. Pension Moroi offers a great day trip to see several other islands. It's a fascinating day.

See

Do

Enjoy a piece of the planet nearly untouched by the modern world. The lagoon is stunning. Tour a black pearl farm. Spend a day on a motu having a picnic, tour the atolls historic churches, hike around the entire island, or to the top of Mt. Duff. Snorkeling is quite good, if only there was a dive operation. Watching the stars at night. At 23 degrees south, you will find the subtropical climate more comfortable than the main/Society Islands. Humidity is lower, and trade winds provide a welcome relief. The climate is comparable to that of Hawaii.

Eat

There are 1-2 restaurants in Rikitea. You can also eat at the pensions (let them know ahead of time as they only prepare enough food for those they know are coming for dinner). Food at the pensions is simple, tasty, and plentiful and you will not go hungry. The hospitality is heartwarming.

Drink

Despite the legacy of French nuclear testing at nearby Muraroa atoll, the water is safe to drink, and bottled water is available from small shops in town. Many of the locals, the soils, and groundwater have been tested for residual radiation by the French government and Greenpeace. All results were negative for radionucleotides. There are no surface streams or wells, and all potable water is collected by catchment from roofs, and thus quite safe to drink.

In Rikitea there are two small markets. One has a decent selection of alcohol, but you will pay dearly for anything but beer. A bottle of Absolut Vodka was priced at nearly USD100. If you wish to have anything specific for you trip you'd better bring it with you to save money, as prices even in Papeete are high.

At night the pensions and small restaurants in Rikitea serve beer (Hirono). Prices are high, but reasonable given the remoteness of the islands.

Stay safe

The locals are friendly and a delight. Wear lots of suncreen, and be careful of stonefish. Bug spray is recommended. Europeans, and to an increasing degree North Americans, are less modest than Polynesians. Dress appropriately — public nudity is discouraged.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, August 29, 2014. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.