One thousand miles to the north-east of Papeete, the Marquesas were
the first islands in French Polynesia to be settled by Europeans during
the modern era. Just 12 islands, of which only 6 are inhabited, make up
the group, which is divided in two by a 70 mile channel. The largest island,
Nuku Hiva, is situated in the northern group, while Hiva Oa is the largest
island in the southern group. Like all of the islands in French Polynesia,
they are volcanic in origin. They are the only islands in French Polynesia
not surrounded by barrier reefs of coral, and the coastline is exposed
the full force of the mighty Pacific. Any coral that does grow there is
to be found cling precariously to underwater boulders; some small fringing
reefs can be found in the calmer bays. Wind, rain and wave action over
the eons have carved perhaps the most magnificent scenery in the entire
country. Huge razor-backed mountains flank deeply cut sandy bays or rocky
inlets, while lush forest covers all but the steepest of rock faces. Ahuei
Waterfall, on Nuku Hiva, is, at 1148ft, one of the highest waterfalls
in the world. The Marquesas are almost totally devoid of pollution; the
environment is pristine and untouched.
The South Pacific's most varied and splendid ancient ruins, called meae,
can be found scattered in profusion across the Marquesas. Continuously
inhabited for over 2 millennia, the Marquesans have created fantastic
temple complexes with wonderful open courtyards, ceremonial areas and
spectator platforms. Giant stone statues with intricate petroglyphs stand
guard as they have done for centuries!
Only 8000 people live in the Marquesas - they seem positively empty compared
with the Society Islands! Concentrated mainly on Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and
Fatu Hiva, the Marquesans are distinct in both looks and language from
the rest of French Polynesia. Their separate cultural identity is fiercely
It was in Hiva Oa that Paul Gaugin lived out the remaining two years
of his life, and he is buried at Calvar Cemetry near Atuona. The Belgian
singer Jacques Brel is also buried here.
Despite the fact that they lie closer to the equator than all the others
within French Polynesia, their climate is remarkably different. A more
subtropical temperature dominates - the mean annual temperature is about
78F, and cooing breezes further add to the cooler feel. Beware, though!
This is still the tropics, and the sun burns easily! Due to the lack of
barrier reefs, the ocean surge carries on to the shoreline of the Marquesas.
Surge and wash are the norm on dives around Nuku Hiva. The majority of
dives are for intermediate to advanced divers.
We offer accommodation at a choice of two resorts in Nuku Hiva and one
in Hiva Oa. Diving is only available on Nuku Hiva, but we have included
Hiva Oa in our programme as we would urge you to visit this stunning and
remote island if you are diving in Nuku Hiva.