The island of Rurutu is in the heart of the Austral Islands, more than 370 miles from Tahiti. This small island paradise is known for its unique, authentic traditions, such as the annual Tere A’ati festival held every January. The entire population, old and young, gathers together for a grand procession around the island. A festive occasion and a special moment of sharing.
There are three villages on the island, Moerai, Avera and Hauti. Each one takes it in turn to organize the Tere A’ati. If you’re in Rurutu at the beginning of the year, you’ll be more than welcome to participate in this festive round-island tour. Rurutu is an authentic haven of peace, far from the busier tourist destinations in The Islands of Tahiti, such as Bora Bora and Moorea. With a beautiful lagoon, stunning beaches, hauntingly strange caves, impressive cliffs, magnificent countryside and some superb hiking trails that you can follow on foot or on horseback, Rurutu has a lot to offer the visitor. From June to November, some very special visitors come to the island – schools of humpback whales. They visit the warm waters of French Polynesia to reproduce and nurture their young, and Rurutu is an excellent place for observing them. You can even see them from up on the cliffs! There are no hotels on the island, but there is a good choice of accommodation in family run, Tahitian Guesthouses. The owners will be able to tell you more about the island’s unique traditions, such as the Tere A’ati.
The Tere A’ati, a Polynesian tradition
Rurutu is a festive island that likes to celebrate. Traditional ceremonies such as the fête du Me, the Tiurai, the Tere Matahiti and the Tere A’ati, bring the people together and reinforce their spiritual bonds and sense of sharing. The Tere Matahiti is the occasion for the islanders to visit each other’s houses to ring in the new year. The Tere A’ati is a wonderfully festive procession round the island. All of the inhabitants participate, by car, bike, or on horseback. The procession makes a halt at certain important sites, for the telling of traditional legends and stories. Then the singing starts up again, the ukuleles join in, and the prcession goes off on its merry way once again.
The procession is also the occasion for the elders to transmit the history and legends of the island to the younger generation. But above all, the Tere A’ati is one big party! Cars are cleaned and decorated, everybody dresses in their finest clothes, with crowns of flowers, and the entire population comes together to celebrate the beauty of their island. At the end of the day, the procession comes to an end in the main square of the organizing village, where there is a big feast and a traditional music and dance spectacle. If you’re lucky enough to be on the island in January, you’re sure to be invited to join in the fun!
Culture and tourist activities in Rurutu
Stone lifting competitions, dance and music spectacles, traditional handicraft… these are just a small part of the extremely rich cultural heritage of Rurutu. Take the time to explore all the different aspects of this truly authentic and unique island paradise.
The people of Rurutu are famously warm and welcoming, so don’t be afraid to seek their help or advice. During your stay, make sure you visit the Ta’aroa marae, an ancient ma’ohi cultural site at Vitaria. There are also many impressive caves for you to explore. As you tour round the island, you’ll be captivated by the beauty of the lush green countryside as well as the picture postcard perfection of its white sandy beaches.