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Tuamotu islands: the islands of the atolls

The archipelago of the Tuamotu islands is the largest in French Polynesia, it in fact extends between 14 ° and 24 ° south latitude and 134 ° and 150 ° west longitude, on an area of the Pacific ocean as large as Western Europe (approximately 800,000 sq km). The Tuamotu archipelago, located east of Tahiti, was first spotted by Europeans since the Magellan expedition, which on January 24, 1521 discovered the island of Puka Puka, Magellan called the new island San Pablo.

The Tuamotu islands are the largest chain of atolls in the world, they are made up of 78 islands, which are all coral atolls. In this immense ocean space, the total surface area of the atoll land is only 850 sq km, less than the surface of the island of Tahiti. Although geographically part of the Tuamotu, the Gambier islands, located in the extreme south-east of the archipelago, are geologically and culturally distinct islands.

The most important atolls are those of Rangiroa, Fakarava, Anaa, Hao, Makemo, Manihi, Tikehau, Ahe and Mataiva. The main activities of the inhabitants of the islands are the cultivation of black pearls and copra. Tourism also has a certain importance especially in the atolls best connected with Tahiti such as Rangiroa (the second largest atoll in the world), Manihi, Fakarava and Tikehau. In the northwest of the archipelago, the Taiaro atoll offers a rare example of a coral reef with a completely enclosed lagoon. The atoll was officially designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1977.


The main atolls are connected by Air Tahiti flights with Tahiti, in particular there are frequent flights between Tahiti and the atolls of Ahe, Arutua, Rangiroa, Fakarava, Hao, Makemo, Manihi, Tikehau, Takaroa, Takapoto and Mataiva. The other inhabited atolls are connected only by cargo ships.

  • Surface: 850 sq km
  • Population: 15,000 inhabitants