Tahiti, the New Cythera island
Located 7900 km of Chile and 5700 km from Australia, is the most famous South Seas island. Discovered by the English explorer Samuel Wallis in 1767, Tahiti is known as New Cythera by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville who stays there a year later. It is in his voyage round the world that the French navigator evokes the legend of the island of Kythira in the Aegean Sea, which would have seen the birth of Aphrodite, the ancient goddess of love.
Two centuries later, Tahiti, cradle of Polynesian culture, always ignites the imagination of tourists worldwide. However, the most populated, the highest and largest of the islands of French Polynesia is not the one that best embodies the image that one has of paradise, with a lot of pictures of blue lagoons, vahines and white sand beaches. Tahiti has more authentic things to offer to those who want to appreciate her treasures. Discovering its lush interior valleys, his sublime and wild peninsula, coastal roads lined with bougainvillea, Teahupoo, the legendary surfing spot and beaches made of black basaltic sand are a must . In clear waters, it is not uncommon to see turtles, sharks, dolphins and humpback whales. Peaking at 2241 meters, it is still a young Tahitian island. Of volcanic origin, the high and mountainous island, gradually sinks into the mantle. Birthplace of historical and cultural heritage, the island is also a must for feeling vibrate Polynesian identity.
The tropical maritime climate is characterized by two seasons. The rainy season, from November to April with higher temperatures with peaks at 31 °C and more frequent rainfall. From May to October, the dry season offers pleasant temperatures between 22 °C and 27 °C in July-August. Prevailing winds are Easterly winds and maaramu (Southeast) blows stronger during the dry season.
You should know that there is virtually no tide in Tahiti and other islands of the Polynesian territory which is a rare occurrence at the international level on an ocean point, called the point amphidromic where the tidal effect caused by the moon is almost zero.
Local authorities sustainable policy
Recognizing the incredible underwater richness and unique natural heritage the Polynesians are keen to preserve their environment.
A sanctuary for marine mammals and a law to protect sharks
The local government policy is particularly active in the field of the protection of endangered species and coral reefs. Since May 2002, the French Polynesia has become a sanctuary for marine mammals, and since 2006, one of the first countries in the world to protect its population of sharks threatened by finning. The turtles are protected by law, but efforts must be pursued to permanently stop poaching.
Marine biodiversity monitoring in high
Polynesia alone has almost 12,800 km of coral reefs whose evolution is measured each year by various scientific organizations, including among others Ifrecor, to ensure their good health. Moreover, Criobe which is the scientific research unit founded in 1971 by the Practical School of Higher Studies (EPHE), now part of the national network of marine stations of the French CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) and network Observatory INSU environment. Its purpose is to provide a better understanding of coral reefs, through the dissemination and popularization work of basic and applied research, while participating in the scientific training of researchers by practice immersion. Finally, the Polynesian Center Research and development of Island Biodiversity (CPRBI) was founded in 2010 following a tripartite agreement between the University of French Polynesia (UPF), the Institute Malardé (ILM) and the Institute Research for Development (IRD). Teams gathered since 2009 on the site of the IRD Arue (east coast of Tahiti), specialized in chemistry, molecular biology and marine microbiology and around a research program on ‘the terrestrial and marine biodiversity: development of natural resources and risk management’. More than 30 researchers, faculty and graduate students have laboratories and scientific facilities renovated with support from the State and Polynesia.
Reduction of terrestrial biodiversity
With 495 species of native plants, Tahiti focuses almost half the diversity of the flora of the Polynesian Archipelago. The majority of the 224 endemic plants of the island is located in the heights between 600 m and 1500 m altitude. The rich biodiversity of Tahiti yet suffered a severe decline due to urbanization, pollution, lack of water purification, to overfishing, but also to the introduction of invasive species, including the ‘Miconia calvescens’ real scourge plant introduced to the island in 1937, which threatens more than 70 endemic plants of the island.
Collection and treatment of waste
In Polynesia, 500 kg of household waste is issued each year against 400 kg per capita on average in France. Production steadily increasing with population growth and changing consumption patterns is a problem in urban areas and tourist areas where the lack of infrastructure is lacking. A waste management program was established in 1997 to promote curbside recycling. Since 2003, the recycling center and transfer Motu Uta Papeete sends paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, iron and plastic by boat to neighboring Pacific countries. As for non-recyclable waste, they are treated by the Technical Centre Paihoro landfill since 2000. Finally, more than 550 points for voluntary contributions have been set up on 33 islands in the services, shops or the town stations to receive targeted waste. For green waste, they are biodegradable and can be valued by composting, storage in the valley by the municipalities do not have financial resources, contributes to the formation of uncontrolled dumps.
