Gambier Islands: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gambier Islands
Native name: Îles Gambier
Flag of the Gambier Islands.svg
Flag of the Gambier Islands
Karta FP Gambier isl.PNG
Location Pacific Ocean
Archipelago Polynesia
Total islands 14
Major islands Mangareva, Akamaru, Aukena, Taravai
Area 31 km²
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
Population 986 (as of 2002)

The Gambier Islands (French: Îles Gambier or Archipel des Gambier) are a small group of islands in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They are generally considered a separate island group from Tuamotu both because their culture and language (Mangarevan) are much more closely related to those of the Marquesas Islands, and because, while the Tuamotus comprise several chains of coral atolls, the Gambiers, especially the primary island, Mangareva, are of volcanic origin. Because of its proximity, the nearby atoll of Temoe (23°20′46″S 134°28′28″W / 23.34611°S 134.47444°W / -23.34611; -134.47444) is sometimes included among the Gambiers.




Together with the Tuamotus, the Gambier Islands form Îles Tuamotu-Gambier (French: (les) (Îles) Tuamotu-Gambier or officially la subdivision administrative des (Îles) Tuamotu-Gambier), one of the five primary administrative divisions (subdivisions administratives) of French Polynesia.

The Gambier Islands (Gambier), together with the islands in the eastern part of the Tuamotus (Anaa, Fangatau, Hao, Hikueru, Makemo, Napuka, Nukutavake, Puka-Puka, Reao, Tatakoto and Tureia), form Îles Gambier et Tuamotu Est, one of the 6 electoral districts (circonscriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia (Assemblée de la Polynésie française).

The commune of Gambier is made up of the Gambier Islands (with uninhabited Temoe Atoll 40 km east of the main Gambier group), the uninhabited Acteon Group to the west (Matureivavao, Tenararo, Tenarunga, Vahanga), and the atolls of Marutea Sud, Maria Est and Morane. This group of islands and atolls covers an area of 35 km².

Although these archipelagos are administered as a single municipality (commune), the main village is Rikitea, on the largest island of Mangareva.


Gambier Islands (Mangareva)

The enclosing coral reef is broken by only three passages to the open sea. Besides Mangareva, the other notable islands of the group are Akamaru (23°10′52″S 134°54′56″W / 23.18111°S 134.91556°W / -23.18111; -134.91556), Angakauitai, Aukena (23°07′42″S 134°54′01″W / 23.12833°S 134.90028°W / -23.12833; -134.90028), Kamaka, Kouaku, Makapu, Makaroa, Manui, Mekiro and Taravai (23°08′12″S 135°01′33″W / 23.13667°S 135.02583°W / -23.13667; -135.02583). These are, like Mangareva, volcanic in origin. A number of others are actually coral islands, including Kauku, Papuri, Puaumu, Totengengie and the Tokorua group.

The islands are located at 23°09′S 134°58′W / 23.15°S 134.967°W / -23.15; -134.967., and are approximately 31 km² (12 mi²) in area. The total population in 2006 was 1,103 The primary town is Rikitea, located on Mangareva. The highest point in the Gambiers is Mt. Duff, on Mangareva, rising to 441 m along the island's south coast.


Coordinates: 23°00′S 136°00′W / 23.0°S 136.0°W / -23.0; -136.0

Commune of Gambier

A ship from Gambier.
Paris plan pointer b jms.svg
Map highlighting the commune of
Country France
Region Polynésie française
Mayor Monique Labbeyi-Richeton
Elevation 0–441 m (0–1,400 ft)
Land area1 46 km2 (18 sq mi)
Population2 1,337  (2007)
 - Density 29 /km2 (75 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 98719/ 98755
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

There was a time (approximately the tenth to the fifteenth centuries) when the Gambiers hosted a population of several thousand people and traded with other island groups including the Marquesas, the Society Islands and Pitcairn Islands. However, excessive logging by the islanders resulted in almost complete deforestation on Mangareva, with disastrous results for the islands' environment and economy. The folklore of the islands records a slide into civil war and even cannibalism as trade links with the outside world broke down, and archaeological studies have confirmed this tragic story. Today, the islands can support a population of only a few hundred.

