Aitutaki, also traditionally known as Araʻura and Utataki,[2] is one of the Cook Islands, north of Rarotonga. It has a population of approximately 2,000. Aitutaki is the second most visited island of the Cook Islands. The main village is Arutanga (Arutunga) on the west side.

Aitutaki Aerial
NASA picture of Aitutaki
LocationCentral-Southern Pacific Ocean
Coordinates18°51′S 159°47′W / 18.85°S 159.79°WCoordinates: 18°51′S 159°47′W / 18.85°S 159.79°W
ArchipelagoCook Islands
Total islands15
Area18.3[1] km2 (7.1 sq mi)
Largest settlementArutanga


Aitutaki is sometimes described as an "almost atoll", for it consists of a lagoon within an encircling atoll, with a significant area of high land on one side. It has a maximum elevation of approximately 123 metres (404 ft) with the hill known as Maunga Pu close to its northernmost point. The land area of the atoll is 18.05 km2 (6.97 sq mi), of which the main island occupies 16.8 km2 (6.5 sq mi).[2] The Ootu Peninsula, protruding east from the main island in a southerly direction along the eastern rim of the reef, takes up 1.75 km2 (0.68 sq mi) out of the main island.[3] For the lagoon, area figures between 50 and 74 km2 (19 and 29 sq mi) are found. Satellite image measurement suggests that the larger figure also includes the reef flat, which is commonly not considered part of a lagoon.[4]

The barrier reef that forms the basis of Aitutaki is roughly the shape of an equilateral triangle with sides 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) in length. The southern edge of the triangle is almost totally below the surface of the ocean, and the eastern side is composed of a string of small islands including Mangere, Akaiami, and Tekopua.

The western side of the atoll contains many of Aitutaki's important features including a boat passage through the barrier reef allowing for anchorage close to shore at Arutanga. Towards the south of the side is a small break in the barrier reef, allowing access for small boats to the lagoon which covers most of the southern part of the triangle. Further to the north is the bulk of the main island. Its fertile volcanic soil provides tropical fruits and vegetables. Two of Aitutaki's 15 islets (motus) are also volcanic. The rest are made of coral.

Aitutaki Airport is located close to the triangle's northern point. There is an area suitable to land flying boats in the southeastern part of the lagoon.


Topographic map of Aitutaki
Districts and tapere of Aitutaki according to the constitution[5]
Electoral circonscriptions of Aitutaki

Aitutaki is subdivided in 8 districts. The districts are further subdivided into 19 tapere (land holdings by tribe lineages).

The eight villages are:[6]

  1. Amuri (Te Upoko Enua)
  2. Ureia (Uriuri A Punga)
  3. Arutanga (Rutanga O Te Toa)
  4. Reureu (Te Mata O Teerui)
  5. Nikaupara (Te Maru O Toi)
  6. Vaipae (Te Vaipaepae O Pau)
  7. Tautu (Titi Ai Tonga)
  8. Vaipeka (Te Arekarioi)

The eight districts are subdivided into 19 tapere as follows:

  • Amuri District
    • Amuri Tapere
    • Punganui Tapere
  • Anaunga District
    • Anaunga Tapere
    • Punoa Tapere
  • Arutanga District
    • Arutanga Tapere
    • Reureu Tapere
    • Nukunoni Tapere
    • Ureia Tapere
  • Avanui District
    • Avanui Tapere
    • Vaipeka Tapere
  • Taravao District
    • Taravao Tapere
    • Vaiau Tapere
    • Vaiorea Tapere
  • Tautu District
    • Mataotane Tapere
    • Tautu Tapere
  • Vaipae District
    • Oako Tapere
    • Vaipae Tapere
  • Vaitupa District
    • Taakarere Tapere
    • Vaitupa Tapere


Polynesians first settled Aitutaki around AD 1225-1430. They maintained voyaging contact over a wide area, for the geochemical source of basalt adze heads found in this island can be traced back to quarries on Samoa to the west and the Society Islands to the east.[7]

The first known European contact was with Captain Bligh and the crew of HMS Bounty when they also arrived in Aitutaki on 11 April 1789, prior to the infamous mutiny.

Aitutaki was the first of the Cook Islands to accept Christianity, after London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary John Williams visited in 1821. The oldest church in the country, the Cook Islands Christian Church in Arutanga, was built by Papeiha (Bora Bora) and Vahapata (Raiatea), two LMS teachers Williams had left behind.

