The Cook Islands

Paradise in the Pacific

Where would someone say, “may you live long,” upon meeting you for the first time, but in the Cook Islands. 

The Cook Islands greeting Kia Orana, means exactly that, “may you live long.” It is a unique first gesture of friendship from a special Polynesian people, renown for their hospitality and warmth. 

It is as if God chose his 15 most precious gems, and then sprinkled them over 2.25 million sq km of the Pacific to become the Cook Islands – an ei (necklace) of islands awaiting to embrace all visitors. 

All the islands combined make up a land area of just 240 sq km. Each of the ‘gems’ is unlike the other and all have their own special features. From the majestic peaks of Rarotonga to the low-lying untouched coral atolls of the northern islands of Manihiki, Penrhyn, Rakahanga, Pukapuka, Nassau and Suwarrow. The latter, inhabited only by a caretaker and his family, is a popular anchorage for yachts from all over the world. 

The Southern Cooks is made up of the capital Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Manuae, Palmerston and Takutea. Takutea is an uninhabited bird sanctuary and managed by the Atiu Island Council. Manuae is the remaining uninhabited island. 

Cook Islanders have their own Maori language and each of the populated islands a distinct dialect. It has a population of around 13,000. The Cooks has been self-governing in free association with New Zealand since 1965. By virtue of that unique relationship, all Cook Islanders hold New Zealand passports. The country is governed by 25-member Parliament elected by universal suffrage. The Cook Islands Parliamentary system is modelled on the Westminster system of Britain. The Queens Representative is Head of State. A House of Ariki (traditional paramount chiefs) counsels and advises government, as does the Koutu Nui, a body of traditional chiefs. 

This is a delightful Pacific country where the ‘metropolis’ of Rarotonga offers a wide range of activities, accommodation and cuisine and visitors can choose to be as busy as they wish. A short inter-island flight away are the less developed southern group islands each offering something different. 

Travelling to the isolated northern islands by inter-island flight or boat, one savours a South Pacific rarely seen by outsiders. Due to distance and infrequency of transport there are fewer visitors to the northern group islands. 

But wherever you turn you see bright tropical colours and movement, whether it is the sway of palms and sea in the trade winds, or dancers entertaining at one of the many nightspots found on Rarotonga and Aitutaki. While you may nearly always hear the ocean, you will always feel the warmth of the people and their tropical paradise. The Cook Islands truly is a slice of heaven. For more information pick up your copy of Cook Islands Escape magazine.