Last updated
Satellite photograph of Tikehau Atoll.
Polynesie francaise collectivity location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 15°4′12″S148°7′48″W / 15.07000°S 148.13000°W / -15.07000; -148.13000
Archipelago Tuamotus
Area461 km2 (178 sq mi)  (lagoon)
20 km2 (8 sq mi) (above water)
Length27 km (16.8 mi)
Width19 km (11.8 mi)
Highest elevation8 m (26 ft)
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
Administrative subdivision Tuamotus
Commune Rangiroa
Capital Avatoru
Population529 [1] (2012)
Tikehau - Locator Map.jpg

Tikehau (meaning Peaceful Landing in Tuamotuan [2] ) or Porutu-kai is a coral atoll in the Palliser Islands group, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. It is included in the commune of Rangiroa.



The first recorded European to arrive to Tikehau was the Russian mariner Otto von Kotzebue. He called this atoll Krusenstern Island, [lower-alpha 1] after Russian explorer Adam Johann von Krusenstern. The Wilkes Expedition passed by this atoll on 9 September 1839.

On a visit in 1987, Jacques Cousteau's research group made a study of Tikehau's lagoon and discovered that it contains a greater variety of fish species than any other place in French Polynesia.

Today, Tikehau is a tourist destination, popular for its pink sand beaches and its exceptional underwater fauna.


Tikehau is located 340 kilometres (210 miles) northeast of Tahiti in the Tuamotu Islands. The nearest atoll, Rangiroa, lies only 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) to the east. Mataiva, the westernmost atoll of the same group, is located 35 kilometres (22 miles) to the west.

The atoll's oval-shaped lagoon is 27 kilometres (17 miles) long and 19 kilometres (12 miles) wide with a lagoon area of about 461 square kilometres (178 square miles). The atoll is made up of two major islands and numerous islets. The northeastern quarter of the atoll is a single, mostly uninhabited island. The whole atoll is surrounded by an almost continuous coral reef. There is a single pass deep and wide enough for navigation in and out of the lagoon: Tuheiava Pass is located on the western shore. The islands and islets are covered with coconut palms. The main village is called Tuherahera.


Geologically, the atoll is the coral outgrowth (10 meters) of the summit of the volcanic mountain of the same name, 1,750 meters high, from the ocean floor, which was formed some 63.5 to 65.1 million years ago. [3]

Tikehau, along with Niau and especially Makatea, is an elevated atoll (the highest point is 10 meters above sea level) resulting from a fossa, i.e., a coral reef that was exposed and "dolomitized" when it was pulled out of the water during a lithosphere bulge between 1 and 2 million years ago. [4]

Fauna and flora

During his numerous expeditions, Jacques Cousteau defined the sea surrounding this island as one of the richest in fish in the world. In fact, Tikehau's lagoon is home to eagle rays, schools of barracuda and tuna, hammerhead sharks, gray sharks, turtles, dolphins and a variety of other animals.

The atoll is also home to numerous bird colonies, such as the Tahitian long-billed reed warbler (Acrocephalus caffer), the Tuamotu thyllopope (Ptilinopus coralensis) and the rare parrot Vini peruviana.


Tikehau has a traditional fishing industry with fish farms located near the Tuheiava Passage, as well as a small pearl farming industry. [5]

However, the atoll's economy is mainly based on tourism, developed around the "Tikehau Pearl Beach" resort, whose activity increased with the construction of a 1,200-meter-long airfield in 1977. and 40,000 passengers a year, a third of which are in transit, making it one of the busiest in the Tuamotus. [6] In addition, since 2018, the atoll has had four licensed hydrosurfaces (three in the south of the lagoon, one on the oceanic drop-off) that allow seaplanes to land. [5]

Other major sources of income are government-subsidized copra extraction and commercial fishing. There is a bakery, two small stores and a small bar. In 2001, a small sawmill was built with government assistance, where three to five locals find work. There is also a diving center, a luxury hotel and an airport with the IATA code TIH.


Tikehau Airport, located on the southern tip of the atoll, was inaugurated in 1977. There are daily flights to and from Tahiti and other atolls of the Tuamotus.


Most of the population, as in the rest of the Tuamotus Islands, follows Christianity as a consequence of the activity of both Catholic and Protestant missionaries. The Catholic church has a religious building on the site known as St. Nicodemus Church (Église de Saint-Nicodème) [7] whose history dates back to 1867, although the present structure was consecrated only in 1992. [7] It depends on the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Papeete with headquarters on the island of Tahiti.

Additional photographs and maps


  1. Krusenstern Island may also refer to other places; see Krusenstern Island (disambiguation)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tuamotus</span> Archipelago in French Polynesia

The Tuamotu Archipelago or the Tuamotu Islands are a French Polynesian chain of just under 80 islands and atolls in the southern Pacific Ocean. They constitute the largest chain of atolls in the world, extending over an area roughly the size of Western Europe. Their combined land area is 850 square kilometres. This archipelago's major islands are Anaa, Fakarava, Hao and Makemo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gambier Islands</span> Archipelago in French Polynesia

