Nestled together in an isolated lagoon, the Gambier Islands have a very unique charm. Far off the beaten tourist track, a vacation in the Gambier Islands is an authentic voyage to the heart of Polynesian culture, where ancestral traditions are preserved with pride.
With their rich and thriving ancestral culture, the Gambier Islands are an ideal destination for visitors seeking the authentic Polynesia. A veritable cultural treasure chest, where customs and traditions are respected and cherished. Basket weaving, traditional dance, archeological remains and religious edifices; each aspect of Mangarevan culture is steeped in the history of Polynesia.
Pearls from Rikitea: the jewels of the Gambier Islands
The Gambier Islands are famous for pearl farming and it’s the second largest source of income after tourism. The clear waters of the lagoon are home to the pearls of Rikitea, renowned all over the world for the exceptional beauty of their nacre. You can visit the pearl farms to discover the secrets behind the cultivation of these sublime jewels. At the end of your visit you’ll have the opportunity to buy pearls at unbelievably advantageous prices.
There’s far more to the Gambier Islands than pearl farming, they are also the cradle of catholicism in French Polynesia. In 1834, missionaries arrived in Mangareva and built a certain number of churches, most of which you can still visit. The imposing Saint-Michel Cathedral in Rikitea is one of the finest religious edifices in The Islands of Tahiti.
A unique cultural heritage
One of the most wonderful traditions in the Gambier Islands is the fabrication of kaka’o, the magnificent hats, baskets and mats woven from the leaves of the pandanus tree.This is an ancient art passed down from mother to daughter over the generations. The hats created by Mamie Doris are such beautiful works of art that people often choose to display them on the walls of their living rooms instead of wearing them.
Handicrafts are a symbol of artistic creativity in the Gambier Islands, but the traditional dance called pe’i is the true emblem of its cultural past. An energetic and graceful dance unique to these islands, it is usually accompanied by chanting and singing. In a custom called pupuraga, the dancers and singers go from house to house, and perform in exchange for fruit, fish and nowadays, money. The Gambier Festival held each year in the islands is the perfect occasion to discover the unique ancestral customs and traditions of this magical and authentic Polynesian destination.