Opunohu Bay and Valley


The Opunohu Bay and Valley area is located on Moorea Island (149°50' W, 17°30' S). It is located in the Papetoai associate township, which has some 2300 inhabitants. Opunohu Valley is surrounded by a remarkable amphitheatre of mountains, the highest being Toheia at 1207 m. Starting from the Opunohu River estuary, the bay quickly fans out forming a nearly 3500 m funnel to the reef passage. The bay varies in depth from 15 to 50 m. The valley has the island’s wettest micro-climate with rainfall varying between 2500 and 3500 mm per year. The islanders consider the valley to be Moorea’s “lung” and water reserve and there is scant urban development there.

carte-opuEnvironmental description :

More than two-thirds of Moorea’s known plant species grow on Opunohu and 12 invasive species that threaten the site’s biodiversity have been identified. There are still well-preserved specific coastal environments in the bay including a narrow strip of coastal forest remaining between the lagoon and road that greatly helps maintain the shoreline.

In specific marine biodiversity terms, the east coast at the foot of Mount Rotui is the richest. It is home to harvested molluscs and hosts iconic species such as green turtles, dolphins and humpback whales.

Socio-economic description :

  • Fishing: the Opunohu area is a popular fishing spot in Moorea and catch is often sold roadside at the bay-head.
  • Tourism: the bay is a major tourist attraction visited by nearly all tourists arriving in French Polynesia, i.e. some 50,000 to 60,000 visitors per year. Both land and marine activities are offered including treks, visits to archaeological sites, iconic species spotting, water sports and boating.
  • Agriculture: the site includes a very large 1500 ha agricultural estate run by the country and leased to 55 farmers. Pineapples are grown on 60 ha and supply the Rotui plant. There are also two agricultural training schools on the land.

SWOT Analysis for the Opunohu Site, French Polynesia


-     Good knowledge base

-     Well-preserved landscape

-     Well-preserved cultural resources

-     Major tourist attraction

-     Fertile farmland

-     Land and maritime planning schemes in place (PGA/PGEM)

-     Small area

-     Large tracts of state land

-     Strong political backing for tourism development plans


-    Marine resources over-harvested

-    Damaged marine ecosystem

-    Lack of co-ordination and knowledge sharing

-    Lack of official funding for the association managing the maritime planning scheme (PGEM)

-    Community resistance to political leaders and projects

-    Conflict of interest between landowners and the French Polynesian Government

-    Scant consultation when projects implemented

-    High unemployment


-     Maritime planning scheme (PGEM) under review

-     Opunohu territorial estate development plan being designed

-     Eco-tourism development

-     Work already done on area management proposals

-     Scientists working on site


-   Erosion and environmental damage

-   Non-integrated agriculture on the rise

-   High tourist pressure

-   Built-up coastline

-   Strong political backing for tourist industry development (approach could be too top-down and development too hurried)




















On the Opunohu site, tourism needs to be developed in such a way as to protect the natural environment and landscape and improve local living standards. This will require:

  • improving the quality of the environment and landscape at the site;
  • eco-tourist industry development; and
  • setting up local governance that will be conducive to developing sustainable tourism.

Actions approved so far in this site :

  • Improve the quality of the environment and landscape at the site:

1. Reduce soil erosion on the Opunohu estate (Agriculture department, CRIOBE) : develop and implement an agricultural planning scheme to reduce erosion and an erosion monitoring programme to assess the impact of the action.

2.Composting station (Lycée Agricole) ; develop technical guidelines for pineapple organic farming (Lycée Agricole, Rotui juice factory) ; set-up a pilot organic farm (Biofetia, Agriculture department, Moorea organic baskets).

  • Contribute to setting up governance that promotes the development of sustainable tourism

Develop an appraisal and shared activities followed by a management plan(CRIOBE)

Contracts for approved actions are being signed. News actions are being developed notably on ecotourism. They will be submitted and discussed during a next local committee taking place early December.


Pacific territories’ initiative for regional management of the environment

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