Culture and History of Moorea
Moorea island, with its trident shape and its two famous bays, (Cook's and Opunohu) was formerly called Aimeho (or Eimeo). It emerged from the sea as a volcano roughly 3 million years ago and has a surface area of 52 square miles. Today, Moorea counts over 16,000 inhabitants concentrated in the many villages located seaside – Maharepa, Paopao, Haapiti, Afareaitu (the administrative headquarters) and Vaiare. The island features 8 mountains (the highest is Mount Tohiea – 3,960 feet) and it is only 17 km (10 miles) away from Tahiti. Because of this short distance, Moorea often carries the nickname of “Sister Island” (of Tahiti). The name Moorea, which means the “yellow lizard,” comes from a legend where a big yellow lizard opened the two bays with its tail.
The many "marae" (ancient Polynesian temples) dotted around Moorea testify to the presence of many people inhabiting the island in ancient times. The first European to explore Moorea was James Cook. Wallis had already baptized it “Duke of York Island” but he did not take the time to visit it during his trip. During his third voyage, in 1777, Cook entered the lagoon through Opunohu Bay but didn't visit the island thoroughly. (In fact, he stayed just long enough to go on a rampage, burning canoes and houses in retribution for a stolen goat.) In 1790, Chief Pomare I conquered the island of Moorea and left the control of Tahiti to his son Pomare II. However, Pomare II was too young and dictatorial to maintain order and had to run away from Tahiti, looking for protection in Moorea after the uprising of 1807.
Today Moorea is a peacefull little island that exemplifies a beautifull South Pacific paradise.