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NASA image of Moorea
NASA image of Moorea
Waters Pacific Ocean
Archipelago Society Islands
Geographical location 17 ° 32 ′  S , 149 ° 50 ′  W Coordinates: 17 ° 32 ′  S , 149 ° 50 ′  W
Moorea (Society Islands)
length 19 km
width 11 km
surface 133 km²
Highest elevation Mont Tohiea
1207  m
Residents 16,901 (2012)
127 inhabitants / km²
main place Afareaitu
Moorea seen from the lake
Moorea seen from the lake

Moorea ( Tahitian Mo'orea), older names Aimeho or Eimeo ( Cook ), Santo Domingo ( Boenechea ) and York Island ( Wallis ), is an island in the South Pacific , which politically belongs to French Polynesia . It has an area of ​​133 km² and around 16,901 inhabitants.


Moorea is geographically one of the Society Islands ( French Îles de la Société ), more precisely to the islands over the wind (French Îles du Vent ). It is the smaller sister of Tahiti and is within sight of Tahiti, only separated from the west coast by a strait of 17 kilometers.

Legend has it that Moorea is the dorsal fin of a large fish. The island is roughly in the shape of an equilateral triangle standing on its point , in the northern side of which the two bays Baie de Cook (Cook's Bay) and Baie d'Opunohu cut deep. A V-shaped mountain range, on average 800 meters high - the southern edge of a former volcanic crater - divides the island into a north and south half and at the same time acts as a watershed . Numerous rivers have created steep valleys separated by rocky ridges. The highest point is the Mont Tohiea (also written Tohivea) with a height of 1207  m . Another is the Mont Tautuapae with a height of 769  m .

The two uninhabited Motu Tiahura and Fareone are in front of the north-western tip .


Moorea is an atoll , the main island of which consists mostly of igneous rocks . Like the neighboring island of Tahiti, the island emerged as part of the "Society Chain" from a hot spot on the Pacific plate and is around 1.5 to 2 million years old. The main island is already clearly marked by erosion. The closed fringing reef surrounds the entire island, but has several navigable passages. The reef is relatively close to the island, so that Moorea has only formed a narrow lagoon.


Moorea is located in the Earth's tropical belt . The climate is tropical and warm and very humid, which favors the lush vegetation of the island. The average temperature is between 28 and 30 ° C, with little difference between the individual months. The rainiest months are December to February, the (winter) months July to September are drier. There is a steady wind that softens the temperatures. However, an occasional cyclone cannot be ruled out. In the 1982/83 season there was a series of hurricanes on the Society Islands, which also caused significant property damage on Moorea.

Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Afareaitu
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 31 31 32 32 31 30th 29 29 30th 30th 31 31 O 30.6
Min. Temperature (° C) 24 24 24 24 23 22nd 22nd 21st 22nd 23 23 24 O 23
Temperature (° C) 28 28 28 28 27 26th 25th 25th 26th 26th 27 27 O 26.7
Precipitation ( mm ) 228 197 136 86 106 69 42 49 37 103 102 268 Σ 1,423
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 1 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 O 2.3
Rainy days ( d ) 18th 16 15th 13 12 9 9 8th 9 12 15th 20th Σ 156
Humidity ( % ) 78 79 78 78 78 78 78 79 79 79 80 78 O 78.5
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Source: missing

fauna and Flora

View of the Mont Rotui ( 899  m )

Because of the short distance to Tahiti and similarities in climate and soil structure, the flora of Moorea is comparable to that of Tahiti. In the narrow coastal strip the anthropochoric plants predominate , due to the dense settlement and the centuries-old human use. In the uninhabited and partly inaccessible interior of the island, however, significant remains of the original plant communities have been preserved. The University of California, Berkeley maintains a permanent research institute on Moorea, the Gump Station, to research tropical biodiversity and the interactions between cultural processes and the ecosystem .

Mammals did not originally exist on the Society Islands; they were only introduced by humans. The first Polynesian settlers brought dogs, pigs, chickens and the Pacific rat as food animals, the Europeans brought in goats, cows, sheep and horses. Indigenous land animals are only insects , land crabs , snails and lizards . There were several endemics of the Polynesian tree snails of the genus Partula on Moorea, which were exterminated by the rosy wolf snail between the 1970s and 1990s . The endemic Moorea warbler ( Acrocephalus longirostris ) was detected on the island until the 1980s . The songbird was closely related to the long-billed reed warbler ( Acrocephalus caffer ) of Tahiti and was possibly ousted by the shepherd's maina ( Acridotheres tristis ). Another extinct bird species from Moorea is the white-winged sea ​​creeper ( Prosobonia ellisi ), which is known only from two specimens from 1777.

There are no dangerous animals on Moorea. Sand fleas on the beach and the mosquitoes that are everywhere in the interior of the island can be uncomfortable . The marine fauna of the lagoon and the coral reef is very species-rich. In addition to more than 500 species of reef fish can divers and snorkelers numerous molluscs , echinoderms and crustaceans watching the tropical sea. Behind the fringing reef there are sharks , rays , swordfish and sea ​​turtles . Humpback whales pass by the island from July to October . Whale and dolphin watching are offered to tourists.