On 8-9 October 1900 seven instruments of cession of Rarotonga and other islands were signed by their chiefs and people; and by a British Proclamation issued at the same time the cessions were accepted, the islands being declared parts of Her Britanic Majesty's dominions.[8] Uniquely, these instruments did not include Aitutaki. It appears that, though the inhabitants of Aitutaki regarded themselves as British subjects, the Crown's title was uncertain, and the island was formally annexed by Proclamation dated 9 October 1900.[9][10] It was the only island in the Cook Islands that was annexed rather than ceded.

In 1942 New Zealand and American forces were stationed on the island, building the two-way airstrip that can be seen today. This airport, and one on the northernmost Penrhyn Island, were to be used as bases by the Allies during World War II. The first aircraft, an American light bomber, landed on November 22, 1942. When the war ended some of the servicemen remained and married the locals.

During the 1950s Aitutaki's lagoon was used as a stopover for TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) flying boats on the famous Coral Route. The islet of Akaiami was used as a resting stop for passengers, who often lay about until the aircraft was refuelled for two hours. These operations ceased in 1960, and the only reminder are the remains of the purpose-built jetty on Akaiami. The flying boat Aranui, which was part of this service, is now on display at the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, New Zealand.

Two of Aitutaki's motus (small islands), Rapota and Moturakau, were the locations of the first series of the UK reality television program Shipwrecked in 2000.

More recently, in 2001, Steve Fossett passed over just south of Aitutaki in the balloon Solo Spirit during his round-the-world trip.

In 2006, the island was used as the location for the tribal council in the US TV program Survivor: Cook Islands. Surrounding islands were used for tribal camps and crew locations. One of the tribes was named Aitutaki (or 'Aitu') after the island.

Then, not long afterwards, Shipwrecked returned again, with Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands 2006. This was filmed on the same islands as before. One year later, Aitutaki was the locale of an episode of Survivorman.

On 10–11 February 2010, Aitutaki was hit by Cyclone Pat. The high winds of the storm ripped the roofs off of most houses and damaged other buildings including a school and a hospital. At least 60% of houses were damaged. There were no reported deaths but a few minor injuries were reported.[11][12][13] An Air Force Hercules cargo plane and an army engineering team were provided by New Zealand along with an initial $200,000.[14][15] Cook Island MP Teina Bishop said "New Zealand aid should have been sent to the devastated area much sooner.".[16]

External image
Pacific Islands Forum leaders at the retreat venue on One Foot Island, Aitutaki, Cook Islands

In June 2010 the island was nominated "the world's most beautiful island" by Tony Wheeler the founder of Lonely Planet travel guide.[17]

The delegates of the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum, which had its main venue in Rarotonga, travelled to One Foot Island for a 2-day retreat.[18]


The population of Aitutaki is 1,771.[1]

Places of interest

A beach on Aitutaki

Aitutaki is famous for its turquoise central lagoon, uninhabited islands and palm-fringed beaches. Another advantage is that until now it has been spared by mass tourism. Noteworthy also are an old church (the oldest in the Cook Islands) and some gigantic Banyan trees (Ficus prolixa).

Tapuaetai (One Foot Island), a small islet in the south-east of the lagoon, is often said to be the most important attraction. It is regarded as providing the visitor with the best views of the Aitutaki lagoon and, depending on the tide, one is able to walk on a sandbank a decent distance away from Tapuaetai. The trip to this island is the most frequented trip available on Aitutaki. One Foot Island was awarded "Australasia's Leading Beach" at the World Travel Awards held in Sydney in June 2008.

Air Rarotonga offers daily flights and a day tour from Rarotonga.


Government jobs are the source of income for the largest number of locals followed closely by tourism. Tourism numbers have started to climb recently with the exposure Aitutaki has been given by travel programmes. The recent addition of a newly built resort has helped to increase tourism numbers.


The most popular sport on Aitutaki is Rugby union and netball, followed closely by volleyball. With a population of 2,000 residing on the island and 50,000 overseas, there are four clubs on Aitutaki and eight teams (each club having a first team and a reserve team). The best players on the island play for the Aitutaki island team against their main rivals Rarotonga.

