French Polynesia ~ Marquesas Islands

The Marquesas Islands are located in the South Pacific, off the coast of Ecuador, about 800 miles north east of Tahiti.  They are part of French Polynesia and are under French rule.  Access is by ship or private aircraft.  We sailed on a cargo ship (with about 100 other passengers) from Tahiti that delivered freight to a number of the Marquesas Islands.  The trip lasted about two weeks.

The islands are volcanic by origin.  They have steep interior mountains, rocky coastlines, and lush tropical vegetation.  The original residents travelled from Asia by canoe, and, at an earlier time, the population was in the hundreds of thousands.  Some time ago, diseases struck and nearly wiped out the residents.  Today, the population is quite small.

Perhaps the best known resident was the French impressionist painter Paul Gauguin who settled there and adopted a life of painting and erotic activity in his famed house of pleasure.  Gauguin is buried on Hiva Oa.  Herman Melville spent time on one of the islands, Nuku Hiva, after he deserted a whaling ship; he wrote about his experiences in his famous book “Typee.”

Perhaps the easiest way to describe the islands is to say they are like Hawaii without the modern development —remote, tropical, rugged.  The people are warm and friendly, the food is delicious, and the scenery is breathtaking.

The cargo ship offering passenger service is the Aranui 3 and passage can be booked online or through a travel agent.

Photographer Chuck Hunnicutt provided the details and images for the Marquesas Islands destination.

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