Dodging German-Eating Cannibals In The Marquesas Islands

Cannibals? They still exist? They eat Germans? They prey on tourists in French Polynesia?

No one seems to know exactly what happened. It was 2011. A German tourist named Stefan Ramin was on an exotic trip around the world with his girlfriend. Ramin died after going on an excursion with his girlfriend and a local guide on the island of Nuku Hiva. Police found the Ramin’s remains, and the guide was eventually convicted of murder. It was suspected by investigators that the guide ate parts of the German man’s body before setting it on fire. The case garnered international media coverage.

Marquesas French Polynesia

Regardless of what exactly happened, a tradition of cannibalism does exist on the island of Nuku Hiva, part of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. While the island is in many ways picturesque, it feels a world away from the Polynesian touristic favorites of Tahiti and Bora Bora. Quite isolated and a three-hour flight away from Tahiti, Nuku Hiva draws just 15,000 tourists a year.

Honestly, I arrived at Nuku Hiva in fear. I wasn’t trembling, but I was surely at least a little scared. Could it happen to me? Is there even the slightest chance? I am also a German world traveler. Would a Nuku Hiva cannibal target me?

Marquesas French Polynesia

My plan was to travel around the island with a guide. Was that prudent? Or was it foolish? After all, it was the German tourist’s guide who ended up murdering him… and possibly eating some of his flesh.

As you can tell, I survived my stay in Nuku Hiva. My guide did not kill me or eat me. Nor did anyone else on the island.

I conquered my fears. With help from my guide, not only did I travel around the island, I also visited some old cannibalism sites. I guess you could call it a tourist trap (pun maybe intended). On this cannibalism tour, you see where cannibals caught, imprisoned, slaughtered and ate their victims. Considering that a tourist was allegedly eaten on this island less than a decade ago, it is all a little surreal.

Marquesas French Polynesia

On a slightly lighter note, both islands I visited during my Marquesas Islands adventure are known for having sexually liberated women. Unfortunately, I did not find love or lust on Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa, the second Marquesas island I visited. But that’s okay. I didn’t venture to the Marquesas Islands in search of a Bora Bora honeymoon partner.

Marquesas French Polynesia

Besides cannibalism and sex tourism, there are actually some sights to see and things to do while in the Marquesas Islands. Nuku Hiva, which by the way looks a lot like Jurassic Park, is a popular sailing destination. There are lots of yachts in Nuku Hiva’s scenic bay. At one point I counted a total of 42 yachts. I’d say that’s a lot for a remote island.

Marquesas French Polynesia

Hiva Oa, like Nuku Hiva, has Marquesan stone sculptures. Some are pretty large and elaborate. The Marquesan Tiki are kind of like the Moai on Easter Island. (Remember those statues I flirted with on Easter Island). The Tiki are basically stone humans chilling out at numerous spots around the Marquesas Islands.

Marquesas French Polynesia

While I was in Hiva Oa, I cruised around the island in a 4×4, navigating steep cliffs and curvy mud roads. Speaking of cliffs, I rented this beautiful home — shaped like a triangle — that stood on stilts on a green cliff surrounded by layers of vegetation, which included palm trees and red-flowered plants.

Marquesas French Polynesia

Better yet, my sweet island home offered me a balcony office with a view of a bay with yet more sailboats.

Marquesas French Polynesia


Hiva Oa isn’t quite as green as Bora Bora, but it has a more untouched, natural appearance and it is still plenty green. All things considered, it makes for a fantastic place to relax after dodging cannibals on Nuku Hiva.


Stay: Great views and friendly hosts you get with Chalet Hanakee on Hiva Oa. Highly recommended. My Chalet is pictured below.


Eat: Basically self-catering. There are a couple of restaurants in Nuku Hiva catering for the sailors.


Drink: Coconuts with rum, the famous” Coco Loco” seems to be popular here. Maybe because the Marquesas are the first stop after Panama?


Connect: Unusable Edge on mobile, but Wifi was working well enough.


See: Make a tour of the gorgeous islands. If no guide available, renting a 4WD and driving alone is hassle-free and even more fun. Especially on the dirt roads.


Do: There is not much to do except exploring the island. The Marquesas have no reef, so snorkeling is pretty dull. So grab the 4WD and visit some ancient cannibal sites like the Tiki in Puamau.


Go there: Fly from Tahiti via Nuku Hiva. Or go with local cruiseliner Aranui 5. Nuku Hiva is also the first stop for most sailors after Panama and the Galapagos if you want a ride.


Go next: Explore the smaller islands of the Marquesas or return to Tahiti for onward flights.

Marquesas French Polynesia