According to recent archaeological findings, the Society Islands were probably colonized around 200 AD from Samoa and Tonga .

In the closed valleys, nine tribal principalities emerged, which in turn were subdivided into individual clans . The stratified society was characterized by a hierarchical leadership, whose elite united both political and religious power. Moorea's leading families remained connected to those of the neighboring island of Tahiti through marriage and kinship for centuries. These connections led to important alliances, but at other times they were also the source of bloody disputes.

The intensive exploration of the Opunohu Valley, which continues to this day, beginning with Kenneth P. Emory in the 1920s and continued in the 1960s by the archaeologist Roger C. Green of the University of Auckland , provides an exemplary picture of the development of Moorea's society . The interaction between increasing population density and the modification of the environment by humans led to significant changes in the form of society.

The so-called Pre-Atiro'o phase, before 1000 AD, is characterized by extensive clearing and the cultivation of the slopes downhill, which at the end of the period already resulted in erosion and the formation of alluvial soils . Society was not yet stratified, but rather homogeneous.

In the Atiro'o period (1000–1650 AD), artificial cultivated terraces and simple stone structures, such as the Marae Tapauruuru, were built on the slopes. Remains of rectangular houses (fare haupape) and those with an elongated-oval floor plan (fare pote'e) , which were reserved for the power elite , indicate a strictly stratified, hierarchical form of society.

The subsequent Marama period (1650–1788 AD) is marked by the conquest of the Opunohu Valley by the chiefs (ariki) of the Marama tribe originally living on the coast, who managed to bring all other clans of the valley under theirs To unite supremacy. In addition to a further increase in the population, a brisk construction activity of representative cult buildings - large marae in the manner of a step pyramid - can be observed in this phase . Towards the end of this period, the Opunohu Valley became a refuge for Ariki who opposed European influence.

European discovery and influence

Samuel Wallis was the first European to sight the island in June 1767 and named it York Island.

To expand the Spanish sphere of influence, King Charles III ordered. Expeditions to the South Pacific. The governor of Chile and viceroy of Peru Manuel d'Amat i de Junyent (1704–1782) sent Domingo de Boenechea with the frigate El Águila, which reached Moorea in 1772. He named the island Santo Domingo and took possession of it for Spain. The annexation had no political consequences.

James Cook visited Moorea in 1777 on his third voyage. He anchored with the ships Resolution and Discovery, however, not in the Cook's Bay named after him, but in the neighboring Baye d'Opunohu. A minor theft led to a conflict with the residents in which Cook's marines destroyed some canoes and huts in retaliation .

In 1792, King Pomaré I of neighboring Tahiti conquered Moorea with the help of European firearms and declared himself the overlord of the island. His successor Pomaré II continued the wars from 1803 to consolidate the rule of his dynasty on Tahiti, but was defeated in 1808 and fled to Moorea, where he stayed until 1811. With him came Protestant missionaries from the London Missionary Society . In 1812 Pomaré II was baptized, a step that was of extraordinary importance for the Christianization of the Society Islands. As a result, the high priest of Oro converted to the Christian faith in 1815 and burned all the idols of the Marae Papetoai, an important cult platform on the north coast of Moorea. The missionaries completely destroyed the place of worship and built an octagonal church on the taboo ritual site, which is still standing today, supposedly the oldest church in Polynesia. This success resulted in the quick conversion of the entire population of Moorea.

The island remained under the influence of Tahiti. On September 9, 1842, the French rear admiral Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars announced the provisional protectorate of France over the Society Islands. In November 1843 the agreements were confirmed by a treaty with Queen Pomaré IV and in 1844 also formally recognized by France. Her son Pomaré V. abdicated on June 29, 1880. As a result, the entire archipelago of the Society Islands finally fell to France and Moorea became a French colony.

Politics and administration

Politically, Moorea is now part of French Polynesia. The island is French overseas territory and is therefore part of the EU . It is administered by a subdivision (Subdivision administrative des Îles du Vent) of the High Commission of French Polynesia (Haut-commissariat de la République en Polynésie française) based in Papeete .

Moorea and the island of Maiao , located 76 km to the west, form an independent municipality (Commune de Moorea) with the 6 sub-municipalities (Communes associées) :

  • Afareaitu - 3,452 inhabitants
  • Haapiti - 4,058 inhabitants
  • Paopao - 4,583 inhabitants
  • Papetoai - 2,324 inhabitants
  • Teavaro - 2,484 inhabitants
  • Île de Maiao - 335 inhabitants

The political municipality of Moorea-Maiao has a total of 17,236 inhabitants, the population density is 127 inhabitants / km².

The official language is French. The currency is (still) the CFP franc, which is linked to the euro. The administrative budget of the Society Islands is largely subsidized with funds from France and the EU.

The main town and administrative center is the village of Afareaitu on the east coast, which also has a small cargo and fishing port.

