Raiatea (or Ra'iatea), is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the 'centre' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawaii, New Zealand and other parts of East Polynesia started at Ra'iatea. A traditional name for the island is believed to be Havai'i.
Situated on the south east coast is the historical Taputapuatea marae which was established by 1000AD.
The main township on Raiatea is Uturoa, the administrative centre for the Leeward Islands (French Îles Sous-le-vent). There are also colleges which serve as the main educational location for secondary schools for students from the regional islands of Bora Bora, Tahaa, Huahine and Maupiti.
The proper spelling of the name, rarely used though, in the Tahitian language is Ra’iatea, meaning bright sky; Ulieta is an obsolete transcription commonly used in the 19th century. The extinct Ulieta bird originated from this island, along with other unknown species, there is only one drawing of it in the world which is in the Natural History Museum London.
Geography and population
The islands of Raiatea and Tahaa are enclosed by a single coral reef, and may once have been a single island. Raiatea is both the largest and most populated island in the Leeward Islands, with a land area of 167.7 km2 (64.7 sq mi) and a total population of 12,024 inhabitants at the August 2007 census. The population density is 72 inhabitants per km². The largest commune of Raiatea is Uturoa on the north side of Raiatea and has a population of nearly 10,000.
The Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, who sailed with explorer James Cook, was born in Raiatea around 1725. Omai (c.1751-1780), another young man from Ra'iatea, travelled with European explorers to London in 1774 and also served as an interpreter to Captain Cook on his second and third journey.
King Tamatoa VI was the last monarch, reigning from 1884-1888.
The island is divided into three administration communes (municipalities):
The island economy is mainly agricultural with exports of vanilla, pineapple and coconut. The plant Nono (or noni) (Morinda citrifolia) is also grown. Faaroa Valley is a large and important agricultural region with the rural economy and the cultivation of vanilla supported by a local research facility. Pearl farming is also an important industry while farming cattle, sheep and pigs has decreased. There is less tourism compared to the other islands in the archipelago. The local tourist infrastructure comprises boarding houses, two marinas, a four star hotel, The Hawaiki Nui and a port for visiting cruise ships. There is also a fledgling local industry in the maintenance of yachts and shipbuilding. The main source of employment is the island's public service and the consumer market.
An island south of Ra'iatea with Huahine island in the background
View of Bora Bora from Ra'iatea.
Vanilla pods drying in the sun.
- "48 hours live to tell. Black wave". CBS News. 29 May 2010. Retrieved 2013-07-27. "We had just left an island called Raiatea, which was about 300 miles west of Tahiti."