Aitutaki Atoll Island: Cook Islands Most Renowned Attraction
Many consider Cook Islands as one of the Pacific’s best kept secret. This still remains true, despite the fact that Cook Islands recently became familiar due to its prominence in the media, thanks to the Survivor reality show franchise. The show used one of the atolls on Cook Islands as the venue for the reality show competition, yet it still manages to attract only around 100,000 tourists a year. This is a shame; Cook Islands are a spectacular look, a place one should travel to no matter what the cost. It is the perhaps the best Pacific paradise, a destination that steers clear from the usual Pacific clichés that one could find in a travel guide or a tourist manual. The Cook Islands offer a diverse range of attractions.
This is mainly due to the number of islands in the area. As the name already implies, the Cook Islands are a group of fifteen islands, the capital being Rarotonga, which is also the most visited island. But beyond Rarotonga is the Aitutaki Atoll, Cook Island’s second most visited islands. Unlike other similar places, Aitutaki is different because it offers a Pacific vacation at its rawest, unadulterated form. The islands, for one, do not have any high rise, five-star hotels. They do not have any extremely state of the art facilities. Not surprisingly, this can easily frighten any tourist who is not used to the simple life. Yet this is exactly what Cook Islands and Aitutaki offer. A travel and stay at the Aitutaki Atoll is like a vacation at its very core. One will not be hindered or distracted by manmade attractions, making it easier to appreciate the good life, the beauty of nature, the very essence of what Cook Islands is all about. A vacation at Aitutaki Atoll, without a doubt, is what life should be.
As one of the islands of Cook Islands, Aitutaki is also classified as an atoll, or an “almost atoll” as some sources would have it. In any case, an atoll is any island or coral that partially or completely encircles a lagoon. This is to say that the whole island of Aitutaki encircles a lagoon, which in turn means that water is everywhere on the island, wherever one looks. This adds charm to the already simple life in Aitutaki, making it seem like the ultimate island vacation. The island was said to be discovered by the legendary Polynesian Ru. In any case, the Polynesians settled on the island around 900 AD, and it took several years before the locals came to contact with other nationalities. European Willian Bligh and his crew were the first Europeans to ever come in contact with the locals of the island, although it maintained its local population.
Later on, the locals of Aitutaki accepted Christianity, being the first among the Cook Islands to do so. This is why the oldest church on the islands, the Cook Islands Christian Church, can be found in the capital of Aitutaki, Arutanga. The location of the island also served integral in world history—Aitutaki served as one of the bases of the Allies in the Second World War.
Aitutaki came to prominence thanks to two television shows—United Kingdom’s Shipwrecked and America’s Survivor: Cook Islands. These two shows were held on Aitutaki, with the name of the island itself having a significant exposure on the latter. Of course, considering that Survivor has a wider following around the world, this show probably made the islands more popular.
Today, Aitutaki has a population of roughly 2,000. Many of the tourists who travel to Cook Islands visit the Aitutaki Atoll; previously because it had the only aircraft landing facility on the islands, then later because of its own merits. The island may be second to Rarotonga, but it is certainly a league of its own when it comes to beauty.
Life on the islands
It may be argued that the Aitutaki Island is no different compared to the other islands. In a way, this may be true. But Aitutaki offers unique experiences and sights just the same. Perhaps one of its main draws is the quiet and simple life it offers. Because Rarotonga is the capital of Cook Islands, Aitutaki seems virginal, untouched by the claws of tourism. On the other hand, Rarotonga has a population of more than 10,000 people (a far cry from the 2,000 population of Aitutaki). And besides the airport, Rarotonga boasts of hotels and restaurants—and other manmade establishments.
In comparison, there are hardly any signs that Aitutaki is frequented by tourists. In fact, the place may actually seem backward or too rural. Many tourist guide materials or even online travel guides would note that the island seem very leisurely in pace, and that the markets and other places where people should converge do not offer too many activities. But again, this is actually the appeal of Aitutaki Atoll. The slow pace of life allows tourists who travel to the island to enjoy the merits of Aitutaki more. And these merits, of course, are plentiful.
What many do not know is that Aitutaki is actually a group of islands itself. Besides the main atoll, Aitutaki has other smaller islands. This is why one of the best things to do in Aitutaki is to tour the lagoon and the other smaller islands within the atoll. Such activity will give the tourists a glimpse of the real beauty of the island.
Aitutaki is slowly seeing some signs of chances—for instance, there are now manmade structures on the islands of Aitutaki that previously had none—but the beauty of the island remains the same. Again, there are very few places in the world that offers this pace and lifestyle. More glamorous places such as Tokyo and New York may offer the glitz and the elegance of a first world country, but anyone who would travel to these cities would realize how tiring and suffocating the busy and complicated lifestyle is. Aitutaki offers the exact opposite.