The Marquesas Islands are home to some of the rarest species of animals and plants in The Islands of Tahiti. A wonderland of flora and fauna, much of which is endemic to this remote and isolated archipelago.
The Marquesas Islands, known as the ‘Land of Men’, are located in the northeast of French Polynesia, about 900 miles from Tahiti. It is an archipelago of luxuriant green, volcanic islands, some of which are uninhabited. The rugged mountain peaks, steep cliffs, lush green valleys, rivers and waterfalls, are in stark contrast with some truly magnificent bays and beaches, that can rival anything to be found elsewhere in French Polynesia. The Marquesas Islands are often described as an untamed paradise, and they are home to many indegenous and endemic species of flora and fauna . There are many natural sites where you can observe this unique biodiversity. During your visits to Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Ua pou, Ua Huka and Fatu Hiva, please respect the environment and take care not to disturb the plants and animals that you come across. The natural, unspoiled beauty of these islands was an inspiration for two world-famous artists, Jacques Brel and Paul Gauguin, who came to these shores and never left. They are both buried in the cemetery on the island of Hiva Oa.
Fauna and flora: rare species to observe
In the Marquesas Islands, you can observe animals and plants that are not found anywhere else in the world. The pua enana is a tree endemic to these islands, and bears a fruit called a kaupe. If you’d like to see the tree, ask one of the islanders and he’ll show you. Another tree only found in the Marquesas islands is the pelagodoxa henryana, a species of palm tree. You can see this tree at the Papuakeikaa Arboretum on the island of Ua Huka, together with a collection of over 5,000 citrus trees of 150 different varieties.
The island of Ua Huka is famous for its herds of wild horses that roam the hills and valleys. Wild goats abound on the rocky slopes of Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Ua Huka, and you might also cross the path of wild pigs and wild boars, the prey for regular hunting trips by the locals. There are several endemic species of bird on the islands, such as the pīhiti in Ua Huka, the ‘upe in Nuku Hiva and the pahi on the uninhabited island of Tahuata. These birds are all endangered species, so please try not to disturb them.
Activities in the Marquesas Islands
Horseback riding is an enjoyable and environmentally friendly way to explore the Marquesas Islands in search of rare species of flora and fauna. The ridges, hills, valleys and streams are the perfect terrain for a day in the saddle. Although, having said that, the Marquesans themselves, actually prefer to ride bareback!
The Marquesas Islands are also an ideal destination for experienced scuba divers, especially the islands of Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. Manta rays, tuna fish, dolphins and sharks, will keep you company in the crystal clear waters. At the other extreme, there are lots of superb hiking trails which will take you up into the mountains, where you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean, literally for as far as the eye can see!