Austral Islands

Travel Guide

Austral Islands2023-08-20T22:07:12-10:00

The Austral Islands, Mysterious Archipelago

The Austral Islands are a group of seven high islands scattered along the Tropic of Capricorn, more than 370 miles south of Tahiti. Only four islands have an airfield and the distances between them are also very large. The local climate is half temperate, half tropical, favoring a subsistence agriculture. Rainfall is more abundant and temperatures are a few degrees lower than in the rest of French Polynesia. The Austral Islands are therefore a demanding destination and almost against the current. Due to its isolation, the population practices the inter-island lifestyle, preserving a very strong cultural identity. The trip promises a complete immersion in authenticity and natural wonders.

About the Austral Islands

  • Location: Australs Archipelago

  • Area: 144,000 km² (10 % of which is land)

  • Population: 6,900 inhabitants

  • Main City: Mataura (Tubuai)

  • From Tahiti: more than 570 km, 90 mins minimum

  • Airports: Tubuai, Rurutu, Raivavae and Rimatara

Why Visit the Austral Islands

To visit the Austral Islands is to discover another Polynesia, both remote and mysterious. It is a journey in its own right whose richness is expressed in the incredible diversity and complementarity of the islands. The mysterious caves of Rurutu, the turquoise lagoon of Raivavae, the endemic species of Rimarara and the green mountains of Tubuai… The landscapes are sumptuous and can be appreciated in the intimacy and tranquility, outside the traditional tourist circuits.

This life at the end of the world is made possible by the grouping of the population in coastal villages. Each island has its own administrative center and although the infrastructures are limited in size and number, the impression of sharing the daily life of the inhabitants is very real. Accommodation is provided by guesthouses that take care of meals and organize activities. Accommodation conditions can sometimes seem rudimentary. Fortunately, the essential is elsewhere: this proximity offers an incredible immersion for an unforgettable experience.

The Essentials of the Austral Islands

1. A Unique Nature in French Polynesia

The Austral Islands are astonishing for their incredible geology. Due to ancient volcanic activity, some of them have seen their coral reefs rise, sometimes over ten meters. Atypical landscapes in French Polynesia, magnificent limestone cliffs now stand in Rurutu and Rimatara. They hide extraordinary cavities with often impressive dimensions. There is an incomparable feeling of adventure.

Beside the mysterious caves, beautiful mountains with dense vegetation cover the islands. The valleys can be discovered in a relaxed way and the hikes to the summits often offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Exploration leads to encounters with surprising animals such as the red Ura parakeets of Rimatara and whales in Rurutu. Nature does not forget Tubuai and Raivavae: both islands have gigantic lagoons of almost unparalleled beauty.

2. Many Activities on Land and Sea

Their small size would lead one to believe that the Austral Islands can be visited very quickly. However, lagoon excursions and land visits are numerous, offering the possibility of a complete and diversified program of activities. Above all, the particularities of each island make the trip unique: the Motu Piscine on Raivavae, the caves on Rurutu, the hikes on Tubuai and the tour of the island by foot on Rimatara. These visits are among the best activities in the Austral Islands.

The most developed tourist activity is whale watching. For this purpose, it is necessary to go to the island of Rurutu where the conditions of approach are exceptional because of a lagoon almost non-existent. Each year, between August and November, the cetaceans reach the warm waters of the Austral Islands for the mating season and to give birth to their calves.

3. A Population Proud of its Roots

The natural wonders can be discovered in the company of the local people, who are both hosts and companions in the adventure. The local population is particularly friendly towards foreign visitors. They are also proud and concerned about their cultural and natural heritage. It is with pleasure and rigor that we discover with them the secrets and treasures of the Austral Islands, but also the way of life and the local culture.

In the Austral Islands, traditions and customs constitute the essential social link to maintain a population. Religious services are very popular. On this occasion, the inhabitants put on their most beautiful costumes in a colorful parade. Traditions also continue thanks to the crafts, especially basketry. Strolling through one of the many local markets is enough to see that the locals are masters in this field.

Tubuai: The beautiful vacations in the Austral Islands

The Austral Islands in a Nutshell

Visiting the southern islands gives you a different view of Polynesia. This almost reclusive world is not lacking in charm and flavor. The mysterious legends fascinate and give the landscapes an incredible strength. The diversity of the islands makes it possible to envisage a complete and unique stay, which would not be only a simple stage.

The Austral Islands are an atypical destination for a first trip to French Polynesia. It is therefore important to take your time and discover each island slowly. For a stay including the four main islands, a total of ten nights on site is to be expected. Shorter stays as part of an Air Tahiti pass extension can be limited to three nights on each island visited. It is therefore essential to carefully plan your itinerary in the Austral Islands. Do not hesitate to contact us to prepare your trip to French Polynesia.

Good to Know

  • Refueling: Once or twice a month, the cargo ship Tuhaa Pae IV provides the islands with rare foodstuffs. Its arrival is always a great moment of excitement.

  • Consumption: Fruit cannot be bought in food stores: it must be picked. The generous nature has created small gardens of Eden, sometimes wild and often private.

  • Culture: Every four years, the Festival des Australes promotes the cultural heritage of the archipelago. The next edition will take place in 2026 on Rimatara.

  • Heritage: Like the other Polynesian islands, the Austral Islands have many vestiges of pre-colonial civilization: the marae. These ancient places of worship and power recall the importance of the kings and queens of yesteryear.

The smiling monster of Rurutu

Explore the Austral Islands

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