Aitutaki Lagoon

Twelve kilometres along its base and 15km from top to bottom, Aitutaki's lagoon is a vast natural aquarium, filled with all manner of tropical marine life, from giant clams and schools of parrot-fish to sea turtles and banks of flame-coloured coral. It's a wonderful playground for snorkellers, skin-divers and water-sports enthusiasts, but if you don't fancy getting wet there are lots of sedate lagoon cruises instead. Many of the surrounding motu have their own legends and stories traditionally...

Index

Accommodation 160-2 activities 162-4, se ealso individual activities adzes 33 AIDS 185 air routes 175 airtravel airfares 175-6,179 airline offices 174 travel to from the Cook Islands 174-8 travel within the Cook Islands 179 Aitutaki 96-111,98,8,75,76 accommodation 105-8 activities 99-104 Arutanga 99-100 beaches 102 diving 102-3 entertainment 109-10 food 108-9 itineraries 99 lagoon cruises 101-2 shopping 110 sights 99-104 snorkelling 102 tourist information 97-9 tours 105 travel to from 110-11...

Coffee Plantations

Coffee has been grown on 'Atiu for well over a century. The plant was introduced to 'Atiu by early-19th-century traders and missionaries, and by the turn of the century there was a thriving coffee industry on 'Atiu, producing almost 50 tonnes of coffee each year. Unfortunately, like many small-scale agricultural industries in the Cooks, 'Atiu's coffee trade suffered many ups and downs over the following century, and by the 1980s most of the coffee beans growing on the island were used purely...

Orientation

Though Rarotonga is the largest of all the Cook Islands, it's still compact and accessible, with the main attractions easily reached from the Ara Tapu (Sacred Road), the 32km-long coastal road that circumnavigates the island. It's a busy and well-maintained route that never passes more than a few metres from the coast you can stop practically anywhere and be just steps away from a deserted stretch of sand and the warm waters of the encircling lagoon. Inland from the coast you'll find a second,...

Rarotonga For Children

The Cook Islands is a popular destination for family travellers, and there are plenty of things on the main island to keep the young whippersnappers entertained. The top attraction is undoubtedly the island's fabulous lagoon, which is packed with interesting fish and marine life and provides fantastic snorkelling and swimming (the water's also calm and fairly shallow in most places, which means it's quite safe for even young swimmers). See p68 for some of the top snorkelling spots to explore....

Other Souvenirs

There's a multitude of other things you can buy as souvenirs of the Cooks. Perfumes, colognes and pure coconut oils (from around NZ 10) and coconut oil-based soaps (from NZ 3.50) come either in their natural state or scented with local flowers, including tiare maori (gardenia), frangipani, star fruit and jasmine. The Perfume Factory and Perfumes of Rarotonga (p92), both on Rarotonga, are the best places to pick them up. Colourfulpareii come in many styles and thicknesses original tie-dyed ones...

Vairakai Marae Vai Momoiri

The track between Tengatangi village and Tarapaku Landing passes through a range of vegetation including plantations, taro patches, makatea and littoral forest. The road also passes the impressive 3 7m-long wall of the Vairakai Marae, built out of 47 large limestone slabs, six of which have curious projections cut into their top edges - though no-one seems certain of what the projections signify or exactly how old the marae is. Nearer the coast, the track passes Vai Mo-moiri, a deep canyon...

Gods

Tangaroa was known as the 'creator' deity across much of the Pacific. Also known as Ta'aroa, Tangaloa and Kanaloa, he was worshipped as the father of the gods. Tangaroa's children were so-called 'departmental' gods, responsible for fields such as the forests (Tane) and agriculture (Rongo). In the Cook Islands (and Aotearoa), however, Tangaroa was not the father of the gods, but one of the kids. He was, though, the most important of the departmental gods, even more important than his father,...

HISTORY

According to legend, Manihiki and Rakahanga (then still joined together) were discovered underwater by a Rarotongan named Huku, and fished up from the waves by the demigod Maui (see p37). When Huku and Maui fought for possession, the land was broken into two pieces - Rakahanga and Manihiki. Right up until the 19th century, Manihiki and Rakahanga were populated by a single group of people. Most of the time, the population lived on Rakahanga, but would migrate en masse to Manihiki whenever...

