Aitutaki motu
Aitutaki motu

Aitutaki, the most frequently visited of the outer Cook lslands enjoys a way of life that has escaped relatively unscathed by the coming of Western ways and is reminiscent of of "old Polynesia". Aitutaki’s deep blue lagoon is considered to be one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world. Part volcanic and part atoll, the island’s geographical structure makes the lagoon unique.


For our trip we boarded several local boats that varied in size and shape. We cruised passed many of the tiny offshore motus, passing Motu Akaiami, which was once used as a refuelling stop for the flying boats back in the 1950s. We stopped in the shallow part of the lagoon and enjoyed some snorkelling – it was rather strange to be a long way from the closest land, but able to stand in the water. We stopped at One Foot Island for lunch of barbeque fish, salads and fresh fish after which we relaxed, walked around the island and snorkelled. One Foot island its own postcards and stamps, surely this has to be one of the remotest post offices in the world! .

Aitutaki is often referred to as "the Bora Bora of the Cook lslands" because it consists of a small, hilly island at the apex of a triangular barrier reef dotted with skinny flat islets. This reef necklace encloses one of the South Pacific's most beautiful lagoons.


The central island, only 8 square miles in area, is dotted with the coconut, pineapple, banana and tapioca plantations that are worked by most of the island's 2,500 residents. A few Aitutakians make their living at the island's hotels, but the land and the lagoons still provide most of their income.


Legend says that in the beginning Aitutaki was completely flat but then its warriors sailed to Rarotonga and stole the top of Mount Raemaru. Pitched battles were fought on the way home and parts of the mountain fell into the sea. In the end, the Aitutakians warriors were victorious and the top of Raemaru is now Mount Maungapu, the highest point on Aitutaki at 407 feet.


According to another legend, the first Polynesians to reach Aitutaki came in through Ootu Pass, led by the warrior and navigator Ru, who brought four wives, four brothers and a crew of 20 young virgins from Tubuai in what is now French Polynesia. Akitua island where they landed originally named Urituarukitemoana which means "where Ru turned his back on the sea ".


Polynesian myth believes that beautiful Aitutaki is a giant fish tethered to the seabed by a vine from the air. The light turquoise lagoon looks like a huge pale oyster against the vivid blue ocean.


The first European to visit Aitutaki was Captain William Bligh who discovered it in 1789 a few weeks before he was set adrift in Tonga by the mutinous crew of H.M.S Bounty.


Today the people live in villages strung out along the roads on both sides of the main island and travel about on motor scooters. The roads are red-brown in the centre of the island and coral white around the edge. Every village has a community hall and there was tremendous competition between villages to have the biggest and the best, so the halls are splendid in size and seldom used.


The low rolling hills of the island are flanked by banana plantations and coconut groves. A triangular barrier reef seems to catch the exquisite turquoise Aitutaki lagoon like a giant fishhook. The turquoise crystal clear water in the lagoon is perfect for sailing, swimming and snorkelling and beneath the blue surface is a wonderful world of sea creatures and plants.

In the days when the so-called ‘flying boats’ dominated travel around the South Pacific, Aitutaki was one of the region’s major airport on the ‘Coral Route’ which connected the triangle of New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands. One story tells of a time when the flying boat had an engine failure and the pilot flew to Fiji to get the plane repaired. When he returned none of the passengers wanted to leave – I know how they felt!

South Pacific