The Beautiful Islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki
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Let Journey Pacific help you create your personalized Cook Islands dream vacation.
Whether you are looking for a Cook Islands Honeymoon, a Cook Islands Wedding or just a vacation to relax, explore and experience these amazing islands, Journey Pacific is here to help. We have many different Cook Island Resorts from simple beach bungalows to 5 Star Luxury Resorts, just let us know what you are looking for and tell us what your budget is and we will help you plan a trip to remember. We will also help you plan your Cook Islands Day Tours, take a circle island 4WD day tour or a trip over to Aitutaki or relax on one of the many daytime or evening sunset cruises.
The Islands of The Cooks
With a mix of coral atolls and volcanic islands, a good few of the nine Southern islands could be listed as “must see before I die”. An idyllic climate, stunning scenery, warm-hearted people and a desirable way of life where “hurry” has not been coined, make them irresistible. Bush clad volcanic peaks descend to glistening white sands and the inevitable palm-fringed blue lagoons. Whether you choose to stay in the Capital at one of our Rarotonga Resorts, or make your way over to the breathtakingly beautiful Aitutaki and stay in one of our Aitutaki Resorts, rest assured we will do all possible to help you find the perfect place for your dream Cook Islands vacation.
The Culture of The Cooks
The Cook Islands culture is moulded by its Polynesian heritage mixed with a European influence. A melange of magical mystical islands shrouded in legends of romance and piracy, escapades and hidden treasures, all of which have shaped the traditions and customs that give the Cook Island people their own unique identity
The Call of the Drum
Stories abound of marauding tribes, romantic liaisons between ill-fated clans, seafaring adventures and cultural clashes. But what defines the Cook Islanders from their neighbours is the call of the drum. Considered some of the best – arguably the finest – entertainers in the Pacific, Cook Islanders come by this reputation honestly. The art, skill and grace of their dancing and their drumming take you on a spiritual journey as anyone who has experienced the traditional Ura will verify. Based on legends that relate through body movement and music, stories of love, desire, hurt and passion they reflect a cultural heritage that is alive and beating strong.
Music of the Cook Islands
The call of the drum is loudest in the Cook Islands – the rhythmic pounding of a tattoo on hollowed out tree trunks is a talent taught from childhood. Music is a part of life, from the chants and songs of the Kaparima, hymns heard harmoniously echoing in the hallows of the churches; from the choirs on Sunday to the string bands and their combos of electronic and traditional ukuleles made from coconut shells that pulsate from the night clubs all over this part of the Cook Islands.
Numerous festivals throughout the year reflect this talent. There are many competitions held annually where the competitive spirit between each island comes to the fore. Regular international awards are a testament to this phenomenal talent./
Arts and Crafts
Then there are the arts and crafts. Considered as some of the finest artists and carvers in the Pacific, it’s the decorative wood carvings, tattoos and tapa cloth designs which have a distinctive Cook Islands touch. The missionaries considered tattooing to be taboo in the mid 1800s, but fortunately it survived and is re-emerging in fine tradition. Designs and motifs are derived from heritage and ancient lore and are worn with pride, symbolizing one’s traditional inheritance. Check out the wood carvings, weaving, shell and seed hat bands, woven pandanus mats and of course the amazing paintings that you will find in many gift shops and in your resorts. Also no self-respecting lady should return from the Cook Islands without one of the hand printed designs of the Pareus and mu-mus. Polynesian identity is found everywhere in the Cook Islands – in museums and galleries, in restored sites and in everyday life. A true indication of the innate artistic spirit contained in the body of every Cook Islander
The People of The Cooks
This melange of magical and mystical Cook Islands is shrouded in traditions and legends handed down from generation to generation since the arrival of the Polynesians – believed to be around 800AD. The Northern Group of islanders are thought to be from Samoa and Tonga and the Southern Group largely from the Society Islands and the Marquesas; and are part of what was believed to be the last great wave of Polynesian migration from Asia, which began as far back as 1500BC.
It was also around 800 to 1000AD that Raiatea in the Society Islands became established as the centre of culture and religion in the Pacific and dispatched voyagers to Hawaii, the Tuamotu Archipelago and also the Cooks, to rule over the islands. It was they who brought the religion, cultural traditions, medicine and the language – which was Maori
Born of the Sea
Cook Islanders are born of the sea. True Polynesians are known as the finest seafarers of the Pacific, voyaging across its huge waters searching for new lands and beginnings. Their bravery, skill and sheer strength far outpace those of the legendary adventurers from Portugal or Spain, the Dutch or the English. Not surprising considering their natural playground of the Pacific. The popularity of canoeing and paddling today reflect the times of the great vakas landing on the islands’ shores and as such are regarded as sports that are a rightful part of their inheritance.