The Glottal Stop

Another symbol used in the written language is the glottal stop, represented by an apostrophe before or between vowels (eg ta'i). In Cook Islands Maori it represents the missing 'h' and 'f sounds. The glottal stop is the momentary closing of the throat between the syllables as in the expression 'oh-oh'. Compare the words tai (pronounced with one syllable, as the English 'tie') and ta'i (pronounced with two distinct syllables to produce 'ta-ee'). (all purpose greeting, lit 'may you continue to...

Sights Activities Caves Walks

Like 'Atiu and Mangaia, Ma'uke is ringed by makatea, though compared with the other islands it's relatively flat and walking across it is generally much easier. Most of the caves are only a short walk from the coastal road, and can be reached via ancient coral roads through the jungle. The deep, clear freshwater pools in many of the island's caves are a definite highlight, thoroughly welcome after a long tramp through the tangled bush. You'll need a guide to find most of the caves on Ma'uke....

Demigods Heroes

Myths and legends can serve many purposes, such as preserving historical facts, explaining natural phenomena or just entertaining the troops. The oldest legends are the most widespread, such as that of the god Tangaroa. If Tangaroa ever existed, he must have lived millennia ago, before Pacific islanders became so scattered. In comparison, the most recent, 'local' stories are those about heroes such as Tangi'ia, who almost certainly existed (since many people on Rarotonga can trace ancestry back...

Sleeping

There are a couple of organised places to stay on Mangaia, but you could also consider staying in a local house or in a local village hall. All the places to stay on Mangaia make some provision for guests' food, either cooking meals for you or allowing you to prepare your own. Babe's Place, Aramoana Bungalows and Mangaia Lodge can be booked via the travel agents on Rarotonga (see p56). For groups of four or more people, there's also the option of staying at one of Oneroa's community halls. They...

TOURS

There are a number of excellent organised tours on Mangaia. Like 'Atiu, the island is keen to promote itself as an 'ecotourism' destination, and most of the tours include an introduction to local life, history and contemporary culture. Clarke's Island Tours ( 34303, Babe s Place 34092) Offers a full-day island tour for NZ 50, including visits to the inland taro plantations and Lake Tiriara. He also leads cave tours to Tuatini Cave for NZ 30. Traditional legend says that Cook Islanders arrived...

Getting There Away

All international flights arrive at Rarotonga's International Airport on the island's northwest side. See pi74 for information on getting to Rarotonga from overseas. If you're travelling to the outer islands from Rarotonga, the main way to travel is via small plane courtesy of the island's only domestic airline, Air Rarotonga. There are regular flights to Aitutaki and the other islands of the Southern Group planes to the Northern Group are more erratic. If your sea-legs will stand it, you could...

Shells Shell Jewellery

A lot of shell jewellery is produced, as well as larger items like shell lamps. Some of this work is imported, principally from the Philippines, but some fine shell work is produced locally. Pupit 'ei, long necklaces made of tiny yellow or white snail shells collected on the makatea of Mangaia, are a sought-after item you can buy these necklaces individually or by the dozen on Rarotonga and on Mangaia, where they are less expensive. Before you rush off to buy shells, remember that something has...

Insects Other Creatures

At certain times of year, mosquitoes can be a real nuisance - bring repellent and cover up your hands and feet at dawn and dusk. The worst islands are those with large swampy areas or tracts of rainforest - you'll usually get more badly bitten on an inland hike than you will if you stick to the coast. Mosquito coils are a useful and cheap deterrent - light a couple in your room and they'll normally keep most mossies at bay for a while. Other insects that bite or sting include bees, wasps,...

Sleeping Budget

Decent budget accommodation is becoming increasingly hard to find on Aitutaki as the island becomes steadily more upmarket, but there are still a few options. Some of the lower-end places have rather erratic hot-water supplies, especially during prolonged cloudy periods. Paradise Cove ( 31218 www.paradisecove.co.ck Arutanga house s d NZS35 45, beach huts d NZS45 60, bungalows NZ 160) Standing on a glorious stretch of white beach, and shaded by tall palm trees, the quaint thatched huts and pole...

