The Tuamotus or the Tuamotu Archipelago (French: Îles Tuamotu, officially Archipel des Tuamotu) are a chain of islands and atolls in French Polynesia. They form the largest chain of atolls in the World, spanning an area of the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of Western Europe. The Tuamotu islands were originally settled by Polynesians who share a common culture and language. The island were originally called by the Tahitians of Tahiti as the Paumotus, which means the "Subservient Islands", until a delegation from the island convinced the French authorities to change it to Tuamotus, which means the "Distant Islands".
The islands' economy is predominantly composed of subsistence agriculture. The most important sources of additional income are the cultivation of black pearls and the preparation of copra. Tourism-related income remains meager, especially by comparison to the tourism industry of the neighboring Society Islands. A modest tourism infrastructure is found on the atolls of Rangiroa and Manihi which have recreational scuba diving and snorkeling destinations.
All of the islands of the Tuamotus are coral "low islands": essentially high sand bars built upon coral reefs. Makatea, southwest of the Palliser Islands, is one of three great phosphate rocks in the Pacific Ocean. The others are Banaba in Kiribati, and the island nation of Nauru. Although geographically part of the Tuamotus, the Gambier Islands, at the southeastern extreme of the archipelago, are geologically and culturally distinct. In the northwest of the archipelago, the ring-shaped atoll Taiaro provides a rare example of a coral reef with a fully enclosed lagoon. The atoll was officially designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1977.