To improve the sewerage wastewater Tahiti, two new stations are being built in Papeete and Papeete whose absence is sorely felt, and should function as the local plant of Punauia based on a physico-chemical treatment. Polynesian regulations require the wastewater treatment for each individual building and it is valid for boarding houses and hotels, the opening is conditional on the existence of a system of sanitation standards. In a sustainable development project, the country is moving towards the implementation of innovative projects of water recycling based on a tertiary water treatment by nanofiltration to allow reuse for irrigation networks and hotel spaces green as common in Bora Bora. New regulations are underway to make systematic recovery of rainwater and its filtration, storage and its use as water undrinkable. Of supported systems or partial tax exemptions are offered to encourage hostels to invest in épuratoirs of systems compliant. Release monitoring is provided by the health center and public safety that checks the bacteriological quality of bathing waters with the test results can be found on the site.
Sustainable use of the sea
With five million square kilometers of sea areas, representing 47% of the French EEZ, the sea is a major challenge for French Polynesia. Many partnerships have emerged in particular with the Poles Mer Mer PACA Britain and in emerging areas such as aquaculture, exploitation of marine biodiversity, blue biotechnology and marine renewable energy. Polynesian expertise already exists in the production of air conditioning with cold water thoroughly enjoyed captured the moment a hotel in Bora Bora. A draft of ocean thermal energy plant, run by a local company, is on the track while the tidal current project operator password atolls are being studied.
Plenty of sea sustainable activities available everywhere
The most practiced sport is the very famous local outrigger: Va’a. Va’a can be practiced alone or in teams of 3, 6 or 12. It is common to observe, at sunrise and sunset, the teams train off the Tahitian coast to the large Hawaiki Nui race.
Surfing is also among the most popular sports of the Polynesians
If you can surf in the five islands, the most famous spots are located in the Society Islands. The village of Teahupoo located on the peninsula of Tahiti Iti is known worldwide thanks to its massive and powerful wave of tubular reefs. In Tahiti, there are several spots available depending on the level. Several surfing schools offer private or group lessons. On the West Coast, Taapuna is frequented by experienced surfers who appreciate its reef wave. For beginners, spots Papeno to Venus Point, on the east coast, and PAPARA on the West Coast, have the advantage of the beach breaks. Appeared in the 1990s, kite surfing has become very popular. It is practiced everywhere in Polynesia but mainly to the Pointe Venus and near the Isthmus of Taravao where you can observe the spectacular jumps and tricks from the coast.
Tahiti and her islands are also considered a high-end diving for rich marine biodiversity and for its warm, clear waters destination. If Tuamotu are rightly regarded as the Mecca for divers, Tahiti is also worth a visit. Whether inside the lagoon, along steep drop-offs, in the privacy of caves and holes adorned with beautiful gorgonians or inside wrecks, divers have access to a wide variety of sites frequented by nearly 800 species of colorful fish and multifaceted. Reef fish, butterflies, and other surgeons Chaetodons foraging around coral heads, while pelagic species, sharks leopards and stingrays, barracudas and other jacks, met near passes on the outer slopes and off.
Major Nautical events
Hawaiki Nui Va’a
The Hawaiki Nui Va’a the big race is undoubtedly the major sporting event of the French Polynesia. It takes place every year between October and November between the islands of Huahine, Raitea, Tahaa and Bora Bora. This canoe race on the high seas and lagoon practice with V6, the 6-seater outrigger with five rowers and a coxswain. Sporting event local importantly, the Hawaiki Nui has become a major international tourist event. The competition, which had 34 wooden canoes in the first edition in 1992, now comprises more than 150 va’a composite materials and hundreds of paddlers from around the world.