Activities Hiking

While the dazzling coastline of Rarotonga is undoubtedly the main attraction, it's crucial that you take the time to explore the island's mountainous interior. Choked in thick forest, drooping vines and vast jungle, the island's centre is virtually deserted and can only be reached by walking trails you don't have to go very far before the outside world starts to feel a long, long way away. If there's one walk everyone should try to do, even if you're only on the island for a short time, it's...

O

Babe's Store 1 A2 Auraka Bakery Tourism Office 4 A3 CraftShop 11 A3 Oneroa CICC 5 A3 AlrRarotonga 12 A2 Tupuna Tours 6 B3 Moana Rentals 13 A2 Liz & Tualne Papatua 7 A3 Mangala Lodge 8 B3 cave holds many crystalline, glistening-white stalactites and stalagmites, but the most interesting feature, apart from the human skeletons, is simply how far it continues. There are no major side chambers but the main cavern continues on and on. Some people brave enough to keep exploring reckon that it...

Medical Checklist

It is a very good idea to carry a medical and first-aid kit with you, to help yourself in the case of minor illness or injury. Following is a list of items you should consider packing. acetaminophen (paracetamol) or aspirin* adhesive or paper tape antibacterial ointment, eg Bactroban for cuts and abrasions (prescription only) antibiotic plus steroid eardrops (prescription only) eg Sofradex, Kenacort Otic antibiotics (prescription only), eg ciprofloxacin (Ciproxin) or norfloxacin (Uti-nor...

Information Bookshops

Rarotonga Walking Tracks Map

Rarotonga's bookshops are all in Avarua. Bounty Bookshop (Map pp56-7 s 26660) Nearthe post office. Sells foreign magazines, local newspapers and the New Zealand Herald, as well as various books, including titles on the Cook Islands and other Pacific destinations. CITC Shopping Centre (Map pp56-7 S 22000 Ara Maire Nui) Mainly sells cheap paperbacks and a small selection of Cook Islands books. Cook Islands Library & Museum Society (Map pp56-7 28468 Makea Tinirau Rd S 9am-1pm Mon-Sat, 4-8pm...

Bites Stings

The Cooks are blessedly free of dangerous land creatures. Mosquitoes can be a real nuisance in the Cooks at certain times of year, particularly during the rainy season from around mid-December to mid-April. The worst times for mosquitos are at dawn and dusk. Use repellent (those containing the compound DEET are the most effective). Mosquito coils are available everywhere in the Cook Islands lighting one will keep your room free of mosquitoes for about six hours. Screens on windows or mosquito...

Quirky Atiu

If the usual organised tours aren't for you, ask around about when the next pig hunt is taking place. The 'Atiuan jungle is home to hundreds of wild porkers, though they're a long way from the domestic pigs you'll see running around the rest of the island -the pig's tusks are serious business and, as you might expect, being hunted is generally not conducive to good behaviour. But a pig hunt is definitely not one for vegetarians -once caught, pigs are killed by hand and butchered into prime cuts...

Ati The Underworld

Ati was a farmer who lived on the island of Rarotonga, near the village of Arorangi. He lived alone, with no wife and no children, and spent most of his days carefully tending his plantation, where he grew fruit, vegetables and taro. Ati was a careful and meticulous farmer, and his crops were some of the finest and tastiest on the whole island, but one day just before harvest time, he arrived at his plantation to find most of his plants, vegetables and fruit trees had disappeared. Angrily Ati...

Interisland Shipping Companies

Two shipping companies provide inter-island passenger and cargo services for the Cooks both travel from Rarotonga to all of the populated islands. Both companies are based at Rarotonga's Avatiu Harbour. Both companies offer information, schedules and booking services. Mataroa Shipping 29018 mataroa oyster.net .ck) Sometimes travels within the Cooks, but mainly brings freight from New Zealand to Rarotonga and Altutaki. The office is inside a large building straight ahead as you approach Avatiu...