Great Entertainers of the Pacific
It is the natural charm of the Cook Island people that lures visitors in. Friendly, high-spirited and welcoming – they are the great entertainers of the Pacific and regarded as the best dancers and drummers in Polynesia. Festivals are an important part of the annual calendar, where the competition between the islands to produce the most outstanding performers is part of the national pride.
Strong Family Bonds
The inherent traits of genuine care for others and love of family are apparent no matter the island background. The bond of family is vital and everyone is a part of a clan that is connected to the tribal chiefs (ariki). Land and title inheritance also come from the same gene pool, which has influenced the way of life for centuries. Reunions, marriages, births and deaths are marked as special family occasions which ensure a continuation of the bloodlines. Extended family is an integral part of the Cook Island existence with children often living with grandparents and nephews and nieces living with aunts and uncles. Adoption of family members is also widely encouraged. So knowing where you fit in the family tree is a vital part of being a member of a Cook Island dynasty.
The ariki who ruled in pre-European times are still regarded as the leaders and their titles earn them respect throughout the Cook Islands. As the first to adopt Christianity, it was their influence which encouraged the Cook Islanders to adopt the faith. It was also their approval which helped establish the British and New Zealand colonial rule.
The Mataiapo is also a hereditary chiefly title and as heads of sub-tribes, they are subject to the ariki as far as the entire tribe is concerned and owe traditional allegiance. Otherwise they are largely independent as their own family group heads and assist the ariki in land matters and traditional ceremonies. Traditionally they were appointed by the ariki in recognition of their ability and service as were the rangatira – also a sub-chief – and in ancient times were usually the brothers and sisters of the ariki.
Allure of the Islands
The Cook Islanders, like any true blooded Maori, enjoy pomp, splendour and big ceremonies with traditional customs and much feasting – an investiture is no exception. The beauty and charm of the Cook Islands themselves is matched by the friendliness of the people who think nothing at all of offering a lift, striking up a conversation on the beach or extending an invitation to dinner. Embedded in the culture, and consequently the people, this outgoing spirit is a celebration of the fact that something as uncomplicated as a warm smile is always there – underlining the allure of the Cook Islands
The History of The Cooks
Cook Islanders regard themselves first and foremost as true Polynesians connecting directly back to the finest seafarers of the vast Pacific. It is due to their sophisticated navigation that took them fearlessly through vast ocean tracts in search of new lands that the Cook Islands came into being. Positioned at the very centre of Polynesia, the Cook Islands stretch out in a scattering of 2 million square kilometres. Each island has its special place within the group. But their origins are owed to the Polynesians who arrived in Rarotonga around 800 AD. These ancient voyagers had set sail from Tupua’i, now French Polynesia
The Great Polynesian Migration
Continuing the Polynesian habit of sea bound exploration and migration, Cook Islands legend also claims that the great Maori migrations to New Zealand began from Rarotonga as early as the 5th century AD.
But the great Polynesian migration began in 1500BC when the islands were gradually populated by Maori ancestors who landed in their Vakas (magnificent giant double hulled canoes which are still part of the traditional way of life) guided by the stars and the famous power of Polynesian navigation.
With the exception of a stopover from the Spanish explorers Alvaro de Mendana sighting Pulapuka in 1595 and Pedro Fernandex de Quiros sighting Rakahanga in 1606, all was quiet in the Cook Islands until around 1773.
Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook, the great explorer who, on the orders of his country, was voyaging the South Pacific for possible land acquisition, In 1773 he sighted Manuae, then subsequently Palmerston, Takutea, Mangaia and Atiu in 1777.
Those following left a more questionable wake. The redoubtable Captain William Bligh first sighted Aitutaki in 1798 and soon after, following the very bloody Mutiny on the Bounty, the buccaneer Fletcher Christian having seconded Captain Bligh’s very own boat, sailed into Rarotonga.
The Climate of The Cooks
Cooled by the gentle breezes of the Pacific, the climate of these islands is sunny and pleasant. Roughly speaking, there are two seasons: from November through May the climate is hot and humid, and from June through October the climate is warm and dry. Most of the rain falls during the hot season, but there are also many lovely sunny days during these months, with refreshing trade-winds.
The Currency of The Cooks
In the Cook Islands the currency is the New Zealand dollar.
The Language of The Cooks
In The Cook Islands the languages spoken are English and Cook Island Maori.