Travel to the Marquesas Islands to Nuku Hiva

Nuku Hiva
This month we're taking you on a little tour out of Tahiti and even beyond the Society Archipelago. If you did not know, French Polynesia is made up of 5 different archipelagos, each as beautiful as the next with unique climates and landscapes over an area as large as Europe! From south to north, we have the Austral, Gambier, Society, Tuamotu and finally the Marquesas archipelago, where we will stop over to discover its largest island: Nuku Hiva. It’s come back!

Meet Nuku Hiva

Nuku Hiva, also called Nuka Hiva or Merchant Island, is the capital of the Marquesas. The name of the volcanic island means "the crest of the cliffs" which is easily understood by the sight of the impressive canyon of Tapueahu. It is filled with greenery, rich in local fruits and vegetables and ideal for lovers of hiking. At its center are the two sacred Paeke pools of the 16th century Vai Tavii archaeological site, made up of towering platforms and giant tikis that represent deities. Today tikis both decorate and protect hotels in the Marquesas Islands.

There is also one of the highest and most splendid waterfalls in Polynesia: the Vaipo waterfall in the Hakaui valley, 350m high and surrounded by cliffs and reliefs. Its highest point is the 1224m high Mount Tekao and its main village Taiohae, located in an ancient volcanic crater that bathes in the ocean making it a magnificent bay. It is in the heart of this village that one can admire the main artisanal works of the island such as the wooden sculptures of tikis in particular, the famous Marquesan tattoos reminiscent of Polynesian traditions, braided objects and even sarongs. We ourselves have been touched by the beauty of Nuku Hiva and its traditions, which is why one of our ukulele models proudly bears his name. Find it on our website upaupatahiti.com or directly in store in Papeete, the shopping district!

The legend of the bird dance

You cannot explore Polynesia without taking the time to listen to its legends. We invite you to discover this one which takes place in Nuku Hiva and which demonstrates the love that Polynesians have for dance and for life.

It takes place in the Hatiheu valley in Nuku Hiva, when the sister of the great chief of the Taipi, Tahiatemata has just died. The tribe comes together to celebrate the funeral, which lasts over three days, while the spirit leaves the body, leaving one last time to enjoy the pleasures of life. On the last day Tahiatemata decides to dance the hakamanu, the bird dance. Only she is able to perform this rite filled with grace and pleasure, which fascinates all the inhabitants. At the last note of music, his mind soars to Cape Kiukiu in Hiva Oa, the neighboring island. On this same island and at the same time, while a young man is fishing, he distinguishes on the sand the image of a magnificent woman that the sea has just deposited. This is the spirit of Tahiatemata. Amazed, the fisherman Hi’imoana grabs her in his arms and brings her to his house. He brings her the most beautiful flowers and this is how a love is born between the two people, later giving them a son named Poena’iki.

One day, the son goes on a man-hunting expedition with young warriors, but lacking experience they all get eaten by Hatiheu's men. Only Poena’iki is spared but he is thrown into a pit where he can hardly breathe, constantly shouting his mother's name. Meanwhile, Tahiatemata reveals her secret to her husband. She announces to him that she is a wandering soul who did not want to join the deceased, her love for life being too great. Then she teaches him the sacred bird dance and this is how the fisherman will find his son, performing this unique dance in front of the great chief. This is how he proves that Tahiatemata is indeed his wife and the mother of the young boy. The evening will continue to the sounds of drums and dance steps, but we will never see the wonderful young woman again who has finally accepted her fate.