Mangaia  location map
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. 

Mangaia aerial view
Makatea
MANGAIA'S MOST SPECIAL
Taro -- and it's good for you
THE TROPICAL POTATO

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.

As you can see from the photo above, Lush taro plantations and other vegetation thrive in the centre of the island at the bottom of the makatea, and in the central valley.  But, much as I love the Islands, I have to say taro is an acquired taste!


Access:
Internal flights most days



Lake Tiriari, Mangaia
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.


Population: 562
20 sq mls/51.8 sq. kms


Oldest island in the Pacific
Southern Group
126 miles/203 kms
East South East of Rarotonga



Mangaia cave
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 has not only the protection it needs, but viewing platforms and a boardwalk around it. 

The investment has been made by Seacology, whose sole purpose is preserving the highly endangered biodiversity of islands throughout the world.  The Seacology website is fascinating and well worth a visit.  And I am grateful for their permission to use the photographs showing the lake and one of the viewing platforms.


Oneroa is the main village on the island
Red volcanic soil path
The vivid red soil reveals the ancient volcanic origins of Mangaia.   By contrast, the surrounding pine forest was planted about 20 years ago.
Contrasting landscape
Ara Moana bungalows
The Ara Moana Hotel Bungalows were opened in 1997 to provide accommodation for tourists.   The complex nestles in a tranquil setting among the puka trees near the village of IviruaIt's basic, but very clean.
Outside a bungalow
Unspoiled beach
Right: Sandy beaches are few...but the only footprints will be yours!
Oneroa village
VIP treatment
Mangaia airport terminal
The airport terminal...what it lacks in facilities it more than makes up for with friendly, personal service
But you need to be Prime Minister to get carried from your plane!  A VIP visit in 2002
At least you won't get stuck in traffic on the way to or from the airport..or anywhere for that matter
The photos in this group (except bottom  right) were taken by Jan Erik Johnsen from  Oslo, Norway.  He describes the island as "one of the most peaceful places on the planet".  And he's a prolific photographer.  He's created a gallery of more than a thousand picures from his worldwide travels.  Click here to have a look, or here to go to his collection of pictures from the Cook Islands
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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. 
Shell photo courtesy of the Cook Islands Biodiversity Database


The Mangaia Kingfisher (Todiramphus ruficollaris) is found nowhere else in the world, and it's name is totally misleading.   It never eats fish!   Like its distant cousin, the Australian kookaburra, it preys instead on skinks, insects and spiders.  The colourful bird lives high up in the forest growing on the makatea.  Birdlife International says there are between 400 and 700 birds on the island, but because they're unique to Mangaia, they're classified as an endangered species
Mangaia is renowned for its shell necklaces
Pupu
Mangaia Kingfisher
It rises  4,750 metres (15,600 feet) above the ocean floor, and has a central volcanic plateau.  Like many of the southern islands in the Cooks, it's surrounded by cliffs of fossilised coral,  called the makatea, in this case 60 metres (200 feet) high.   It looks beautiful in the left hand picture below, but the coral is razor sharp. 

Mangaia is also honeycombed with amazing caves like the one pictured centre with its owner, Teremanuia Taukakuma.  And inside, there are stunning natural rock formations like the ones on the right below.


Mangaia road
Video clip
Take a VIDEO TOUR of Mangaia

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ABOUT THE ISLAND
GETTING THERE
Internal airline, Air Rarotonga operates flights to and from Rarotonga on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  The trip takes about 40 minutes.   And as the plane goes straight back, you need to stay at least one night on the island...assuming you want to see more than just the airstrip!