Minor islands of Aitutaki

Aitutaki-Motu Tapuaetai
Tapuaetai (One Foot Island) in the southern part of Aitutaki Atoll
Reef outside Aititaki, Cook Islands
A reef outside of Aitutaki

The main island of Aitutaki occupies the northern part of the atoll, which is roughly triangular in shape. The minor islands form part of the perimeter of the lagoon. All islands, including the main island and its peninsula Ootu, are listed starting clockwise from the northernmost point of the atoll:

Island Type Area Location
(ha) (acre)
Aitutaki volcanic main island 16,800 42,000

18°51′32″S 159°47′01″W / 18.85889°S 159.78361°W

Ootu motu peninsula 175 430  
Akitua motu 14.86 36.7 18°51′00″S 159°45′25″W / 18.85000°S 159.75694°W
Angarei motu 13.07 32.3 18°51′25″S 159°45′12″W / 18.85694°S 159.75333°W
Ee (Niura) motu 29.21 72.2  
Mangere motu 8.54 21.1  
Papau motu 5.26 13.0  
Tavaerua Iti motu 4.12 10.2  
Tavaerua motu 12.47 30.8  
Akaiami motu 41.91 103.6  
Muritapua motu 4.04 10.0  
Tekopua motu 71.29 176.2  
Tapuaetai (One Foot Island) motu 5.96 14.7  
Tapuaeta cay sand cay 0.95 2.3  
Motukitiu motu 11.47 28.3  
Moturakau volcanic 3.86 9.5  
Rapota volcanic 3.1 7.7  
Maina sand cay 16.96 41.9  
Aitutaki Atoll near-atoll 18,050 44,600  

Ootu Peninsula is of coral formation, but attached to the main volcanic island, thus a peninsula. If it were an island, it would be the largest of the minor islands. Ootu Peninsula does belong to tapere and district of Vaitupa. The minor islands are not allocated to any districts or tapere, but they do form part of the larger constituencies.

All minor islets, except Akitua and Maina, are part of Vaipae-Tautu Constituency. Akitua is part of Amuri-Ureia Constituency, as is Ootu Peninsula, just north of Akitua. Maina is part of Arutanga-Reureu-Nikaupara Constituency. The main island is equally divided among the three constituencies Arutanga-Reureu-Nikaupara (southwest), Vaipae-Tautu (southeast), and Amuri-Ureia (north).


Araura College is the only secondary school on Aitutaki. The school has the role of teaching approximately 200 students from Year 7 (Form 1) to Year 13 (Form 7).

The island has two government schools and one church school: Araura Primary school, Vaitau Primary School and Tekaaroa Primary School. Tekaaroa Primary School is a private special character school which is the designated Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) school. Araura Primary is the larger of the primary schools, catering for the mostly populated part of the island and Vaitau Primary caters mostly for the Vaipae and Tautu villages. Tekaaroa Primary School caters for the Seventh Day Adventist children on the island.

All schools follow the Cook Islands Curriculum Framework. This is largely based on the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, as most of the young people will eventually migrate to New Zealand to study there at universities or polytechnics. Students from Year 11 (Form 5) and Year 13 (Form 7) are the exception, as they study from the New Zealand Curriculum Framework at NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3.


  1. ^ a b c "Aitutaki, The Cook Islands". Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Discoverers of the Cook Islands and the Names They Gave: 1. Aitutaki". Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  3. ^ Atoll Research Bulletin, 190. "Almost-Atoll of Aitutaki: Reef Studies in the Cook Islands", D. R. Stoddard, P. E. Gibbs (eds) Archived 2009-09-18 at the Wayback Machine August 13, 1975 (12.5 MB)
  4. ^ Barott, KL; Caselle, JE; Dinsdale, EA; Friedlander, AM; Maragos, JE; Obura, D; Rohwer, FL; Sandin, SA; Smith, JE; Zgliczynski, B (2010). "The lagoon at Caroline/Millennium atoll, Republic of Kiribati: natural history of a nearly pristine ecosystem". PLoS One. 5: e10950. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010950. PMC 2880600. PMID 20539746.
  5. ^ "Constitution Amendment (No 11) Act 1982". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  6. ^ The Parliament of the Cook Islands: Island Government Act 2007
  7. ^ Crowe, Andrew (2018). Pathway of the Birds: The Voyaging Achievements of Māori and their Polynesian Ancestors. Auckland, New Zealand: Bateman. ISBN 9781869539610.
  8. ^ "Commonwealth and Colonial Law" by Kenneth Roberts-Wray, London, Stevens, 1966. P. 891
  9. ^ "Commonwealth and Colonial Law" by Kenneth Roberts-Wray, London, Stevens, 1966. P. 761
  10. ^ N.Z. Parliamentary Pp., A1 (1900)
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Wide range of housing in Aitutaki wrecked by Cyclone Pat, but resorts escape damage". Radio New Zealand International. 11 February 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  13. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2012-07-08. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  14. ^ "NZ set to juggle resources in cyclone-hit Pacific". Otago Daily Times. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  15. ^ "NZ gives $200k to cyclone-hit Cooks". Television New Zealand. 13 February 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  16. ^ "NZ aid response to Cook cyclone criticised". Television New Zealand. 15 February 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  17. ^ Reuters, 18 June 2010, "Travel Picks: Top places to wed and survive a breakup", Miral Fahmy (ed.); accessed 29 January 2011.
  18. ^ "As it happened: Pacific Islands Forum". Retrieved 2 May 2017.

