Aitutaki is one of the Southern Group of the 15 Cook Islands that are scattered over two million sq. km. of ocean. It was first seen by Europeans when Captain Bligh and the crew of the HMS Bounty landed in 1789, only 17 days before the infamous mutiny.
Cook Islands – Been There

A glimmering pearl on the chameleon lagoon

Photo by Chad Ehlers

Cook Islands – Been There A glimmering pearl on the chameleon lagoon

Aitutaki, one of the Cook islands, truly is a slice of paradise, its volcanic origin revealed by the 124-meter-high Mount Maungapu.

Sergi Reboredo
Sergi Reboredo Travel Photographer

It sits in a circle of 12 uninhabited coral islets or motus, a pearl necklace around perhaps the most beautiful lagoon in the Pacific Ocean. Only a meter deep, but covering 50 square kilometers, the lagoon changes color continually during the tropical day. The warm waters never fall below 22°C and are filled with tiny coral fish and giant clams that weigh up to 200kg. Spectactular sunsets are, of course, a given.

Taria Pureariki Nagaakaara Kita – “just call me Ngaa” – shows me around, telling me stories of the ancient culture, myths, legends and ancient ways. Several sacred stones still stand in a site that was worshipped long before the coming of Christianity, looking like strange animals suddenly turned to stone.

We finish with a traditional Cook Islands umu kai feast of locally grown produce and pork, baked in an underground earth oven. After four hours of cooking and steaming, the food is permeated with the flavor of the banana leaves in which it is wrapped.

Ngaa tells me I cannot leave without a visit to One Foot Island, a sort of seventh heaven. The smallest island of Aitutaki, its proper name is Tapuaetai and it is one of the 22 islands that make up the atoll.

We reach it after a seven-kilometer boat ride from the main island and land near a wooden shack where my passport is stamped with a tiny footprint. The island is uninhabited, although a cabin accommodates a handful of overnight guests once the fisherman and day visitors have cast off.

Being stranded on a South Sea island is certainly an experience to brag about. However, with its beautiful views, white sand and crystal clear water, it is another place you might prefer to keep to yourself.

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