The Gambier Islands are an archipelago in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They cover an area of 27.8 km2 or 10.7 sq mi, and are made up of the Mangareva Islands, a group of high islands remnants of a caldera along with islets on the surrounding fringing reef, and the uninhabited Temoe atoll, which is located 45 km south-east of the Mangareva Islands. The Gambiers are generally considered a separate island group from Tuamotu both because their culture and language (Mangarevan) are much more closely related to those of the Marquesas Islands, and because, while the Tuamotus comprise several chains of coral atolls, the Mangareva Islands are of volcanic origin with central high islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rangiroa</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Rangiroa or Te Kokōta is the largest atoll in the Tuamotus and one of the largest in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manihi</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Manihi, or Paeua, is a coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago, part of French Polynesia. It is one of the northernmost of the Tuamotus, located in the King George subgroup. The closest land to Manihi is Ahe Atoll, located 14 km to the west. The population is 650 inhabitants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mataiva</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Mataiva, Tepoetiriura or Lazarev atoll is a coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. It is located in the Palliser group, and is the westernmost of the Tuamotus. The nearest atoll, Tikehau, is located 35 km to the east. Rangiroa is located 79 km to the east, and Tahiti is 311 km to the south.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ahe</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Ahe, Ahemaru or Omaru, is a coral atoll in the northern Tuamotu Archipelago, 14 km to the west of Manihi, in French Polynesia. Its ring shape is broken by only a single small passage into the lagoon. It has a land area of approximately 12 km2 and a lagoon area of 138 km2. As of 2012, Ahe Atoll had 553 inhabitants. The only village in Ahe is Tenukupara with approximately 100 inhabitants. It is located on an island in the south side of the Atoll.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hao (French Polynesia)</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Hao, or Haorangi, is a large coral atoll in the central part of the Tuamotu Archipelago. It has c. 1000 people living on 35 km2 (14 sq mi). It was used to house the military support base for the nuclear tests on Mururoa. Because of its shape, French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville named it "Île de la Harpe".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anaa</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Anaa, Nganaa-nui is an atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago, in French Polynesia. It is located in the north-west of the archipelago, 350 km to the east of Tahiti. It is oval in shape, 29.5 km in length and 6.5 km wide, with a total land area of 38 km2 and a population of 504. The atoll is made up by eleven small barren islands with deeper and more fertile soil than other atolls in the Tuamotus. The lagoon is shallow, without entrance, and formed by three main basins. Although it does not have any navigable access, the water of the lagoon renews by several small channels that can be crossed walking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Makatea</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Makatea, or Mangaia-te-vai-tamae, is a raised coral atoll in the northwestern part of the Tuamotus, which is a part of the French overseas collectivity of French Polynesia. It is located 79 kilometres (49 mi) southwest from Rangiroa to the west of the Palliser group, which also is in French Polynesia. Makatea is surrounded by spectacular cliffs, rising to a plateau 80 metres (260 ft) above sea level. This island is 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) long, with a maximum width of 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) in the south. It is 24 square kilometres (9.3 sq mi) in area. Makatea is one of the only four islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago that do not take the form of a typical atoll.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bora Bora Airport</span> Airport in French Polynesia

Bora Bora Airport, also known as Motu Mute Airport, is an airport serving the island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. It is located on the islet of Motu Mute.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Makemo</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Makemo, Rangi-kemo or Te Paritua, is an inhabited atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tematagi</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Tematagi or Tematangi is an atoll in the southeastern area of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia. Tematagi's nearest neighbour is Mururoa, which is located 161 kilometres to the ESE.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arutua</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Arutua, or Ngaru-atua is an atoll in the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia. It is located 40 km SW of Rangiroa. The closest land is Apataki Atoll, only 16 km to the East.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fakarava</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Fakarava, Havaiki-te-araro, Havai'i or Farea is an atoll in the west of the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia. It is the second largest of the Tuamotu atolls. The nearest land is Toau, a coral atoll which lies 14 kilometres to the northwest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tatakoto</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Tatakoto is an atoll in the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kaukura</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Kaukura or Kaheko is an atoll in the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia, 48 km (30 mi) long and 15 km (9 mi) wide. It is in the western area of the archipelago, 58 km (36 mi) southeast of Rangiroa. The closest land is Apataki Atoll, 24 km (15 mi) to the northeast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aratika</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Aratika is an atoll in the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia. The nearest land is Kauehi Atoll, located 35 km to the south east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Faaite</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Faaite, or Faaiti is an atoll of the Tuamotus in French Polynesia. It is located 60 kilometres to the north of Anaa Atoll. The total surface of the atoll is 227 square kilometres Its dry land area is 8.87 square kilometres. Its length is 28 kilometres and its width 10.5 kilometres. The total population as of 2012 is 401 inhabitants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tuanake</span> Atoll in French Polynesia

Tuanake or Mata-rua-puna is a small uninhabited atoll located in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. It made up the Raevski Islands subgroup with Tepoto Sud and Hiti. It is administratively attached to the municipality of Makemo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Temoe</span>

Temoe, or Te Moe, is a small atoll of the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. It is located in the far southeast of the Tuamotu group archipelago. It lies about 37 km southeast from the Gambier Islands and more than 1,700 kilometres southeast from Mataiva, at the other end of the Tuamotu archipelago.


  1. "Population". Institut de la statistique de la Polynésie française. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  2. Official Tikehau Tourism Site Publisher: Tahiti Tourisme. Accessed 16 February 2010
  3. "EarthRef.org -- Earth Sciences Reference Data and Models". earthref.org. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  4. Pirazzoli P. A. et Montaggioni L. F., « Holocene sea-level changes in French Polynesia », Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (1988), vol. 68, pp. 153-175.
  5. 1 2 "Atlas de Polynésie - Tuamotu Gambier - TIKEHAU". Direction des Ressources Marines (in French). Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  6. "Union des Aéroports Français". www.aeroport.fr. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  7. 1 2 "Église de Saint-Nicodème". GCatholic. Retrieved 2021-10-04.