External links

Aitkin Municipal Airport

Aitkin Municipal Airport (ICAO: KAIT, FAA LID: AIT), also known as Steve Kurtz Field, is a public use airport located two nautical miles (4 km) northeast of the central business district of Aitkin, a city in Aitkin County, Minnesota, United States. It is owned by the County & City of Aitkin.Although most U.S. airports use the same three-letter location identifier for the FAA and IATA, this airport is assigned AIT by the FAA but has no designation from the IATA (which assigned AIT to Aitutaki, Cook Islands).

Aitutaki Airport

Aitutaki Airport is the airport for Aitutaki one of the Cook Islands (IATA: AIT, ICAO: NCAI). The airport was originally constructed by the United States and New Zealand militaries during World War II. The runway was upgraded in 2004.The terminal building at Aitutaki Airport is a roof with no or few windows. There is a small convenience stall where snacks and drinks can be purchased. Resort meet-and-greet stalls are also inside the terminal. Air Rarotonga serves Aitutaki with Saab 340A and Embraer Bandeirante aircraft.

Amuri-Ureia (Cook Islands electorate)

Amuri-Ureia is a Cook Islands electoral division returning one member to the Cook Islands Parliament. Its current representative is Toanui Isamaela, who has held the seat since 2010.

The electorate was created in 1981, when the Constitution Amendment (No. 9) Act 1980 adjusted electorate boundaries and split the electorate of Aitutaki into three. It originally consisted of the Tapere of Punoua, Anaunga, Punganui, Ureia, and Amuri on the island of Aitutaki, but has since been expanded to also include the Tapere of Taakarere, Vaitupa, and Vaipeka and the Motu of Akitua.

Cook Islands Federation

The Cook Islands Federation was created in 1891, after the Kingdom of Rarotonga was given the island of Aitutaki. It lasted until 1901, when it was given to New Zealand.

Cyclone Pat

Severe Tropical Cyclone Pat was a small but strong tropical cyclone that passed directly over Aitutaki, Cook Islands, in southern Pacific Ocean on February 10, 2010. Part of a series of storms to impact the group of islands early that year, Pat was first identified as a tropical depression on February 6 well to the northeast of the Samoan Islands. The storm steadily organized as it moved generally southeast, becoming a tropical cyclone on February 8. Turning to the south, intensification began in earnest and the system acquired hurricane-force winds within 48 hours of being named. The 445 km (275 mi) wide system displayed annular characteristics and a 19 km (12 mi) wide eye. Pat reached its peak strength early on February 10 as a severe tropical cyclone with winds of 140 km/h (85 mph) and a barometric pressure of 960 mbar (hPa; 28.35 inHg). Hours later it struck Aitutaki, producing gusts in excess of 185 km/h (115 mph) on the island. Hostile wind shear then prompted rapid weakening of the cyclone. The system degraded below gale-intensity on February 11, just 24 hours after it peaked, and was last noted early on February 12.

Battering Aitutaki with wind gusts in excess of 185 km/h (115 mph), Cyclone Pat devastated the island. Approximately 78 percent of homes were damaged, with 72 structures destroyed. The electrical grid was left completely offline and supply of water was largely lost. Agriculture also experienced tremendous impact, with most crops completely lost. Damage on Aitutaki amounted to US$13.7 million; however, casualties were minimal with only eight minor injuries reported. Recovery efforts began immediately after the storm, with the Red Cross and the Government of New Zealand aiding the local government. A reconstruction plan was enacted by the Cook Islands within a month and subsequently funded by New Zealand. Owing to its destructive effects, the name Pat was later retired and replaced with Pili.