Infrastructure and traffic

Silhouette of Moorea off the west coast of Tahiti

The Moorea Airport in the northeast has a 1,200 meter long paved runway and a small terminal building. From here there are several daily flights to Tahiti (only a few minutes flight time), Huahine , Raiatea and Bora Bora .

From the port of Vaiare in the east, a catamaran ferry runs to Papeete .

A public bus, Le Truck , a truck that has been converted into a bus, drives the approximately 60-kilometer-long ring road . There is no fixed timetable or stops, the bus stops when and where the passengers want it. It mainly serves as a feeder to the ferry to Tahiti.

Moorea has, not least to satisfy the needs of tourism, a good infrastructure with post office and bank (some hotels have bank counters with account machines), doctors, pharmacies and local ambulances, smaller shopping centers, a station of the national gendarmerie , schools and other educational institutions .


The main source of income has been tourism since the 1960s . In 1961 an American company built the Bali-Hai-Hotel, the first luxury hotel in Moorea, on the north coast not far from the village of Maharepa. Since then, tourism has increased steadily, so that now - as some travel guides claim - Moorea supposedly has more tourist hotels than Tahiti. Hotel complexes of all categories, whereby expensive luxury hotels predominate, are mainly located on the north and north-west coast. The most beautiful beaches on the island are also located here. Cruise ships call at Moorea from time to time .

Coffee was still grown on Moorea until the end of the twentieth century . With the drop in coffee prices, this is no longer worthwhile and the cultivation of agricultural export goods has been switched to pineapple and the much sought-after Tahitian vanilla . In some small family businesses the traditional production of copra is still practiced . Bread fruits , yams , taro , sweet potatoes , bananas , coconuts and other tropical and subtropical fruits are cultivated for personal use and the hotel kitchens . Fishing also has an important, albeit declining, position in the island's economy.


According to many travelers, Moorea is the most beautiful island in Polynesia, so there is hardly a South Sea cruise that Moorea does not have on the program. The English explorer William Ellis wrote about this as early as the 18th century:

“Imaio [Moorea] is without a doubt the most appealing of the Society Islands. The sight of it is truly romantic and it presents itself with a variety of landscapes that are so delightful that they can hardly be described. "

- William Ellis
Panoramic image of the Baye de Cook
  • The most famous attraction in Moorea is the Baie de Cook , where cruise ships anchor regularly. Their unique beauty is particularly evident from the sea. The postcard motif of the deep blue bay with white sailing yachts and the 830 m high, densely vegetated Mont Mouaputa in the background is probably the most frequently photographed South Sea image. Also worth seeing is the neighboring Opunohu Bay, where numerous exterior shots of the film The Bounty were filmed in 1984 .
  • Both bays are connected by a steep and winding panoramic road. In the once densely populated Opunohu Valley , the Polynesian natives built numerous cult platforms (marae). Remains of the places of worship can be found everywhere off the road, some of them are signposted. The Marae Titiroa is surrounded by impressive banyan trees and was reconstructed in the late 1960s. A few hundred meters away is the also well-preserved, multi-level Marae Ahu-o-Mahine . The road continues to the Belvédère viewpoint with an overwhelming view of Mont Rotui , the Baye de Cook and the Baye d'Opunohu.
Panoramic picture from the Belvédère viewpoint
  • At Afareaitu, not far from the Hotel Chez Pauline, there is the oldest cult platform in Moorea, the Marae Umarea , which was built around 900 AD with its enclosure made of large coral plates directly on the lagoon.
  • The two waterfalls at Afareaitu are also worth seeing , but they don't look so spectacular in the rather arid winter season.
  • A traditional Polynesian village, the Tiki Village , has been reconstructed on the west coast for the needs of tourism . All kinds of souvenirs can be bought here during dance performances and the demonstration of Polynesian handicrafts.
  • Most of the beaches on the northwest coast belong to hotels and are not open to the public. A beautiful, but not very well-kept public beach is located on the northeast coast near Temae near the airfield.
  • The Moorea Marathon , which takes place annually in February, is advertised by the tourism industry as the most beautiful in the world. Another international sporting event is the Aitoman Triathlon in October each year.

Personalities from Moorea

  • Henri Hiro (1944–1990), poet, filmmaker, activist

Web links

Commons : Moorea  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Moorea  Travel Guide

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF) - Recensement de la population 2012
  2. V. Cloutard, A. Bonneville: Ages of seamounts, islands and plateaus on the Pacific plate , Paris 2004
  3. ^ A b Patrick V. Kirch: On the Road of the Wind - An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact , University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London 2000
  4. DL Oliver: Ancient Tahitian society , Honolulu 1975
  5. Patrick V. Kirch: The evolution of the Polynesian chiefdom , Cambridge 1996
  6. RC Green: Settelement patterns and complex society in the Windward Islands - Retrospective commentary from the Opunohu Valley, Moorea , in Michel Julien et al .: Mémoire de pierre, mémoire d'homme - Tradition et archéologie en Océanie , Paris 1996, p. 209-228