Reef Islands

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The Reef Islands are a loose collection of 16 islands in the northwestern part of the Solomon Islands province of Temotu. These islands have historically also been known by the names of Swallow Islands and Matema Islands.

NASA picture of the Reef Islands.

The islands lie about 80 km (50 mi.) north of Nendo, the largest of the Santa Cruz Islands. The center of the group is at approximately 10°12'36" S lat., 166°10'12" E. long.

Map of the Reef Islands. Nukapu and Nupani are not shown, being further north-west of the main group.

The islands or atolls of the group are:

Numa Miombilou or "Great Reef" is one continuous shoal, extending about 25 km (15 mi.) west of Nifiloli. About 10 km (6 mi.) to the south of this shoal are 4 small coral reefs:

Separated from these groups are what are called the "outer islands":

  • Nalongo and Nupani at 10°6'36" S. lat., 165°19'12" E. long., located at about 75 km (45 mi.) northwest of the main group
  • Nukapu located about 35 km (21 mi.) to the northwest of the main group
  • Makalom about 17 km (10 mi.) to the northwest of the main group
  • Pileni about 9 km (5.5 mi.) to the northwest of the main group
  • Patteson Shoal about 100 km (60 mi.) to the of the main group

This island group is unusual in that the inhabitants of the most of the islands speak the Äiwoo language, a Melanesian dialect, while on Pileni, Matema, Nupani and Nukapu, they speak Pileni, a Polynesian outlier language. The Polynesians are believed to be descendants of people from northern Tuvalu.

The total population of the Reef Islands is about 5,600 according to 2003 estimates.

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Coordinates: 10°15′S 166°10′E / 10.250°S 166.167°E / -10.250; 166.167