Explore the Cook Islands

The Pacific Ocean is an enormous body of water, but speckled amid its waters are a number of small island groups, one of which is the Cook Islands.

In fact, the Cook islands are so small that the majority of Cook Islanders actually live in New Zealand, which has a Cook Islander population that is about three times the number of people who actually do live on the islands.

The island group is comprised of 15 islands, with the capital Avarua, which means `two harbours’ located on the island of Rarotonga. This is where the country’s only international airport is located, but it is no booming metropolis as the town has just one main road. However, the fact that the Cook Islands are not over-populated is one of the group’s greatest charms as you can certainly find serenity amid some spectacular marine environments here.

One of the wonderful places where you can, literally, get away from it all is Aitutaki, an atoll which consists of three volcanic islands and 12 coral islets which front on to a gorgeous blue lagoon. The atoll is best reached by plane from Raratonga, and it has a couple of resorts and villas in which to stay. One of the attractions here is One Foot Island, which is renowned for its palm-fringed beach and its magnificent views over the lagoon.

Another island of interest is Mangaia, which geologists believe is the oldest island in the Pacific, having been created about 18 millions years ago by volcanic eruptions. Mangaia is the most southerly of the Cook Islands. It has a centralised volcanic plateau in its centre, which is ringed by 60 metre-high cliffs of fossilised coral. This island has some fantastic caves to explore, and it sits atop a mountain which rises 4,750 metres (15,600 ft) straight up from the ocean floor.

The Cook Islands are perfect for indulging in a range of marine activities. Snorkelling and scuba diving are, of course, popular because of the number of reefs and lagoons which surround the island, but fishing, sailing and whale watching are also available.

Fortunately, much of the culture has been preserved and the opportunity to visit villages and to attend cultural performances should be accepted so as to better get to know the traditions of the people, who are friendly and welcoming and extremely laid back.

The Cook Islands is not the place to go if you prefer a hectic holiday. However, if you wish to relax and unwind and enjoy some spectacular scenery in a magnificent place that does not get crowded, it’s worth the effort to plan a visit.

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