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Nuku Hiva | Hiva Oa
 

The Marquesas

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 defended!

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.

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