Nearly 1,000 years after the last of the great Polynesian migration journeys across the Pacific, a group of descendants set sail in a fleet of replica canoes on Sunday to relive the voyages.

Four double-hulled canoes with crews of up to 16 people each departed from Auckland to sail 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) to the French Polynesian island of Raiatea.

Raiatea is believed to have been the departure point for the last great Polynesian migrations to New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island around 700 to 1,000 years ago.

The crews from New Zealand, Fiji, the Cook Islands and a multi-national crew from Samoa, Vanuatu, and Tonga, expect it will take 20-25 days before they reach land.

They will then be joined by a Tahitian crew for a 1,200-kilometre voyage to the Cook Islands before returning to their home ports.

"It will be the first time since the great migration that a fleet of canoes has sailed from Raiatea to Rarotonga (in the Cook Islands) on that sacred route down to New Zealand," said Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp, acting president of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society.

With strong winds and clear skies, the captain of the New Zealand canoe Magnus Danbolt told Radio New Zealand the weather would be perfect for the next few days but the crews would have to be vigilant and look out for each other.

The 22 metres (72 feet) long, twin-masted canoes, were built over the past year and combine the traditional and the hi-tech, with the fibreglass hulls lashed together using wooden beams and rope.