Society Islands

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Society Islands
Map of French Polynesia with the location of the archipelago
Map of French Polynesia with the location of the archipelago
Waters Pacific Ocean
Geographical location 17 ° 5 ′  S , 150 ° 40 ′  W Coordinates: 17 ° 5 ′  S , 150 ° 40 ′  W
Map of Society Islands
Number of islands 14 islands / atolls
Main island Tahiti
Total land area 1593 km²
Residents 242,726 (2017)

The Society Islands ( French Îles de la Société or Archipel de la Société ; Tahitian Tōtaiete mā ) are an archipelago belonging to French Polynesia , consisting of 14 islands in the southern Pacific Ocean . With 242,726 inhabitants, most of the population of French Polynesia (275,918 inhabitants) lives on it.



The Society Islands are a tropical island group of volcanic origin. With an area of ​​1593 square kilometers, they represent the economically most important of the five archipelagos of French Polynesia . The highest point is the 2241 meter high Mont Orohena in Tahiti .

The archipelago is divided into two subgroups:

  1. to the (eastern) islands facing the wind - the Leeward Islands (French Polynesia) , French Îles du Vent with 207,333 inhabitants
  2. and to the (western) islands facing away from the wind - the Leeward Islands (French Polynesia) , French Îles sous le Vent with 35,393 inhabitants.

Settlement of the islands is concentrated in the coastal regions and becomes thinner and thinner towards the mountainous center of the islands. The capital of French Polynesia, Papeete , is also located on the main island of Tahiti (Îles du Vent), where 50% of the population live .

List of individual islands

Îles du Vent - Leeward Islands

Map of the Leeward Islands

Îles sous le Vent - Leeward Islands

Map of the Leeward Islands
Historical map of the same


The climate on the islands varies between tropical and subtropical due to their extent . The heat and the extremely high humidity , together with the fertile volcanic soil on the islands, have created dense, mostly inaccessible rainforests . There are two seasons : a hot season, which lasts from November to March, and a cooler season from April to October.

Climate table
Jan. Feb March April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
27.0 ° C 27.1 ° C 27.4 ° C 27.1 ° C 26.4 ° C 25.2 ° C 24.7 ° C 24.6 ° C 25.0 ° C 25.6 ° C 26.3 ° C 26.6 ° C

fauna and Flora

Aerial view of the island of Raiatea

The tropical rainforests of French Polynesia are home to a variety of rare animals and plants.

The islands are best known for their smells. The Tahitian tiare (Gardenia tahitensis), which only blooms on the Society Islands, is one of the most odorous flowers and is already under protection.

The atolls around the islands are overgrown with numerous corals , around which butterfly and clownfish cavort. The manta rays are also resident here.

However, some of the underwater world of French Polynesia was destroyed by France's nuclear tests between 1966 and 1968.


The Society Islands records begin when Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Tuamotu Archipelago in 1521 .

In June 1767, the archipelago was discovered and recorded by Samuel Wallis . He names the main island, today's Tahiti, after the client and sponsor of his circumnavigation. From then on the island was called King George Island . In April 1768, Louis Antoine de Bougainville reached the Society Islands, not knowing that he would come across a group of islands that had already been discovered.

James Cook's ships Resolution and Adventure in Tahiti's Matavai Bay

The islands were reliably mapped by James Cook in 1777 .

Colonization by France began in 1843 when the Society Islands first became a French protectorate and a French colony in 1880.


The archipelago was named by James Cook because of the arrangement of the islands to a "society" (English "society"). It is occasionally falsely claimed that the islands were named in honor of the Royal Society .


  • Chr. Prager, C. Bette-Wengatz: Dream destinations in the Pacific. Artcolor Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-89261-204-8 .
  • Chr. Prager, E. Diezemann: Südsee. Marquesas, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu . Reich Verlag, 1998, ISBN 3-7243-0331-9 .
  • A. Regel, R. Schyma: Südsee. Proper travel . DuMont, 2002, ISBN 3-7701-6034-7 .
  • David Stanley: South Seas Handbook . Walther Verlag, 1994, ISBN 3-923550-40-5 .

Web links

Commons : Society Islands  - collection of images, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. - Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF): Recensement de la population 2017