EATING

There's a wide choice of restaurants on Rarotonga, from European fine dining to fish-and-chip bars, and the food is generally of a very high standard. The largest concentration of eating places is in Avarua, but there are restaurants and caf s all around the island. Most top-end hotels have an inhouse restaurant that's also open to nonguests. Since you'll probably have to travel at least some distance to get to any of the island's restaurants, and most of them are quite small, reservations are...

The Northern Group

For real Robinson Crusoes, the Northern Group is a dream destination - a sprinkling of tiny palm-covered islands and remote coral atolls scattered over a vast expanse of sea. It's here you'll find Cook Islands culture at its purest daily life revolves around the twin forces of the weather and the tide, and family, history and traditional culture are all still highly valued. But despite the idyllic setting, very few people make it to the islands of the Northern Group, and once you've consulted a...

Drinking Entertainment Bars Nightclubs

Friday night is Rarotonga's big party night, when everyone lets their hair down and hits the bars and nightclubs in Avarua. Saturday can be lively too though things are usually cut short at midnight to avoid dancing on the Sabbath . Things kick off around 8pm or 9pm most people head for a few of the smaller bars around Avarua, before finishing up at one of the larger night clubs. On Friday nearly all places stay open till around 2am on Saturday the doors are always banged shut at the stroke of...

The Culture

Thanks to the islands' close links with nearby New Zealand and Australia, the contemporary face of the Cook Islands is surprisingly modern. The main island of Rarotonga is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan place, characterised as much by neatly tended lawns, Western-style clothing and modern houses as by any overt signs of traditional Polynesian culture. But beneath this strongly Westernised veneer, many aspects of traditional Maori culture survive and inform practically every aspect of the way...

Theft

For some reason, when people come on holiday to the tropics, they leave their sense of security at home. As anywhere else in the world, if you leave wallets lying on car seats or hotel-room doors unlocked, you're at risk of losing your possessions. Even theft of clothes from clotheslines. It's a good idea to check your valuables with hotel management, to prevent theft from your room, and it's always sensible not to flash expensive watches and digital cameras around on an island where there's...

Midrange

For once the old adage is true the higher you move up the price scale on Aitutaki, the more you'll get for your money. If you're willing to push the boat out, there are some lovely places to stay on the island. Remember to ask about weekly specials, where if you stay six nights you get the seventh free. Gina's Garden Lodges 31058 www.ginasaitutaki .com Tautu s d tr NZS75 120 150 If you're not desperate to stay in earshot of the sea, then these four lodges, set around a secluded garden with...

Tangaroa Figures

Tangaroa is the squat, ugly but fantastically well-endowed figure represented on the Cook Islands' 1 coin. Polynesia's traditional god of the sea and fertility, Tangaroa is a beloved figure for Cook Islanders and has become the symbol of the Cooks. It's been a long-term rehabilitation though, because the early missionaries, in their zeal to wipe out all traces of heathenism, did a thorough job of destroying traditional gods wherever they found them. Tangaroa, along with the rest of the old...

Dangers Annoyances

If you're planning on exploring caves or tramping around on the makatea you'll need some old clothes and good, sturdy shoes -second-hand trainers or hiking boots. Some of the caves can be quite muddy especially after heavy rain , and your shoes are guaranteed to take a beating from the razor-sharp makatea. Take great care when you are walking across the makatea - the fossilised coral is extremely sharp. If you slip and fall, the very least you'd expect is a nasty gash. Remember to watch your...

What to Wear

Like everywhere, your travelling experiences will go a lot smoother if you observe the local customs of dress and don't offend people by your appearance. This is easy to do in the Cooks by observing a few basic courtesies. If you visit the outer islands, remember that the standards of dress are more conservative than on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, which have been visited by plenty of foreign tourists. In the Cooks, swimming wear is for swimming it's fine at the beach or by the pool but elsewhere...

Mitiaro

Rotonui Mitiaro Cook Islands

The minuscule island of Mitiaro is one of the least visited of the Southern Group, and while it might not have the glorious beaches or dramatic scenery of Aitutaki and Rarotonga, it's still a rewarding island to visit. Home to just a couple of hundred people, and barely 6km across at its widest point, Mitiaro is a great place to get to grips with traditional culture. The islanders still live in much the same way as their ancient ancestors, farming, fishing and trading with nearby islands...

