With breathtaking scenery, steep mountains and high plateaus, these islands are famous for their agricultural activities. You can find archeological remains hidden on each island, bearing witness to a well organized pre-European civilization, that had important religious and cultural practices.
Rurutu, the Taupe’e Cave (the monster’s cave)
Ana taupe’e is one of the most impressive caves on the island of Rurutu. It is known locally as ‘la gueule du monstre’ (the monster’s mouth) because of its gaping entrance, with stalagmites and stalactities sticking up and down (in that order). There is a narrow path on the cliff face leading to the cave, that you should only take in the company of a guide. The view out over the Pacific is truly spectacular and, with luck, you might even spot a whale or two in the mating season.
Rurutu, te Ana A’eo
Known as the Mitterand Cave, since the visit of French President François Mitterand in May 1990, the cave’s real name his Ana A’eo which means frightening. Very easy to get to, this is the biggest and most impressive cave in Rurutu. Huge stalactites and stalagmites give the interior the air of a rocky cathedral.
Rurutu, scenic viewpoint over the bay of Avera
One of the best views in Rurutu is from the platform at the base of ‘Matotea’, known as the white cliff. Surrounded by a lush vegetation of coconut palms and fern trees, this large basalt, cliff, covered in lichens, offers superb views over the bay and village of Avera.
Rurutu, Mount Manureva
Rurutu is an island paradise in the south of the Austral Islands. Topographically different from the usual picture postcard images of The Islands of Tahiti, it has three summits. The highest of these is Mount Manureva at 1,200 feet, and the views over the villages of Moerai and Avera from the top are outstanding. You can easily reach the summit on foot or by mountain bike.
Rimatara, bay of Virgins
Rimatara is the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Austral Islands, but it is nevertheless majestic, with beautiful bays and idyllic beaches. ‘La baie des Vierges’ (Bay of Virgins) is a series of sheltered creeks, with turquoise water and white sand, sheltered by coconut palms and pine trees. A haven of peace and tranquility in a dreamlike setting. Strange coral formations have created a natural swimming pool, known as the virgin’s bath, which is how the bay got its name.
Rimatara, Mutuaura Protestant temple
Mutuaura has one of the best beaches in Rimatara. It is also home to a Protestant temple that was built in 1857, using stone slabs from the marae in the village. The Sunday morning service is an occasion for villagers to put on their finest clothes and beautiful woven hats. Visitors delight in the magnificent harmonies of their hymn singing.
Raivavae, motu Vaiamanu
It is one of the most beautiful sites not just in the Austral Islands, but in the whole of French Polynesia. Motu Vaiamanu, about twenty minutes from the main island, is known as motu piscine (swimming pool motu ), for reasons that become clear as soon as you arrive. A string of white sandy islets form a necklace of motu around crystal clear turquoise water, making a lagoon within the lagoon. A truly idyllic setting that you’ll never want to leave.
Raivavae, Mount Hiro
The view from the top of Mount Hiro is one of the most splendid in The Islands of Tahiti. The trail to the 1,400 feet summit is challenging in places, so it’s better to go in the company of a guide. But your efforts will be richly rewarded with a simply breathtaking view over Raivavae, the lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. So don’t forget to take your camera!
Tubuai, Mount Taitaa
Mount Taitaa stands proudly at a height of 1,450 meters in the center of Tubuai, and it will take you about 1 hour 30 minutes to get to the top. Be careful because it gets steep towards the end, but the view is definitely worth the effort. A panoramic 360° masterpiece in every shade of green, turquoise and blue, with tropic birds gliding gracefully above your head.
Tubuai, motu Tapapa Tavae
More or less everybody in Tubuai goes fishing, and the most popular activity is gathering clams. One of the best spots is on Motu Tapapa Tavae. You just have to dip your head below the surface of the perfectly clear water to see dozens of them. Your guide will prepare some for you to taste, as you admire the magnificent views over Tubuai.