The coral lagoon is perhaps the main reason people vacation in Aitutaki, it is approximately 15 km from top to bottom and 12 km along the base. It is filled with colourful, tropical fish, plentiful coral, sea turtles and long sandy beaches. There are numerous lagoon cruise operators which offer various snorkelling/island/cruise options.
The lagoon and island of Aitutaki is an atoll. The island is shaped like a fish hook. There are numerous sandy beaches along the west coast and quiet villages along the east coast. The highest point is Maungapu at 124 meters. The lagoon is filled with uninhabited motu (islands) ripe for exploring.
Any time is a great time to vacation in Aitutaki and the Cook Islands (not that we’re biased), the temperature in the winter months of May to October ranges from 18°C to 28°C, while the summer months November to April 21°C to 30°C with December to February temperatures frequently above 30°C. The water temperature is enjoyable year round.
Most easily observed at one of the island nights held by the restaurants on Aitutaki. Any local will assure you that Aitutaki produces the best dancers and drummers in the Cook Islands. As everyone knows that Cook Islanders are the best dancers and drummers in Polynesia, vacationing on Aitutaki will allow you to see the best of the best. Dancing is rooted in Cook Islands history when they were performed to assist in the telling of legends. The dancing is accompanied by music including ukeleles, guitars and wooden drums. Watching skilled drummers at work will have you scrambling for your camera.
Arts and Crafts
Woodcarvings are common in the Cook Islands and are on sale in tourist shops. Tivaevae are colourful and intricate squares often with floral designs from the size of a square foot up to enough to cover a double bed.
A Brief History of Aitutaki and the Cook Islands
The Maori people have inhabited what is now known as the Cook Islands for approximately 1500 years having arrived by island hopping through Polynesia.
Aitutaki was likely first settled around 1100 years ago by Ru who divided the land up among the royal maidens not bothering to give any land to his brothers who got the hump and eventually settled New Zealand.
Barring the odd “refueling”, the Cook Islands were first “re-discovered” by Captain James Cook in 1773. Shortly after this missionaries made their way to the Cook Islands to spread the word of God. Christian religion still plays an important part in local life. The first Europeans to set foot on Aitutaki were the crew of the Bounty mere days before the famous mutiny.
In 1888, the Cook Islands became a British protectorate for a short period until in 1902 when it came under New Zealand rule.
During World War II the US army built an airstrip on Aitutaki, the same strip you’ll fly in on.
In 1965 the Cook Islands became independent and self governing, (if you come in August try and time it for the week long constitution celebrations (Te Maeva Nui on Rarotonga).
Locals speak Cook Island Maori and English. All Aitutakians can speak excellent English but if you fancy having a crack at the Maori language a few words and phrases to start you off are below:
Greeting – Kia Orana
How are you – Pe’ea koe
I’m good – E meitaki au
Goodbye – Aere ra
See you again – Ka kite
Thanks you – Meitaki
Yes – Ae
No – Kare
Man – Tane
Woman – Va’ine