Located south of the equator in the South Pacific, southwest of Hawaii and west of Australia, Mataiva is one of the 80 atolls and islands that make up the Tuamotus. The Tuamotus are an archipelago within the nation of French Polynesia.
Mataiva is 6 miles in length, and also the westernmost atoll or island within the Tuamotus. You can fly to Mataiva via Tahiti in one hour.
Polynesians most likely inhabited this coral atoll as early as the latter part of the first millennium. They learned to adapt to its ecosystem by managing the natural resources carefully. Settlers from Tonga, Samoa and Fiji eventually intermixed with the native Micronesian population.
Russian explorers first found the atoll in 1820. Several decades later, the Tuamotus island chain became a French protectorate.
Like all atolls, Mataiva has lagoons and is almost completely flat. However, this atoll is unique because it has an extremely rare geological marvel: a reticulated lagoon. This particular body of water is divided by several dozen shallow basins of slightly submerged coral ridges, which results in a unique mosaic appearance. Another distinctive factor is that current in the central lagoon runs against the tide because of the way ocean waters penetrate and exit.
Mataiva is home to less than 300 residents who live in the atoll’s lone village named Pahua. Most of the atoll’s landscape consists of forests. Its economy entails mostly the export of dried coconut and vanilla, but tourism is becoming more popular. Travelers can stay at the Pension Mataiva Village in Pahua.
The Pension consists of nine air-conditioned bungalows. Each has one modern bathroom but only cold water. Meals are provided and consist of local seafood cuisine. Visitors can purchase beverages and bread at local shops. While it lacks typical tourist infrastructure, Mataiva makes for an unforgettable vacation experience because of its unspoiled nature, excellent snorkeling spots and spectacular coral beaches.