Aitutaki is highly sought after by honeymooners and couples seeking the most memorable wedding possible. Visitors can spend a day snorkelling and marvelling at the array of tropical fish, simply relax on the white sandy beaches or take a boat or yacht tour around the island.

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About Aitutaki

General Information About Aitutaki

History plays a vital part in Aitutaki island life. And following the Maori migration, apart from a stopover from the Spanish explorers Alvaro de Mendana sighting Pukapuka in 1595 and Pedro Fernandez de Quiros sighting Rakahanga in 1606, all remained pretty quiet until 160 years later in 1773 when the infamous Captain James Cook sighted Manuae atoll and then Palmerston, Takutea, Mangaia and Atiu (a bird watchers blissful haven) in 1777.

Explorers following, however, left a somewhat less tranquil wake – the highly questionable Captain William Bligh first sighted Aitutaki – probably the most glorious of all the islands – in 1789 and hot on his heels after the bloody mutiny on the Bounty, the buccaneer Fletcher Christian sailing in Bligh's very own vessel, sighted Rarotonga.

Fortunately Aitutaki and its stunning beauty survived this wake of bloodthirsty sailors. These days it's recognised for its romantic aura rather than tales of swashbucklers. It's highly sought after by honeymooners and couples seeking the most memorable wedding possible. A betrothal against a brilliant sunset on a desert island can turn from dream to reality on this magical island paradise.

Less than an hour's flight from Rarotonga by local airline Air Raro (which runs an extraordinarily efficient interisland service) lies the alluring atoll. Nicknamed Honeymoon Island, for obvious reasons, it is the archetypal tropical island. Even the most travel weary cannot fail to wonder at this Eden with its vast crystal clear lagoon, scattered with tiny motus of the finest white sand where sea birds and land lovers seek sanctuary.

Aitutakians believe they descended from Ru, the famous seafaring warrior who sailed from Avaiki, the legendary homeland of the early Polynesians and settled here with his four wives, and attendants of warriors and beautiful maidens of noble birth landed in a double hulled canoe. Arriving at full moon he was captivated by its reflection in the vast tranquil lagoon and named his landing point O'otu, meaning full moon.

Legends like this abound and fascinate, emanating from visits to the marae where volcanic boulders in distinctive formation marked the sacred ceremonial grounds of their forefathers. There's a legend that relates Maungapu, the highest hill on the very flat island used to once be the Raemaru Peak in Rarotonga and victorious warriors carried it off after a fierce fight.

Whatever you believe, the view from here reveals a spectacular array of colourful fish which can be seen close up by taking a Bishop's Cruise (an experience in itself – the Aitutakians aptitude for song and dance and storytelling comes to the fore with a captive audience of sightseers.) Get your passport stamped on One Foot Island – step onto the first landing for the flying boats that flew the original Coral Route, go snorkeling in the clearest waters ever seen or simply spend a few hours slipping from sand to sea. A day spent hopping from the pure white motus sprinkled around the lagoon is one of life's great memories. And put the experience of bone fishing top of that list.

A yachters hideaway, the white sails can be seen dotted around the harbor and the wharf buzzes with local fishermen, lagoon and fishing tours coming and going. But it's the market on a Saturday which sees high activity with locals and tourists alike. Aratunga Wharf used to be the hub of the banana business but since that collapsed Orongo Centre where they were processed has become a hive of industry with colorful sarongs, souvenirs, and the remarkable pandanus hats, mats, bags along with fresh produce of every seasonal variety.

After a busy day exploring the island, why not treat yourself with an Aitutaki dining experience.

Sunday is certainly a day of rest but that doesn't mean life comes to a halt then or on any other day. And Aitutakians are the showmen of the Cook Islands. The village of Vaipae, nicknamed Hollywood, comes by it honestly. The high spirited, toe tapping, hip swinging performances of the drummers and the dancers are unmissable and unbeatable. Fire dancers cause many a fluttering heart with a technique that takes years to perfect.

What is a surprise is the fact that their eternal fun loving soul has survived, for the missionaries tried hard enough to beat it out of them. When the Rev. John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived in the Cooks in 1821 and instructed the islanders to give up dancing, drumming and all other carnal desires for the sake of religion, it looked like a takeover. Fortunately sense and those powerful Polynesian genes prevailed. And today Aitutakians are known for their charm, easy going attitude and hospitality.

And all that remains of the missionary influence is good – beautiful white churches (a lot of them), the traditional mu-mu now updated into island style must-wear (look for the label TAV, the brainchild of Elena Tavioni for the modern day version), the constant call of Kia Orana and a sense of kindness revealing a camaraderie which, whilst probably always there (despite a cannibalistic past) makes a visit to Aitutaki feel as if you have just stepped into nirvana.

For more information on where to stay and what to do, visit our Aitutaki directory.

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