Atiu Beach & Forest
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Atiu

Situated 187 kilometres, only 50 minutes by air, northeast of Rarotonga, Atiu is an island of unexpected life and lush forest. Unlike the endless turquoise lagoon waters of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, Atiu offers a quiet, jungle paradise with thundering breakers on the close-by coral reef. It is one of the more popular destinations in the Southern Group of the Cook Islands, but remains off the beaten track and is well loved by those who make the journey.

Makatea
The most striking feature on the island is the stunning fossilized coral cliffs, also known as makatea. These jagged walls stand 6m high and were caused by geological upheaval thousands of years ago that literally raised the island and surrounding reef up out of the ocean – an activity that continues, but at a significantly slower pace.

Atiu Warriors
Atiu has a long and infamous history for violent and warlike ways, and many Atiu warriors have led bloody raiding parties on the neighbouring islands, particularly Mitiaro and Mauke who were ruled by Atiu ariki (chiefs) until New Zealand took control over the country in the early 1900s. However, since that time Atiu has drastically changed its reputation, and has since become renowned for its environment and culture.

Diverse Natural Habitats
No other island in the Cook Islands archipelago has such a diverse collection of natural habitats – fertile swamp, a fresh water lake, sandy beaches, lagoon, thick jungle vegetation, underground caves (the most famous of which is Anatakitaki), and an interior volcanic plateau with red clay earth.

Island of Birds
Atiu is also known as Enuamanu, Island of Birds or Island of Insects, because it is said these were the only things living on the island when the Polynesia voyagers first arrived. Atiu is home to a large number of bird species, including the unique cave-dwelling Kopeka, the Rarotonga Flycatcher also known as the Kakerori, and the Rimatara Lorikeet that was reintroduced to its native habit in April 2007.

Captain Cook
It is unclear when exactly Atiu was settled by Polynesian voyagers, though it is thought that these voyagers came from Samoa and the Society Islands in French Polynesia. The island was then “re-discovered” by Captain James Cook, and was one of only two islands in the group where Cook actually stepped ashore – on 3 April 1777, at Oravaru Beach on the western side of island.

Atiu has retained stronger cultural traditions than a number of the other islands, and even though the population is only 500 people, visitors are sure to have more contact with local Cook Islanders. Atiu is famous for their tapa (bark clothe), tivaevae (hand stitched quilts), coffee plantations and tumunu or bush-beer drinking sessions, which are similar to Kava ceremonies held in many other parts of the Pacific Islands.

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