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French Polynesia: the enchanting islands of the South Seas

French Polynesia (Polynésie Française) is a French overseas collectivity, governed by a status of autonomy, located in the South Pacific. The territory is made up of 5 archipelagoes scattered over 2.5 million sq km of ocean (the equivalent of the surface of Portugal, Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands).

In this immense space, the land total area is only 3,660 sq km (equivalent to the Euboea Island in Greece, plus 597 sq km of internal waters and lagoons), the inhabitants are 259,500 (data 2007) mostly Polynesians (83%) then Europeans (12%, mainly French), and Asians (5%, mainly Chinese and Vietnamese).

French Polynesia is composed of more than one hundred islands of volcanic or coral origin, distributed among five archipelagos: the Society Islands, in turn divided into Windward Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Maiao, Mehetia and Tetiaroa) and Leeward Islands (Raiatea, Tahaa, Huahine, Bora Bora, Maupiti, Tupai, Manuae, Mauphiaa and Motu One), the Tuamotu Islands, the Gambier Islands, the Marquises Islands, and the Austral Islands.

The most important island is Tahiti in the Society Islands, which is also the largest (1 048 square kilometers) and the most populated (about 178 000 inhabitants in 2007) of the islands of French Polynesia, here is the capital of the territory, Papeete. On the island of Tahiti is also the highest mountain in French Polynesia, Mount Orohena, which reaches 2 241 meters.

The main sources of income for the archipelago are tourism, pearl farming, fisheries, agriculture (coconut palms, copra, coffee, cotton, sugar cane, vanilla). The most important item of exports of French Polynesia are the famous black pearls of Tahiti.

  • Area: 3,660 sq km (to which must be added 597 sq km of internal waters and lagoons). (Arable 7%, Pastures 5%, Forests and Woodlands 31%, Uncultivated and Unproductive 57%)
  • Population: 259,500 (83% Polynesians, 12% Europeans, 5% Asians (mainly Chinese and Vietnamese).
  • State Capital: Papeete (Tahiti island).
  • Languages: French (official language) and Tahitian.
  • Religion: Christian: Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%.
  • Currency: CFP Franc (XPF).
  • Time zone: -10 hours compared to London (UK) (-11 hours when London (UK) has daylight saving time). UTC -10 hours.

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