In 1834, the Belgian Jesuit priests Honoré Laval and François Caret founded a Roman Catholic mission in the Gambiers. After their success here, they moved to Tahiti in 1836.


Effects of French nuclear testing on the Gambiers

The Gambiers served as a logistical staging base for French nuclear testing activity in Mururoa. During this time, the French military dragged a chain through some of the coral reef beds to cut a wider and deeper channel for deep draft vessels. Higher rate of intoxications by ciguatera were subsequently recorded[1].

French military vessels visited the area (as of 1993) every six months collecting specimens of water, food, human hair and other material, as well as taking detailed accounts of births, deaths and other demographic events, presumably for on-going research into the effects of the nuclear testing. The results of this research are not published.


  • Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), Ch. 3

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Gambier Islands are a group of coral reef islands in the southeast extreme of the Tuamotu Islands archipelago of French Polynesia.



Accomidation can be booked from this site [1]

Names of Families offering Online booking:

CHEZ BIANCA ET BENOIT - Guestroom CHEZ JOJO - Guestroom PENSION MARO'I (highly recommended) - Family Pension TARA ETU KURA - Family Pension


There are no ATM's or Banks. Please bring enough French Polynesian Francs for your Holiday. Locals here deal with cash only. You can exchange USD/Euros for French Polynesian Francs at the post office in Rikitea. The pensions sometimes accept credit cards (ask first).


Knowing french or tahitian will serve you well here. Very few locals speak english. At the pensions usually one person will know basic english words, but anything approaching a conversation will be impossible.

Get in

Flights once a week from Tahiti Flying Air Tahiti (

Flight Number VT951 LEAVES AT 0540 and arrives at 1105 and the flight back on the same day is from 1155 and arrives at Tahiti at 1450.

Once at the airport you will need to catch a Taxi boat to the city RIKITEA.

Get around

There are no rental cars. Arrange with your pension to be picked up at the dock (after taking the ferry from the airport on the motu). The island's16 mile circle road can be walked in 4-6 hours. It's a great walk. If you wish to see one of the other islands in the group, ask your pension about day trips. Pension Moroi offers a great day trip to see several other islands. It's a fascinating day.



Rikitea Ruins At Mangareva's main village, Rikitea, visitors will find a number of 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.

Rikitea Rectory Across the path from St. Micheal of Rikitea Church is a well-maintained 140 year-old rectory, occupied by the parish priest.

St Michel of Rikitea Church Constructed of fired limestone, this neo-gothic Catholic church was built under the auspices of Father Honoré Laval. The church, which is still in use today, is inlaid with iridescent mother-of-pearl.


Enjoy a piece of the planet nearly untouched by the modern world. The lagoon is stunning. Tour a black pearl farm. Spend a day on a motu having a picnic, tour the atolls historic churches, hike around the entire island, or to the top of Mt. Duff. Snorkling is quite good, if only there was a dive operation. Watching the stars at night.


There's 1-2 restaurants in Rikitea. You can also eat at the pensions (let them know ahead of time as they only prepare enough food for those they know are coming for dinner). Food at the pensions is simple, tasty, and plentiful. You will not go hungry. The hospitality is heartwarming.


Despite French nuclear testing at nearby Muraroa the water is safe to drink, and bottled water is availible from small shops in town. Many of the locals, the land, and water have been tested for residual radiation. All came back clean. These tests were performed by Greenpeace. Furthermore, all water is rainwater collected by catchment from roofs. There are no streams/wells.

In Rikitea there are 2 small markets. One has a decent selection of alcohol, but you will pay dearly for anything but beer. A bottle of Absolut Vodka was priced at nearly $100USD. If you wish to have anything specific for you trip I would highly recommend bringing it with you from home, as prices even in Papeete are high.

At night the pensions, and couple small restaurants, serve beer (Hirono).

Stay safe

The locals are friendly and a delight. Wear lots of suncreen, and be careful of stonefish. Bug spray is recommended. Europeans, and to an increasing degree North Americans, are less modest than Polynesians. Dress appropriately. I would discourage any public nudity despite the idyllic setting.

This article is an outline and needs more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. Please plunge forward and help it grow!

Same way as getting in


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address