French Polynesia

Climate

Tropical, but moderate. Natural hazards : occasional cyclonic storms in January. Very humid.

The average ambient temperature is 27°C 80°F and the waters of the lagoons average 26°C 79°F in the winter and 29°C 84°F in the summer. But do not worry, most resorts and hotel rooms are air conditioned or cooled by ceiling fans.

Summer is from November through April, with a warmer and more humid climate and winter is from May through October, when the climate is slightly cooler and drier. When you step out of the airplane, you'll immediately notice that the air is warm and humid. Consequently, besides your camera and your extra memory cards, do not forget to pack lightweight cotton clothes, sunscreen lotion and a baseball cap or a wide brimmed hat. Synthetic fabrics can get hot and sticky in the tropics.

History

The Polynesians inhabited these islands for several hundred years before their discovery by western explorers. Several marae religious sites still exist, scattered throughout the islands as evidence of this inhabitation.

The British discovered Tahiti in the mid 1760's and Captain Cook visited there in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus before sailing on to the south and west in search of the fabled Terra Australus Incognita with the assistance of a Polynesian navigator.

The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century.

During the 1960's and 1970's, the French conducted atmospheric nuclear tests in the islands, primarily at Mururoa atoll. Testing later moved underground after international protests from other Pacific countries, including a flotilla of yachts and a warship from New Zealand to monitor tests in 1974. Testing continued into the early 1990's, despite attempts to disrupt them by environmental activists. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996.

In recent years the islanders have been working towards autonomy and economic independence from France. However, the process is a gradual one and is expected to take a decade or two to occur.

Terrain

Mixture of rugged high islands and low islands with reefs.

Highest point : Mont Orohena 2,241 meters 6790 feet

Diverse landscapes:

Valleys cut by rivers and waterfalls

Crests leading to summits attaining heights of more than 2,000 meters 6,500 feet

Seashore paths bordering remote creeks overshadowed by cliffs.