Geoffrey Henry

Sir Geoffrey Arama Henry KBE (16 November 1940 – 9 May 2012) was a Cook Island politician who was twice the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. He was leader of the Cook Islands Party (CIP) from 1979 to 2006.

Henry Puna

Henry Tuakeu Puna (born 29 July 1949) is the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. He is leader of the Cook Islands Party and has been Prime Minister since November 2010.

Kete Ioane

Kete Ioane (30 October 1950 – 13 February 2015) was a Cook Islands politician. He was a Cook Islands Democratic Party Member of Parliament from 1999 to 2010 and served as a cabinet minister between 2006 and 2009.

List of people on the postage stamps of the Cook Islands

This is a list of people on stamps issued by the Cook Islands and its constituent islands of Aitutaki and Penrhyn Island.

Manuae (Cook Islands)

Manuae is an uninhabited atoll in the southern group of the Cook Islands, 100 kilometres south-east of Aitutaki. It is administratively part of Aitutaki, but does not belong to any district or tapere of Aitutaki. It is, however, part of Arutanga-Reureu-Nikaupara Constituency.


Moturakau is one of 22 islands in the Aitutaki atoll of the Cook Islands. It is located in the southeast of Aitutaki Lagoon between the larger islands of Rapota and Tekopua, six kilometres to the southeast of the main island of Aitutaki.

Moturakau has been home to the 'Sharks' for four years of Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands in the UK, a reality TV programme.

Postage stamps and postal history of Aitutaki

The postage stamps and postal history of Aitutaki describes the stamps used in Aitutaki.


Rapota is one of 22 islands in the Aitutaki atoll of the Cook Islands. It is located in the south of Aitutaki Lagoon to the west of the smaller island of Moturakau, six kilometres to the southeast of the main island of Aitutaki.

Rapota has been home to the 'Tigers' for four years of Shipwrecked: Battle of the Islands in the UK, a reality TV programme.


Tapuaetai (tapuae: footprint; ta'i: one), or "One Foot Island", is one of 22 islands in the Aitutaki atoll of the Cook Islands. It is located on the southeastern perimeter of Aitutaki Lagoon immediately to the southwest of the larger island of Tekopua, seven kilometres to the east of the main island of Aitutaki.

Teina Bishop

Teina Bishop (born 11 April 1959) is a Cook Islands politician and former Cabinet Minister. He represents the constituency of Arutanga-Nikaupara-Reureu.

Bishop was born in Aitutaki and was educated at Araura Primary school, Aitutaki Junior High School, and the University of the South Pacific before working as a teacher. He was first elected to Parliament in the 1999 election.

In 2003 he resigned from parliament over budget cuts to his constituency, precipitating a by-election in which he was returned unopposed.Bishop was elected Deputy Speaker in 2004 and held the position until 2005. He served briefly as Minister for the Environment and Outer Islands in 2006.


Tekopua is one of 22 islands in the Aitutaki atoll of the Cook Islands. It is located on the southeastern perimeter of Aitutaki Lagoon between the smaller islands of Muritapua and Tapuaetai, seven kilometres to the southeast of the main island of Aitutaki.

Vaipae-Tautu (Cook Islands electorate)

Vaipae-Tautu is a Cook Islands electoral division returning one member to the Cook Islands Parliament. Its current representative is Mona Ioane, who has held the seat since 2010.

The electorate was created in 1981, when the Constitution Amendment (No. 9) Act 1980 adjusted electorate boundaries and split the electorate of Aitutaki into three.

Whistling duck

The whistling ducks or tree ducks are a subfamily, Dendrocygninae, of the duck, goose and swan family of birds, Anatidae. They are not true ducks. In other taxonomic schemes, they are considered a separate family, Dendrocygnidae. Some taxonomists list only one genus, Dendrocygna, which contains eight living species, and one undescribed extinct species from Aitutaki of the Cook Islands, but other taxonomists also list the white-backed duck (Thalassornis leuconotus) under the subfamily.

Southern - Nga-pu-Toru
Southern - other


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