Ra'iātea, is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the 'centre' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawai'i, Aotearoa and other parts of East Polynesia started at Ra'iātea.The islands of Ra'iātea and Taha'a are enclosed by a single coral reef, and may once have been a single island. Ra'iātea is the most populated island in the Leeward Islands, with a population of 12,024 inhabitants.

The main township on Ra'iātea is 'Uturoa with a population of about 10,000, and it is the administrative centre for the Leeward Islands (French Îles Sous-le-vent). There are also colleges which serve as the main educational location for secondary schools for students from the regional islands of Pora Pora, Taha'a, Huahine and Maupiti.

The first European to record sighting Ra'iātea was Pedro Fernandez de Quirós in 1606; it was charted as Fugitiva. The Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, who sailed with explorer James Cook, was born in Ra'iātea around 1725. Omai (c.1751-1780), another young man from Ra'iātea, travelled with European explorers to London in 1774 and also served as an interpreter to Captain Cook on his second and third journey. King Tamatoa VI was the last monarch, reigning from 1884-1888.

Much less "touristy" the Bora Bora or Tahiti , life here is more traditional and with a respect for their heritage and history. And although both islands embrace tourism, unlike their neighbours they don't need it to survive - agriculture and governmental posts are the primary industries here.

Home to some of French Polynesia's most important ancient places of worship. Situated on the south east coast is the historical Taputapuātea which was established by 1000AD. We visited this in the morning. Dolphins were seen on the zodiac journey ashore, and I actually managed to get shots of them out of the water. Marae Taputapuatea is a large marae complex at Opoa. The site features a number of marae and other stone structures and was once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia. The Marae was already established by 1000 AD with significant expansion after this time. The marae was a place of learning where priests and navigators from all over the Pacific would gather to offer sacrifices to the gods and share their knowledge of the genealogical origins of the universe, and of deep-ocean navigation.The archeological remains of Marae Taputapuatea were restored in 1994 and work to preserve the site continues. Association Na Papa E Va'u Raiatea is a cultural association formed by the people of Opoa for the preservation of the Marae Taputapuatea. The Association is working towards tentative listing of Marae Taputapuatea on the World Heritage List and creating and reviving connections between communities of the Polynesian triangle and throughout the Pacific region.

An amusing side note was the lady guide stripping off in the bus to show us her tattoos. The promised "botanical garden" was more of a hike through the jungle to reach the zodiacs.

And in the afternoon, swimming at Motu Iriru, a small but perfectly formed little island

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo


On to Papeete

South Seas Holiday