The Tahiti Pearl Regatta
The Tahiti Pearl Regatta called the TPR is one of the biggest races of the Pacific. Initiated in 2003, it takes place every year in May and attracts forty ships on exceptional waters. The route of the race to discover the islands of Raiatea, the largest naval base of French Polynesia, Tahaa and sharing the same lagoon and from one year to the next, Bora Bora and Huahine. It is open to all types of boats, of all nationalities, combining offshore steps and stages of the lagoon. Several events are planned: TPR Trophy (monohulls & Multihulls) divided into two categories HN1 and HN2. The challenge Pro (business / incentive) distinguishing the vessels participating in the colors of a company. Henri trophy Dejust (sailing canoes) that carry only lagonnaires tests. The festive program TPR is as intense as his sporting career with the program of games, local food tastings, BBQ on Motu, traditional songs and dances…
The French Polynesia has a moderately developed economy, dependent on the importation of goods, tourism and financial subsidies from France. Main foreign exchange earner, tourism reported 347.7 million euros in revenues in 2004. Stop-off arrives in French Polynesia, Tahiti is therefore the island’s most visited by tourists. Thus nearly 90% of tourists who came to Polynesia in 2004 visited Tahiti. The hotel capacity statistics also show the weight of the island in the local tourism industry with nearly 40% of the Polynesian hotel rooms are located in Tahiti. Tahiti has been particularly affected by the crisis experienced by the industry for nearly 10 years. Between 2006 and 2009, the number of tourists has dropped by nearly 28% and the phenomenon only worsen since. We can also observe the low occupancy of the majority of resorts on the largest island rates.
Leading exports, the pearl, the second economic activity of the region which helps to keep jobs in the entire archipelago, followed by fishing and agriculture. Ifremer monitors the pearl production and leads various fronts of scientific work which one of them is to improve the quality of the pearl through the use of molecular biology in order to make the sector more competitive. A system can accurately measure the interaction of marine ecosystems with oyster Pinctada Margaritifera and thus promotes the selection of oysters donor grafts that will increase the qualities. Solutions have been developed in order to ensure the genetic mutation of the oyster for plugins that will generate the desired color with an incubation period of pearl shortened.
Aquaculture is a booming sector and is strongly supported by the local government, especially shrimp farming, with an annual production amounts to nearly 50 tons. No preservatives, they are available fresh in the local market. The lagoon fish there for less time but represents an attractive economic potential. It concerns mainly hatcheries tropical wolf (lates calcarifer), and work is carried out since 2006 by the Fisheries Service Polynesian and Ifremer for sustainable farming sunfish (batfish orbicularis), selected for its performance, high value added and its taste. This fish is scarce in the lagoons, knows a strong reputation among Polynesian and Chinese consumers and aquaculture appears to be a sustainable solution to save. The current market is estimated at 60 tons.
Remaining a long time at a craft stage, the fisheries in French Polynesia has undergone profound changes in the early 1990s with the development of an offshore industry. The fleet capacity has been doubled and especially fish aggregating devices have been installed at strategic points around several islands in order to avoid over-exploitation and allow small-scale fishermen to exercise their activity elsewhere on areas reef (spawning, nursery, etc.) where the fishing pressure may decrease. Fishing lines to the unit and the result of fishing in and are valued. Today, Polynesian fishing is organized around a traditional fishing oriented to local markets and fishing semi-industrial type, mainly oriented towards external markets. More than 400 tons of fish were exported in 2008, mainly to the USA and Japan.
Main vegetable area of the territory, Tahiti plays a vital role in subsistence agriculture in Polynesia. The island produces about 80% of Polynesian vegetables namely taro, sweet potatoes, bananas fe’i, salads, cucumbers, cabbages, tomatoes … Two thirds of cattle and one chicken farm livestock are concentrated in Tahiti which also produces copra, timber, oil Monoi oil, vanilla and nono (Morinda citrifolia)…
For many years, researchers consider that Polynesians are descendants of the so-called ‘Lapita’ people originating in insular Southeast Asia. A more specific hypothesis, since the latest studies and research on DNA shows evidence of the Taiwan home language distribution and Austronesian culture. Indeed, there are disturbing cultural similarities with Polynesian language. With over 270,000 registered inhabitants in 2010, the population of French Polynesia has more than doubled in 40 years. It represents about 10% of the total population of France’s overseas territories. People are spread over a large area like Europe but with only 3,670 square kilometers of land area, with the density of 74 inhabitants per square kilometer. The Society Islands concentrate nearly 88% of the total population in Tahiti and her alone 70%. According to the Economic, Social and Cultural, the population is divided into four ethnic groups: Ma’ohi the community (65%) The community backs (16%) of mixed marriages of a Euro-Polynesian culture the Chinese community (5%) from most of the Kwantung (southern province of China) in the first quarter of the 20th century. Tahitian Chinese officially acquired French nationality in 1974. The Poopa’a community (12% of which 98% is French) is very present in the administration and the medical populations.