4,167 sq km (1,609 sq miles).
67.2 per sq km.
Papeete (Tahiti Island).
French Overseas Collectivity.
Head of state:
President François Hollande since 2012, represented locally by High Commissioner Lionel Beffre since 2013.
Head of government:
President of the Council of Ministers Edouard Fritch since 2014.
110/220 volts AC (depending on the location), 60Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and American-style plugs with two flat pins are in use.
Tahiti and Her Islands exude a laid-back tranquillity, as romantic sunsets send giant curls of turquoise breaking over reefs. Remote and pristine, the islands really are a place where nature dominates.
The first Europeans to arrive on the island groups were 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese explorers. The British and then the French took control of the islands in the 18th century. Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia, dominated by Mount Orohena at 2,236m (7,337ft) and Mount Aorai at 2,068m (6,786ft), and characterised by its spectacular tropical scenery, banana groves, plantations and flowers, was made a French protectorate in 1842 and a colony in 1880. The other islands were annexed by the turn of the century.
This status quo remained until 1957, when Polynesia was made an Overseas Territory. A revised constitution, introduced in 1977, ceded greater autonomy. For the next 20 years, the islands’ politics were dominated by the French nuclear testing programme. By the time the programme ended in 1996, 150 separate explosions had been detonated, and Tahiti had become the focus of opposition from throughout the South Pacific, and several riots occurred. Although the protesters failed to stop the tests, their campaign had an important political effect by linking the anti-nuclear movement and the burgeoning pro-independence movement which had so far been largely unrepresented in any political forum, despite the support of a large proportion (possibly the majority) of the population.
However, in recent years, changes have been afoot: Tahiti and Her Islands gained Overseas Country status in 2004, and pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru was elected in 2005. It only remains to be seen whether these changes result in imminent and full independence.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Diving is popular but you should be aware that the only decompression facility is located in Papeete and that in the event of an accident it might take some time to reach there.