Pink and Orange Sunset over islands and sailboats

General Information

CLIMATE

Rainbow over Huahine Island

The climate of the Frenchpolynesia can be described as warm, tropical climate. Temperatures are warm all year round and can get hot in the summer but seldom reaches above 35°C. Trade winds from the east-southeast bring year long cooling breezes late afternoon and early evening.

The tropical rain season is from December to February coinciding with the warmest summer months. French Polynesia is situated in the southern Hemisphere, so "Summer" lasts from November to February and "Winter" from April to September. However, there are no significant differences in temperature; in general, the temperatures between April and September are only slightly cooler than from November to February.

Typhoons can sometimes hit French Polynesia from end January to mid March. However, these storms are mostly not a danger for the Islands, because the usual routes of these storms are often too far south in the southern hemisphere Typhoon season, and not every Typhoon that hit the French Polynesia is a strong one.

Required clothing: Lightweight cotton clothing is advised throughout the year, with an umbrella or raincoat for sudden cloudbursts. No matter where you go, be prepared for high temperatures and humidity.

Below is a chart of average temperatures, water temperatures and precipitation. Humidity is approximately 80% year-round.

French Polynesia Weather Data
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Temp (C) 22-30 22-30 22-30 23-30 21-29 21-28 20-28 19-28 21-28 21-29 22-29 23-29
Precip (mm) 320 240 200 150 90 70 75 50 50 95 175 310
Rainy Days 16 12 10 8 8 5 6 4 5 6 10 16
Water Temp 27.5 28 28 28.5 27.5 27.5 26 24.5 26 26 26 27.5

HISTORY

WWII Canon overlooking Bora Bora harbour

British explorer Samuel Wallis visited Tahiti in 1767. The French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville visited Tahiti in 1768, while the British explorer James Cook visited in 1769. A short-lived Spanish settlement was created in 1774 and for a time some maps bore the name Isla de Amat after Viceroy Amat.

King Pōmare II of Tahiti was forced to flee to Mo'orea in 1803; he and his subjects were converted to Protestantism in 1812. In 1842, Tahiti and Tahuata were declared a French protectorate, to allow Catholic missionaries to work undisturbed. The capital of Papeetē was founded in 1843. In 1880, France annexed Tahiti, changing the status from that of a protectorate to that of a colony.

Despite a local assembly and government, French Polynesia is not in a free association with France, like the Cook Islands with New Zealand. As a French overseas collectivity, the local government has no competence in justice, education, security and defense. Services in these areas are directly provided and administered by the Government of France. The highest representative of the State in the territory is the High Commissioner of the Republic in French Polynesia (French: Haut commissaire de la République).

The five archipelagoès were joined into a new national entity by the gradual process of French conquest and annexation, beginning with Tahiti in 1843 and ending with the annexation of the Austral group in 1900. French administration and the centralization of authority, jobs, transportation, and services in Papeete contributed to the development of a national identity.

ECONOMY

Ocean view with Over the water Bungalows

The GDP of French Polynesia in 2008 was 7.14 billion US dollars at market exchange rates, the sixth-largest economy in Oceania after Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea. The GDP per capita was 27,352 US dollars in 2008 (at market exchange rates, not at PPP), lower than in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia, but higher than in all the independent insular states of Oceania.

French Polynesia has a moderately developed economy, which is dependent on imported goods, tourism, and the financial assistance of mainland France. Tourist facilities are well developed and are available on the major islands. Also, as the noni fruit from these islands is discovered for its medicinal uses, people have been able to find jobs related to this agricultural industry.

In 2008, French Polynesia's imports amounted to 2.2 billion US dollars and exports amounted to 0.2 billion US dollars. The major export of French Polynesia is their famous black Tahitian pearls which accounted for 55% of exports (in value) in 2008.

Currency: CFP Franc. Agriculture: coconuts, vanilla, vegetables, fruits. Natural resources: timber, fish, cobalt.

MUSIC

Young Tahitian woman playing Tahitian ukuele and singing

French Polynesia came to the forefront of the world music scene in 1992, with the release of The Tahitian Choir's recordings of unaccompanied vocal Christian music called himene tārava, recorded by French musicologist Pascal Nabet-Meyer. This form of singing is common in French Polynesia and the Cook Islands, and is distinguished by a unique drop in pitch at the end of the phrases, which is a characteristic formed by several different voices; it is also accompanied by steady grunting of staccato, nonsensical syllables.

CULTURE

French Polynesian identity is more Polynesian than French, but many residents are proud of their relationship to French culture and feel a kinship with French-speaking cultures throughout the world. Residents who favor independence from France advocate a return to a more traditional Polynesian culture.

Reciprocity, generosity, and hospitality are central values. When guests are invited for a meal, the hosts are not necessarily expected to eat. Tahitians greet each other by shaking hands and/or exchanging kisses on the cheek. Unless there is a large number of people in the room, it is considered impolite not to shake hands with all of them. It also is considered impolite to keep one's shoes on when entering another person's home.

PAUL GAUGUIN & FRENCH POLYNESIA

Paul Gauguin's Painting The Seed of the Areoi

In 1891, Gauguin sailed to French Polynesia to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional". He wrote a book titled Noa Noa describing his experiences in Tahiti. There have been allegations by modern critics that the contents of the book were fantasized and plagiarized. Living in Mataiea Village in Tahiti, he painted Fatata te Miti ("By the Sea"), "Ia Orana Maria" ("Ave Maria"), and other depictions of Tahitian life.His works of that period are full of quasi-religious symbolism and an exoticized view of the inhabitants of Polynesia. In Polynesia, he sided with the native peoples, clashing often with the colonial authorities and with the Catholic Church. During this period he also wrote the book Avant et après (before and after), a fragmented collection of observations about life in Polynesia, memories from his life and comments on literature and paintings.

Paul Gauguin, Te aa no areois (The Seed of the Areoi), 1892, The Museum of Modern Art