Gambier Islands vacations
Over 1,000 miles southeast of Tahiti, a vacation in the Gambier Islands awaits. Known as the “islands at the end of the world”, they are a microcosm of French Polynesia, with a blend of five tall, imposing mountainous islands and 18 motus in one lagoon.
Because of their location close to the Tropic of Capricorn, the islands abound with fruit trees, drawing a lush, green landscape thanks to the tropical climate tempered by the ocean’s trade winds.
The Gambiers is the region where pearl farming first developed, and Gambier pearls are renowned and valued the world over. Mangareva, the largest island of the region, is home to most of the population and the center of the region's pearl industry. The area’s only small family pensions are located here, in the town of Rikitea.
Rikitea was the cradle of Catholicism during the nineteenth century, following the arrival of the first missionaries to the region. Hundreds of coral stone buildings from that era survive here, including churches, convents, schools, and watch towers. Particularly impressive is the Saint-Michel Cathedral with its pearl and nacre inlaid alter, a testament to the heritage of the region. Still in use today, this Catholic Church was built under the auspices of Father Honoré Laval. With its deep ties to modern Catholicism, life on the islands is punctuated by many religious celebrations, singing services, processions and various decorations.
Visitors to Rikitea will be enchanted to find a number of ruins known as the Rikitea Ruins. Among these archeological relics are a convent, a triumphal arch, several watchtowers, a prison and a court. These abandoned remains have been noted for their dark, eerie feel.
One other place of interest on the Gambiers is Mt. Duff, rising to over 1,200 feet, along the island's south coast. Named for the European ship belonging to explorer Captain James Wilson, this mountain is the highest point in the entire Gambier Islands group, offering breathtaking views to anyone who makes the summit.