Polynesia is an enormous archipelago that consists of more than 1,000 islands in the Central and South Pacific. Geographically, the islands form a triangle with Hawaii, New Zealand and the Easter Islands, located at the point of each triangle. A triangle of three of the world´s most remarkable destinations – has to be well worth the time it takes to get there! Culturally, the islands are linked through their common historic origins, language family and ethnic traits. All the islands were originally populated by fishermen who travelled long distances across the Pacific, usually at night, using the stars as their GPS.
One of the more ”familiar” islands, made famous in countless films, is probably Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Tahiti is the largest island in the French Polynesian group which includes Bora Bora and Moorea. Secluded and lush, these islands truly are an island paradise. If you´re tired of the large, anonymous chain hotels, a Tahitian guesthouse may be just what you´re looking for. These small, family-run pensions, often consisting of no more than 4-5 bungalows on the beach, are a truly authentic way of experiencing local culture. In some, you may even share meals with the family or join them on excursions such as pearl diving, snorkeling or hiking. Like to feed a big, gentle manta ray by hand, or zip line across the forest for a bird´s eye view? You can do that, too. And the Tahitians love their festivals – and there are many, from gospel to guitar, flowers to breadfruit!
Another interesting tradition is the Tahitian tattoo – in fact, the word originated here from the Tahitian “tatau”, a custom which probably originated with the original Maoris. These often extremely intricate symbols had many meanings and often told the story of the wearer´s personal history, events in their lives, acts of bravery, or their particular prowess as a hunter or fisherman. They were considered to be a link between heaven and earth, a gift from God to man. Each line that is drawn on the body connects the maóhi of the past to the Mana of the present and future. Each tattoo had an individual meaning and was also considered a sign of beauty or perhaps marked a rite of passage such as becoming an adult or getting married. They were also a valuable symbol of the wearer´s social status in their territory, tribe, or family. The tattoo was done using a small, serrated comb made of tortoiseshell, bone, or even mother-or-pearl attached to a wooden handle, pressed and then hammered into the skin, using ink made from charcoal diluted in water. This process was extremely painful and could take days, weeks, or even months to make. It would have been considered unacceptable not to have one. Not least of all because when they passed over into the next life, and were called to appear before their ancestors, it told the story of the wearer´s life. Today, these rich and complex Tahitian tattoos are considered some of the best in the world, and tattoo artists from Tahiti practice their art in major cities around the globe. But wouldn´t it be more fun to get one in the islands?
You can´t get much further away from Europe than the South Pacific, but it´s worth the trip. As we mentioned, there are around 1,000 islands, so there are plenty to choose from. No one individual has ever visited them all. Below you´ll find a list of the 10 most interesting and accessible islands in this group.
Note that Hawaii is located at the apex of the Polynesian triangle, and culturally and geographically can be considered a full member of the group.
Much more about Polynesia is on the way!
Polynesia is a part of huge Oceania, read more here.
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