The main island of the Austral Group, almost completely round in shape is distinguished by its gentle relief consisting of two parallel mountain ranges with rounded ridges and a coastal plain, wide enough to make this island a major center of fresh fruit and vegetables supplying the Tahiti markets. Mount Taita whose summit reaches 422 meters and the western ranges in the shape of “the Sleeping Man” are readily accessible for not too strenuous hiking trips. There is a cross-country road starting out from Mataura, the main village in the north, and ending up at Mahu in the south which follows a lower lying area of inland fields.
The coastal road, which hugs the regular bends in the coastline, affords the traveler excellent views of the little motu in the shallow eastern lagoon and then unwinds past the lovely beaches of the west coast. A full visit can include a stop on the northeast coast at the site of the reconstructed Fort George, (a reminder of the war-like landing of Fletcher and his mutineers of the Bounty). Then another stop near the village of Mahu in the south at the Saint Helen Hermitage beside the memorial tomb of a former President of the Territorial Assembly with its bitter epitaph.