What to do on Tahiti's Austral Islands

02 Jun 2014

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For a genuine experience of authentic South Pacific life, make your way off the beaten path and to the isolated Austral Islands, where much of life still resembles traditional Tahitian practice.

Here's some information about taking a holiday in Tahiti and how to make the most of the unique experience.

What are the Austral Islands?

Far away from Tahiti's eponymous main island are the Austral Islands. You can fly between the archipelagos, which takes about one hour and 40 minutes non-stop.

The Austral Islands are made up of five islets, four of which have facilities for tourists: Rurutu, Tubuai, Raivavae and Rapa.

What to do in the Austral Islands: Rurutu

Rurutu is an incredible destination, and there are regular flights to and from the island. Sometimes referred to as the Island of Whales, it's home to an incredible array of marine life. Between July and October, sharks and whales frequent Rurutu's waters with their newborns, making for a spectacular sight for pleasure boaters and divers.

The island is more famous for its mountains than its beaches, although the sandy shores of Naairoa, Avera and Arei are not to be missed. The lack of beaches otherwise abundant in Pacific locales is due to the island's unique structure, which does not feature a lagoon but instead a number of impressively steep cliffs and deep caves.

For a slightly subterranean adventure, you can visit the famous caves Anaaeo and Vitaria - that's if you're not busy stretching your legs on walks to the peaks of mountains Manureva, Taatioa and Teapei, all of which soar higher than 300 metres above sea level. Not only will you get beautiful views of the ocean and nearby islands, you'll also get stunning panoramas of fruit, taro, vanilla and coffee orchards.

Rurutu is also a great place to discover history and culture, as its inhabitants date back to 900 AD. One example of their heritage are the tall vertical stones pointing to the sky on the maraes at Pareopi and Vitaria. If you visit during January you'll get to witness the 'Tere' ritual, which involves the population touring around the island's maraes and other spots of cultural significance. There's also a lifting competition, where male and female athletes lift stones weighing up to 150 kilograms.

The village of Moerai is also colourful, with bright buildings and facilities such as a school and post office. Check out the local weaving products such as hats and baskets, and try the local fare.

Little Rapa Island

After you've explored Rurutu, why not hop along to Easter Island's little sister, Little Rapa Island? This is the furthest Austral Island and is incredibly remote and isolated, making it a treat for would-be explorers. It takes a little more planning to reach its shores, with infrequent boat visits, but if you are organised it's well-worth the effort.

Once you're there, spend some time in the sparsely populated village of Aurei with its distinct hunting and fishing culture, and sink your teeth into some local fare, which includes plenty of sea urchins, lobsters and salmon.

Like Easter Island, Little Rapa has many mysterious and ancient ruins. Visit one of the most impressive of such sights, Morongo Uta, which is an incredible historic fortification built atop a mountain.

You can also explore the island's lush rainforest with unique plant and wildlife.

These are just two of the Austral Islands available to explore - why not make a real adventure of it and visit more? Speak to a travel agent today to plan a far-flung Tahitian trip of a lifetime.