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Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia. The island had a population of 169,674 inhabitants according to the 2002 census. (This makes it the most populated island of French Polynesia holding 69% of the total population.) The capital is Papeete, on the northwest coast. Tahiti has also been historically known as Otaheite.

Tahiti is some 45 km (28 mi) long at the widest point and covers 1,048 sq km (404 sq mi), with the highest elevation being at 2,241 m (7,352 ft) above sea level (Mount Orohena). The island consists of two roughly round portions centered on volcanic mountains, connected by a short isthmus named after the small town of Taravao, which sits there. The northwestern part is known as Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti"), and the southeastern part, much smaller, is known as Tahiti Iti ("small Tahiti") or Taiarapu. Whereas Tahiti Nui is quite heavily populated (especially around Papeete) and benefits from rather good infrastructure such as roads and highways, Tahiti Iti has remained quite isolated, its southeastern half (Te Pari) being accessible only by boat or hiking.
Background Information
The native population is Polynesian, and is estimated to have settled on the island sometime between AD 300 and 800, although some estimates place the date earlier.

The fertile island soil combined with fishing provided ample food for the population with ease. The perceived relaxed and contented nature of the local people and the characterization of the island as a paradise much impressed early European visitors, planting the seed for a romanticization by the West that endures to this day.

Although the islands were first spotted by a Spanish ship in 1606, Spain made no effort to trade with or colonize the island. Samuel Wallis, an English sea captain, sighted Tahiti on June 18, 1767, and is considered the first European visitor to the island.

Wallis was followed in April 1768 by the French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville who was completing the first French circumnavigation. Bougainville made Tahiti famous in Europe when he published the account of his travel in Voyage autour du Monde. He described the island as an earthly paradise where men and women live happily in innocence, away from the corruption of civilization. His account of the island powerfully illustrated the concept of the noble savage, and influenced the utopian thoughts of philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau before the advent of the French Revolution.

In 1774 Captain James Cook visited the island, and estimated the population at that time to be some 200,000. This was probably too high; another estimate from the same period was 121,500. After Cook's visit, European ships landed on the island with ever greater frequency. The best-known of these ships was HMS Bounty, whose crew mutinied shortly after leaving Tahiti in 1789. The European influence caused significant disruption to the traditional society, by bringing prostitution, venereal diseases, and alcohol to the island. Introduced diseases including typhus and smallpox killed so many Tahitians that by 1797, the island's population was only about 16,000. Later it was to drop as low as 6,000.
The climate in French Polynesia is tropical, warm and humid, with two distinct seasons:

The Austral or Southern Summer, more often called the Rainy Season, generally lasts from October/November to February/March and is caracterized by cloudy skies, brief heavy rains and warm temperatures (between 24 and 31 degrees Celsius in Tahiti, and between 21 and 26 degrees in Rapa) with East to North-East lizés alizés.

The Austral or Southern Winter, more often called the Dry Season since rain is rare, usually lasts from April/May to September, and temperatures are refreshed by the South-East alizés and particularly the "mara'amu" (temperatures between 20 and 28 degrees Celsius in Tahiti, between 15 and 20 degrees in Rapa).

As we move towards the South West islands, the level of annual rainfall increases: Ua Huka in the Marquesas (although close to the Equator) has the lowest rainfall with an average of 800mm per year; at the opposite, Rapa in the Australs islands (the southernmost archipelago) has about 2500mm of rain per year! In general, islands (with mountains) get more rain.

During the Rainy Season, tropical depressions can occur mostly with a South East course. If they become tropical "cyclones" or hurricanes (rare occurence since the last ones at the beginning of the 1980s), winds can reach a speed of 220 km/hr and create great damages. The water temperature is mostly constant ranging between a pleasant 26 and 29 degrees Celsius.

Finally, there is plenty of sunshine in French Polynesia ( 2500 to 2900 hours per year), especially in the atolls with a yearly average of 8 hours per day!
Hotel Le Meridien, Tahiti
Lake Vaihiria, Tahiti
Map of Tahiti