The Cook Islands are beautiful! Did you know that there are 12 islands of the Cook Islands to explore beyond the well known Rarotonga, this is where your international flight will arrive and depart, and Aitutaki? Each one of these 12-islands are just as unique and beautiful as the most well known two.
Let’s explore these over the coming weeks. We will also review Rarotonga and Aitutaki, but let’s begin with Atiu, pronounced “Atchoo.”
Atiu – A 45 minute flight from Rarotonga, Atiu is a world away. Known as Enuamanu or Island of Birds, Atiu was used in the cave sequences of Survior – Aitutaki a few years ago. It is on Atiu that there are limestone caves, complete with long ago burial niches with many remains still in tact.
Atiu, in the terms of Air Rarotonga descriptions: “a raised or uplifted island with central volcanic hill encircled by a raised “makatea” or fossilized coral, which is riddled with limestone caves.”
Atiu and the island of Mangaia, which is geologically similar, are like ‘Shangri-La’s’ where you arrive on an airstrip built on the makatea, very grey and black fossilized coral. But once up and over the makatea, you arrive into a world of green tropics, abundant flora and fauna, with caves, waterfalls, and lakes. You will believe that you have left one island and arrived into another! So very different to the other islands of Polynesia!
Atiu and Mangaia are part of the island chain that also includes the Austral Archipelago of French Polynesia. These unique islands are very rarely visited by tourists. You will find the locals very charming, ready to tell you their story, and willing to share their “bush beer” or “Tumunu” particularly on Atiu. Tumunu is made from fermented oranges in the holed out base of a coconut tree, back when alcohol could not be purchased. Tumunu is still produced today, but with the use of hops, and not oranges. BUT, talk to locals and you can still find the original brew, just hold onto your hat! 🙂
Atiu is also a very special place for bird enthusiasts. Atiu is home to the Kura (Rimatara lorikeet) which has just been reintroduced to the islands (I love parrots, macaws, and lorikeets!); the once endangered Kakerori; and the unique cave dwelling native Kopeka! There are a number of guides who can take you to see each of these birds. You particularly need a guide for heading into the caves to find the Kopeka as they are in the darkest spots and fly by their unique ability to fly in darkness using clicks much like a bat does.
There are beaches here spotted around the island. It is best to have someone drive you to the best beaches and pick you up later. Bikes are available as are mopeds to rent, but I find having someone guide and drive you around is much more interesting and friendly.
Coffee: Coffee is grown, roasted, and sold on Atiu. It is good and a great gift or memento to take home.
Tivaivai’s of Atiu: Tifaifai is the French Polynesian word for “Quilt” and actually means “to sew or mend.” In the Cook Islands, the word used is Tivaivai. Coming from the missionaries that arrived here, quilt making took hold and is usually done by older women and given to family members on a special occasion. Couples being married are wrapped in these beautiful works of art to secure their “togetherness.”
This is a sampling of Atiu…don’t you just wish to be there?
We can…give a call now! 888-294-3598.
Thank you to Air Rarotonga and Cook Islands Tourism.