Sunburn

It should go without saying that exposure to the ultraviolet UV rays of the sun causes burning of the skin with accompanying pain, dehydration and misery together with the long-term danger of skin cancer but experience shows that reminders are necessary. The time of highest risk is between 1 lam and 3pm and remember that cloud cover does not block out UV rays. The Australian 'Slip, slop, slap' slogan is a useful mantra - slip on a T-shirt or blouse, slop on a sunscreen lotion of at least 20...

Food Drink

Thanks to its temperate climate and rich volcanic soil, things grows with abandon on Rarotonga - from majestic palms to groves of paw-paw, mango and orange trees. However, somewhat surprisingly, when the original settlers arrived on Rarotonga 1500 years ago, they found remarkably few edible plants. Luckily the settlers had come prepared, and their canoes were stuffed with all kinds of crops and fruit trees that quickly flourished throughout the islands. Traditionally, the Cook Islands diet...

Mangaia

Rarotonga Old Map

The ancient island of Mangaia is thought to be the oldest island in the South Pacific, and it's a place where you can certainly feel the centuries stretching back. Vast circular towers of makatea raised, fossilised coral reef ring the island's fertile central valleys, in some places dropping down in sheer 60m cliffs, and there are several scenic lookouts where you can admire uninterrupted views across to the highest peak on the island, Rangimotia. It's a proud and mysterious island, renowned...

Shopping

There are plenty of places around the island to pick up traditional island handicrafts - Punanga Nui Market p59 and the Beachcomber Gallery p58 generally have the best selections. Be sure about what you're buying in some of the tourist shops around Avarua - many items have been imported from China and Asia, rather than being made in the Cook Islands themselves. If in doubt, ask. Mike Tavioni's Workshop Map pp56-7 s 24003 Ara Metua, Atupa The workshop of Rarotonga's best-known sculptor and...

Avarua

Avarua Airport Bilder

Perched along the island's northern shore, the bustling town of Avarua is the capital city of the Cooks and Rarotonga's only town. Bordered by twin harbours at either side of a sweeping bay, and backed by a vista of sawtooth mountains and tree-topped hills, it's the closest thing you'll find to a metropolis in the Cooks. Just over a decade ago Avarua was little more than a sleepy South Seas port, but recently the town has been thoroughly spruced up and the long main street is now packed with...

Tourist Offices Abroad

Overseas offices or representatives of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation include the following Asia 66-2 652 0507 eckard plt.co.th c o Pacific Leisure Group, 8 F Maneeya Centre, 518 5 Ploenchlt Rd, Bangkok 10330, Thailand Australia 02-9955 0446 ausmanager cook-islands .com P0 Box 20, Guilford, NSW 2160 Canada 1-888 994 2665 canadamanager cook -lslands.com 1133-160A Street, White Rock, BC V4A 7G9 Continental Europe 49-30 4225 6027 europe manager cook-lslands.com Petersburgstrasse 94, 10247...

Tivaevae

These colourful and intricately sewn appliqu works are traditionally made as burial shrouds, but are also used as bedspreads, and smaller ones for cushion covers. It's rare to see them for sale anywhere other than 'Atiu if you do find a full-size tivaevae for sale elsewhere, you'll find they cost upwards of several-hundred dollars due to the enormous amount of time required to make them. Smaller wall hangings, cushion covers or clothing using tivaevae-inspired patterns are cheaper. The Atiu...

Cook Islands Myths Legends

Cook Islands Legends, by Jon Jonassen, is a short anthology of many traditional myths and legends, told in a lively and engaging style. The book also explains the origins of many place names in the Cook Islands you can usually buy it at the USP bookshop in Avarua p54 . Pre-Christian religion was remarkably consistent between islands scattered over the entire, vast Polynesian area. Gods such as Vatea, Tan-garoa, Rongomatane and Tane, and demigods such as Maui and Rata, were known to Polynesians...