Tahiti and its islands, a hidden Pacific paradise

Located in the heart of the South Pacific, Tahiti and its islands make up the largest marine territory on the planet, covering an area of 5.5 million km² and boasting a land mass of 4,000 km².

French Polynesia is divided into 118 islands and five archipelagos: the Marquesas Islands (to the north), the Society Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago (in the centre), the Austral Islands (to the south) and the Gambier Islands (to the south-east). Each island group has a unique landscape to offer, from green volcanic islands to turquoise coral atolls.

‘la Ora na’, ‘Maeva’ and ‘Manava’ are the three words of welcome with which Polynesians greet visitors. This legendary hospitality is symbolically evident when you arrive at the airport, through songs accompanied by guitars and ukuleles, and through the gift of a tiare, a Tahitian flower with an exotic odour. A pluri-ethnic society, the population of Tahiti and the surrounding islands includes Polynesians (83 per cent, of which around 20 per cent are of mixed race), Europeans (12 per cent, principally from mainland France) and Chinese (five per cent, a community that settled in the islands at the end of the nineteenth century). It represents a melting pot that has shaped contemporary Polynesian culture and identity.

With its turquoise lagoons, sparkling white-sand beaches and magical atmosphere, Tahiti and its islands constitute an unforgettable romantic destination. In addition, since 2009 a new law has made it easier for foreigners to tie the knot in French Polynesia.

Beyond the mythical pristine sandy beaches, rich treasures await those that wish to explore the islands: well preserved flora and fauna with many endemic species (40 per cent local species) and an incredible variety of unexpected scenery. Green tourism is on the rise, with marked footpaths, and guided hiking tours, and adventurous tourists keen on exploring nature in Polynesia have a wide range of activities at their disposal: hiking, excursions and even eco-tours arranged by marine biology experts.

Diving is another not-to-be-missed activity. According to experienced divers, there is no better place in the world to see such a wide variety of sea beds.

And there are certainly some impressive encounters to be had, with dolphins, manta rays and even barracudas. The main attraction for tourists, across all the islands, remains swimming with Polynesia’s sharks, mainly passive creatures who receive star billing from visitors at each outing. The most spectacular diving can be found in the famous passes of Tuamotu Islands, and particularly that of Rangiroa, considered by many to be the Mecca of deep-sea diving.

Veritable specks of stardust far removed from major economic and political hubs, Tahiti and its islands have turned their distance into an asset. The exceptionally well preserved environment, unique culture and traditions, diversity of landscapes and variety of things to do and see; all of these factors make these islands a must-see, unmatched tourist destination.

Football in French Polynesia
Football was introduced to French Polynesia in 1906 by Royal Navy sailors. It was organised into clubs in 1923 and a national side came into existence from 30 March 1932 onwards. The team’s first official match took place in Tahiti against New Zealand in 1952. The final score was 2-2.

One year later, the national team took part in its first-ever international tournament in the Pacific region. The Tahitian Football Association (FTF) was formed in 1969, and adopted the designation ‘Tahiti’ in 1989 in order to join FIFA on 7 June 1990.

In 2009, Tahiti took part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, their first participation in the final stages of a FIFA-run event. The national Beach Soccer side subsequently participated in its maiden FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, at Ravenna/Italy 2011.

In June 2012, Tahiti astonishingly won Oceania’s most prestigious tournament, the OFC Nations Cup, bringing to an end 40 years of Australia and New Zealand domination of Pacific football. With 15,000 members, the FTF is today the largest sporting association in French Polynesia, among the 35 federal structures approved by the government.

2013 will see Tahiti become the first Pacific Islands nation to host a FIFA tournament, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.