Travelling the Marquesas Island in French Polynesia on Aranui 3 in 2013

The Aranui 3

The Aranui 3 itinerary in 2013 The Aranui 3 was a combined cargo and passenger vessel that took 2 week passages from Papeete on Tahiti to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. (The Aranui 3 has later been replaced by a new ship, the Aranui 5). It is the only practical way to see all these islands in this time-span, as some of these islands have no airports. The Aranui 5 anchored at Fatu Hiva

I enjoyed the passage on Aranui 3 in the accomodating atmosphere of a ship that also bring essential supplies to the islands. The crew was great, making this an enjoyable and relaxing experience. There were also a few chances to move around on your own- but as always, I missed some extra time to look around these places as for most passengers, this will be a once in a lifetime experience.


Father and daughter on Fakarava Island Fakarava is the first island we arrived at after a night at sea. It is a low coral reef island or atoll. A tiny stip of low land circeling around a large protected lagoon. It is actully part of the Tuamotu islands, not the Marquesas. It is more developed than some of the Marquesas islands, and has it's own airport. Regular flights from Papeete. People are always friendly here, like the father and daughter seen here. Musicians on the island Fakarava

Nearly 1000 people live here. Pearl farming, a hotel, diving tourism and copra mining are the main activities here. Some also offer entertainment to tourists, the arrival of the Aranui is an opportunity that appears every 3rd week. As of 2021, I have information indicating the Aranui is not visiting here any more on the Marquesas tours. Like all the islands here, there are beautiful flowers to be seen.

Nuku Hiva

The beach in front of Taioha on Nuku Hiva After a full day at sea and the longest passage on the trip, we arrived at Nuku Hiva on the following day. It has much higher terrain than Fakarawa, and has above 2000 inhabitants. The population was much larger before the Europenas arrived. The photo is from the bay in front of the main settlement of Taioha'. It is said to be the remains of an old volcanic crater.

The island has a small airport. Nuku Hiva, as the rest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia is an overseas country of France. I got the impression people here is happy about this. Most people are Christian, and there is a small cathedral on the island, the Church of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus.

Ua Pou

The basalt pinnacles of Ua Pou Ua Pou is very characteristic from a distance with it's up to 1200 meters (4000 feet) high basalt pillars. Ua Pou also has above 2000 inhabitants. Farming is the main source of income, and the island has a very small airport. The interior of the island hasn't been explored much, as it is quite inaccessible.

The port of Ua Pou On Ua Pou there is a port big enough to receive the Aranui, eliminating the need for the tender-boat. This also makes it more convenient for the passenges, as you can come and go as you wish - as long as you are there in time for the departure (3 weeks till the next arrival)

Young street vendors in Ua Pou

Who can resist these charming street-vendors? People were generally not reluctant to be photographes if you asked first. As French is the most common foreign language here, and I don't speak French, just pointing at the camera is a good way of asking. Most people here are very friendly, accomodating and easy going.

Hiva Oa

Small farm on Hiva Oa When you enter the port of Hiva Oa, you can see this little farm on top of a small hill, just at this moment hit by a ray of sunlight. Hiva Oa has just above 2000 inhabitants. It has more attractions for tourists than most of the other islands, and has it's own airport.
Tikis in Puamau on Hiva Oa Puamau on Hiva Oa has a collection of Tikis from ancient times.

Paul Gaugins grave on Hiva Oa

The famous French painter Paul Gaugin painted many of his famous (and now ridicolously expensive) paintings here. He found much inspiration here from the people and nature here. There is a small museum here, but they don't have any of his original paintings. Paul Gaugin passed away here in 1903 and I fell for the temptation of a selfie next to his grave.

Old clunker Apparently, vehicle inspections is not a big thing here. When you have a vehicle in this condition, it is smart to bring a spare.


Church of Our Lady of Peace, Fatu-Hiva An old church, the Church of Our Lady of Peace in the settlement Omoa. We saw many newer churches on the Marquesas Islands, but this appeared to be one of the older. Fatu-Hiva has less than 1000 inhabitants. Fisheries is the main source of income. Thor Heyerdahl spent about eight months on the island in 1937 with his wife Liv

Hananave village, Fatu-Hiva On Fatu Hiva, those who wanted (most opted for this), could make a hike across the island, and the Aranui would sail around and pick you up in a small village (Hanavave in the Bay of Virgins)on the other side. I enjoyed this hike very much, as active people like myself sometimes finds sea-voyages to be somewhat physically passive.


Cargo-barge This is one of the less populated islands with less than 1000 inhabitants. When Europens arrived, one estimate is that it was over 10 000 then. Main economic activity is farming of bananas, copra and cassava, and fishing. People-barge It does not have a port that can receive the Aranui, so cargo and people must be transported ashore on small barges. Be prepared to get your feet wet - carry your shoes and wear shorts.

Ua Huka

Ua Huka landscape This island, the least inhabited in the Marquesas with just over 500 inhabitants, and has less vegetation than the other Marquesas Islands. Wild goats and pigs roam the island.Economy is based on agriculture, fishing and tourism, and has a tiny airport. It offers a range of beautiful, open landscapes wherw views are not obstructed by trees.


Island with one palm-tree No mountains here, ans this is the largest atoll in French Polynesia and the third largest in the world. It is not part of the Marquesas Ismands, but the Tuamotus Islands. Just before entering the passage into the atoll, I spottet this strip of land with a lone cocoa-nut tree on it. May be a good spot if you are ship-wrecked?

Rangiroa beachfront property I did a drift-dive here, flowing with the current through the passage from the atoll into the ocean. A nice dive, but not sensational. The current sirred up some silt, so visibility was not the best I have seen. Other spots on the island might be better. It is known to be a good place for scuba.

Pearl in my hand Pearl farming is a major activity on the island, here is one sample. You can learn how the pearl farming is done, and what makes pearls more or less valuable. To me, they look nice, but I don't find them worth the price.

South pacific sunset A beautiful South Pacific sunset not obscured by clouds, which ended with the green flash that sometimes appear at the moment the Sun's disc disappear behind the horizon. A fellow passenger managed to photograph it.

Flower on the island Fakarava

Flower on the island Nuku Hiva

Flower on the island Ua Pou

Flower on the island Ua Pou

Flower on the island Ua Pou

Flower on the island Hiva Oa

Flower on the island Hiva Oa

Flower on the island Fatu Hiva

Flower on the island Ua Huka

Cocoa-tree starting a life on a beach on Tahuata

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