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10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Tahiti
1. The official languages of the country are both Tahitian and French. However, English is also widely spoken on most of the islands.
2. What is commonly known as "Tahiti" or "The Islands of Tahiti" is officially categorized as an Overseas Country of France, with its own government overseeing all international decisions on behalf of French Polynesia.
3. There are 118 islands and atolls spread out over five archipelagos.
4. Most Polynesians believe the mythical island of Hawaiki, today known as Raiatea, rose from the bottom of the ocean and was the beginning of all life on Earth.
5. The over-water bungalow was invented in the islands of Tahiti 45 years ago.
6. On Fakarava, there is a church called Jean de la Croix made completely of coral.
7. The Islands of Tahiti is the only country in the world to have a winery, Vin du Tahiti, on a coral atoll.
8. The word "tattoo" originated in French Polynesia. The legend of Tohu, the god of tattoo, talks about painting all the fish in the ocean and showing their vibrant colors and designs. In Polynesian culture, tattoos are thought to be signs of beauty, and were ceremoniously applied to the body as a celebration of adolescence in earlier times.
9. Mount Temehani on the island of Raiatea is home to the Tiare Apetahi flower. This flower will not grow anywhere else in the world, despite botanists having tried to replant it for centuries.
10. The Tahitian alphabet contains only 13 letters.
For a more visual idea of Tahiti's lesser-known side, check out the gallery below.
[flickr image via Michael R. Perry]