Mitiaro location map
Population 155
8.6 sq mls/22.3sq. kms

'Cook Islands Caviar'
The lakes are home to prawns and eels called Itiki, which are like caviar to the Cook Islanders. In order to protect the species and enable the supply of itiki to build up, a short term ban on catching them is currently in place.   It's a traditional conservation practice and will remain in force until April, 2016.  The photos above are courtesy of Jesse Evans

Access: 2 flights a week from Rarotonga

163 miles/263 kms
North East by East of Rarotonga

The makatea coastline

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. 

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

Beaches are limited, but there are crystal clear pools in the subterranean limestone caves which are all over the island

Mitiaro itiki
Mitiaro children playing football
Sunset on Mitiaro
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

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 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 
Pacifica Productions in Auckland, New Zealand have created a short video which tells you more about the island.  The three photos above are taken from that video with their kind permission

Neatness everywhere
The neatness of the island even extends to the shoreline where traditonal fishing boats are lined up
Photo: New Zealand Aid Programme
    ATIU     MAUKE  
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Rotonui from the shore
Looking across Rotonui
Vai Marere pool, Mitiaro
Vai Marere is full of stalactites and 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.  

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.  
Fishing is part of daily life