The magnificent and remote Aitutaki island group is a triangular-shaped ‘almost’-atoll rising up 4000 metres from the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
Aitutaki consists of three volcanic and 12 coral islets (motu). It was probably first settled around 900 AD and one of its great legendary Polynesian discoverers was Ru who named it Utataki Enua O Ru Ki Te Moana – meaning The Leading of a Cargo of People by Ru Over the Ocean.
The first recorded discovery by Europeans was Captain Bligh on the “Bounty”. He arrived on April 11 1789 and shortly afterwards the famous mutiny occurred. Bligh returned later on July 25 1792. He is credited with introducing the paw paw fruit to Aitutaki.
The first missionary to the Cooks, John Williams, landed on Aitutaki before any of the other Cooks and there is a large, airy coral block church in Arutanga, the main township, which bears testament to his success in converting the people to Christianity.
Life on Aitutaki moves at a wonderfully relaxed tempo which is why it is such a popular destination for visitors who fly in from Rarotonga for day trips as well as extended stays.
The lagoon can be approached in leisurely fashion in traditional outrigger canoes for quiet paddling just off the beach or in more sophisticated launches favored by foreign anglers who know its reputation for saltwater flyfishing for the fighting bonefish.
The motu which are mainly at the outer perimeter of the lagoon are wonderful landing places for the day cruises available for visitors. The favorite islets are Akaiami and One Foot Island.
— Information courtesy of the Cook Islands Covernment
The Coral Route
TEAL introduced the ‘Coral Route’ service in 1951, ferrying passengers from Auckland’s harbour across to Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands, and Tahiti in luxury Solent flying boats.
“The TEAL ‘airport’ for Cook Islands was located on Motu Akaiami in Aitutaki lagoon. Motu in the local language-meaning islet. Here the giant Solents landed and then set anchor a short distance off the motu. A clinker built lighter would then ferry passengers to the small wharf and from there they would walk to the ‘Terminal’ for a meal and refreshments while the plane was re-fuelled.
On occasion, and to the delight of all but the most anxious business traveller, weather further ahead on the Coral Route would demand that a flying boat spend the night on Motu Akaiami. A message would be relayed back to the main island of Aitutaki and a small flotilla of canoes and supply boats would set sail for the motu. On board would be the makings for an island feast, complete with young hula dancers to entertain the stranded passengers and crew while the food was prepared.
Today, a small resort has been built on the exact spot where the original TEAL terminal stood. The Maroro Village is a link to the past when the well to do of the 1950’s, including movie stars such as John Wayne, Carrie Grant and the like, stopped for a few hours or even overnight while the planes were serviced, or waiting for weather to clear. Aitutuki has been described as easily the most desirable destination in the South Seas”. –– Courtesy www.teal.co.nz