MANGAIA
Oldest Island in the Pacific
Geologists estimate that Mangaia is at least 18 million years old, making it the oldest island in the Pacific.    It's the second largest of the Cook Islands and the furthest south of the Group.  It rises 15,600 feet (4750 m) above the ocean floor.  It has a central volcanic plateau and, like many of the southern islands in the Cooks, it is surrounded by a high ring of cliffs of fossilised coral,  called the makatea, in this case 200 feet (60 m) high.   It looks beautiful in the picture on the right, but the coral is razor sharp.        
Mangaia is renowned for its shell neckbands or "eis".  These are are made from the shells  of the tiny yellow snail, the pupu, which emerges only after rain.  Gathering, piercing and stringing is a very time consuming business.  The women of the island often give the highly prized strands away as gifts of friendship to visitors from other islands in the Group.  But they are also much in demand in Tahiti and Hawaii. 
  • No swimming on Sunday.
  • Dress code "conservative"
  • No drunkenness or being a nuisance in public.
  • No driving or causing disturbance to the community on Sundays.
  • Sabbath observance - midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.
  • All businesses closed on Sunday

Mangaia aerial
Makatea
Mangaia is renowned for its shell necklaces
Mangaia Kingfisher
An Island Filled With Very Special Things
The Mangaia Kingfisher (Todiramphus ruficollaris) is found nowhere else in the world.   Because of that it's officially classified as "vulnerable" although Birdlife International reports that there are between 400 and 700 birds on the island.  The colourful bird lives high up in the forest growing on the makatea.  It never eats fish; like its distant cousin, the Australian kookaburra, it preys instead on skinks, insects and spiders.
Taro -- and it's good for you
Taro is sometimes called the "potato of the tropics" and the finest is said to grow on Mangaia.  For those who are interested, it's high in vitamins A and C, has only a trace of fat and is particularly good for anyone with digestive problems or food allergies. Lush taro plantations and other vegetation thrive in the centre of the island at the bottom of the makatea, and in the central valley.   I have to say it's an acquired taste!
ISLAND LIFE
Pictures  right are courtesy of Pacific Picture - an agency specialising in photos of the Pacific Islands. 
Population 654
20 sq mls/51.8 sq. kms
You have to wash...even in paradise
Dodging the puddles
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO EXPLORE NEXT? 
MORE MANGAIA    ESSENTIALS    CALENDAR

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Southern Group
Access: Flights most days
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A visitor's photo album
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Lake Tiriari, Mangaia
LAKE TIRIARA:  PROTECTED BEAUTY
Lake Tiriara in the south of the Island is an area teeming with plant and animal life.  Now thanks to a not-for-profit environmental organisation, it's not only getting the protection it needs, but viewing platforms and a boardwalk have been built around it. 

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Viewing platform on Lake Tiriari, Mangaia
The Lake opens into a cave in the makatea, but it's been at risk for years because of poor agricultural practices and a lack of proper management.   In return for the work which has been done, the islanders have promised to protect the lake by banning pesticides, dumping, tethering of livestock and construction of any building within 50 metres of the shoreline.

The investment has been made by Seacology, whose sole purpose is preserving the highly endangered biodiversity of islands throughout the world.   And they're about to embark on another project on uninhabited Takutea which will set up a wildlife santuary of nearly 300 acres and a 50 miles protection zone around the coastline.  

The Seacology website is fascinating and well worth a visit.  And I am grateful for their permission to use the photographs on the left which show the lake and one of the viewing platforms.
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