the islands of Bora Bora
(middle) and Ra'iatea
(bottom). Tahaa and Ra'iatea share the same lagoon
Raiatea (or Ra'iatea), is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia. The island is widely regarded as the 'center' of the eastern islands in ancient Polynesia and it is likely that the organised migrations to Hawaii, Aotearoa (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 center for the Leeward Islands (French les 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.
M ori]] of New Zealand, who regard this place as a sacred marae of their ancestors. This is where the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a landed on her first voyage in 1976. 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 both enclosed by the same 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 km (64.7 sq. miles) and a total population of 12,024 inhabitants at the August 2007 census. The population density is 72 inhabitants per km . 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.
Raiatea has a small road that runs around the entire island. Raiatea Airport is an airport in Uturoa.
The island is divided into three administration communes (municipalities):
These three communes are inside the administrative subdivision of the Leeward Islands.
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.
File:A view from the AR 72 airplane (Over Society Islands - French Polynesia).jpg|View of Ra'iatea island from a plane. Image:Uturoa31.jpg|Uturoa, seen from Tapi Oi Image:Raiatea_Motu.JPG|An island south of Ra'iatea with Huahine island in the background Image:Raiatea_2008ville.jpg|Looking down at the town of Uturoa and ocean. File:Hanse Explorer - Raiatea.JPG|Ship at Ra'iatea. Image:Tiare_Apetahi.jpg|Tiare Apetahi, endemic to the island, a floral symbol of Ra'iatea File:Marae, Raiatea 1.jpg|Another view of Taputapu tea marae. File:Bora-Bora vue de Raiatea.JPG|View of Bora Bora from Ra'iatea. File:Raiatea - Sechage vanille (1).JPG|Vanilla pods drying in the sun. File:Reynolds Omai.jpg|Omai, oil on canvas, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1776
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