Mitiaro location map
'Cook Islands Caviar'
The lakes are home to prawns and eels called Itiki, which are like caviar to the Cook Islanders.  It's thought there are subterannean channels in the lakes as the eels swim out to sea to spawn.  The young eels eventually return to the twin lakes where they carry on growing…until islanders catch and eat them. The photos above are courtesy of Jesse Evans

Crystal clear pools in the subterranean limestone caves are all over the island which are popular for a refreshing swim.  
The picture in the centre is Te Vai Nauri cave
Photo: Air Rarotonga

Mitiaro itiki
Everyone lives in one settlement on the west coast, although technically it's four villages.   North to south they are Atai, Auta, Mangarei and Takaue. Each is very small and it's difficult to tell where one ends and the next begins! The Government buildings are in the Takaue section so the settlement is usually referred to by that name. This aerial shot is taken from a Cook Islands Tourist Board video
Crystal clear cave pools
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Mitiaro's main street
Mitiaro is just 6 kms (4 miles) across at its widest point and is surrounded by a belt of razor sharp, fossilised coral or makatea six to nine metres (20 to 40 feet) high.  The island boasts the only sizeable freshwater lakes in the Cook Islands.    Rotonui (Big Lake) and Rotoiti (Small Lake) are a little way inland on the eastern side of the island.  The larger is about half the size of the whole island, and between them, the two lakes account for about two thirds of the island. 

Mitiaro was discovered in June, 1823 by missionary, John Williams.   Legend says the gods drew it up from the depths of the ocean and fairies made it habitable with soil taken from Atiu and Mauke. 

Mitiaro's main street: neat, tidy and well cared for just like the whole island

"Brilliant orange pumarumaru and fragrant tipani (frangipani) trees line the streets laid with crushed white coral.  Gardens are well-tended and rubbish non-existent.  Inland, communal village plantations yield kumara, taro, corn, bananas and watermelons...all produced without pesticides or fertilizers. 

Unlike Rarotonga and Aitutaki, tourism in the conventional sense doesn't exist on Mitiaro, with only a handful of tourists visiting a year. However, the population more than doubles in the summer months as hundreds of relatives return

There is a tangible sense of community, centred around church activities and the island council."

Extract from a blog by Communications Advisor, Pip Robertston - one of two staff from New Zealand's international aid and development agency, the New Zealand Aid Programme who visited Mitiaro in December, 2009.  Read the blog in full and learn more about the Aid Programme 
Neatness everywhere
The neatness extends to the shoreline where traditonal fishing boats are lined up and to the road round the island which was built by islanders themselves
Photos: Left, New Zealand Aid Programme; Right, Cook Islands Tourist Board
    ATIU             MAUKE  

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Rotonui from the shore
Looking across Rotonui
Vai Marere pool, Mitiaro
Vai Marere is full of stalactites Caving experts say that if you swim in the dark pool at the bottom of this cave, the minerals in the water leave the body and hair feeling silky
Mitiaro from the air
Mitiiaro's holiday in a hut offering
Kikau huts are a traditional form of accommodation still found to this day particularly on the Northern group islands. But Mitiaro is bringing that basic type of home up to date and offering it as part of what the Tourism Authority are marketing as "an authentic cultural experience".

Visitors can stay in one of three huts like the one on the left which overlooks Papa Neke Tutini's taro patch in his yard.  And from there they can live, work, plant and fish with the locals. You can book through Cook Islands Tours.

Mitiaro is unique in offering this type of holiday and more huts are being planned. Anyone who likes the idea will be pleased to know that washing and toilet facilities have been added to the traditonal design!
   Picture: Cook Islands News
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Air Rarotonga fly to Mitiaro via Mauke on Monday and Friday.   The total journey time is 90 minutes, including 20 minutes on the ground in Mauke.    The return journey - on Monday and Friday - is direct to Rarotonga and takes 50 minutes.  
Mitiaro villages from the air
Mitiaro round island road
  "A  magical untouched little island gem in the South Pacific.
Definitely worth a visit" !"

Another delicacy
Milkfish are another tasty delicacy, albeit a boney one. For years they've been protected to conserve the species but in November, 2020 island leaders allowed a rare harvest which nettted 92 fish. The species was brought to the island in the 1980s from Manihiki where they're abundant
Picture: Cook Islands News
ISLANDS: SOUTH  Mitiaro    Discover the island through a visitor's eyes
Like the other two, it was once a volcano that sank to become a coral atoll.   It was also thrust upwards 10,000 years ago, though unlike the others, it only rose about 6 metres (20 feet).  But its coral ring still died forming the makatea which stretches down to the shoreline
Mitairo shoreline

Mitiaro makes up part of an island grouping called Nga-Pu-Toru. or "The Three Roots".  The other two islands are Atiu and Mauke.  It's the flattest and economically, the poorest of the three.
163 miles/263 kms
North East by East of Rarotonga

Population 155
8.6 sq mls/22.3sq. kms

Access: 2 flights a week from Rarotonga