Welcome to The Gambier Islands in French Polynesia.
The Gambiers are 1595 kilometres south-east of Tahiti. Air Tahiti Nui fly to Papeete for approximately $1400 return (airtahitinui.com.au). Air Tahiti flies to Mangareva twice a week for approximately $800 return (airtahiti.com)
The Gambier Islands are visited so infrequently by travellers that even the greatest divulger of travel secrets – the Lonely Planet – devotes just three pages in its latest edition on French Polynesia.
I won’t lie to you: getting to the Gambiers is no easy task, and it’s not cheap.
The flight from Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, takes almost a full day. But once you arrive in the Gambiers’ main inhabited island, Mangareva, you can put away your wallet or purse – and that’s a rare trait in the South Pacific’s most expensive island group.
There are no cafés or restaurants at all here. Instead you’ll rely on fresh seafood served to you by the local owners of the pension you’ll stay at (there’s no resorts).
Surrounded entirely by sea, the nearest major landfall is South America, 6000 kilometres to its east. There are 10 volcanic islands sitting protected inside a massive polygon-shaped lagoon.
And that’s where you should be each day. Your pension owner will take you for a small fee – find deserted, empty islands and stop with him to cook tuna over a freshly-lit fire.
The Gambiers are also one of the most significant suppliers of French Polynesia’s renowned black pearls, it’s easy to arrange a visit to a pearl farm.
Climb Mt Duff – it takes 90 minutes to climb the highest mountain in the island chain (441 metres), but the views across the entire archipelago are worth it.
The Gambiers can get chilly (by Polynesian standards) in winter – spring and autumn are ideal.
Stay at Chez Bianca & Benoit, where private bungalows look out over the lagoon, half board (bungalow, breakfast and dinner) costs $161 per day.
More info: tahitinow.com.au