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Monday, 23rd September  2019 8:24:am

image005Aitutaki’s big lagoon and motus.The Aitutaki Lagoon in the Cook Islands is one of the most beautiful island lagoons in the world, with its world-famous stunning lagoon, coral reefs and small islets. The Aitutaki Lagoon is indeed breathtakingly beautiful with crystal clear, turquoise, azure blue waters, dotted with small, mostly uninhabited islets.

These islets are called ' motu '. The lagoon is situated in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean with thousands of kilometres of open sea, away from any mainland or continent. The lagoon has recently been made famous for another reason. Survivor Cook Islands was filmed there with all the publicity that came with it and visitors can take the opportunity of visiting the Aitutaki Survivor locations on the atoll.

Then there is Akaiami motu which was the site of the first international airport for the Cook Islands, operating flying boats on Aitutaki lagoon by TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Ltd). The Coral Route flight from Auckland to Papeete, Tahiti, via Laucala Bay at Suva, Fiji, Satapuala at Apia, Samoa, and Akaiamai at Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, was inaugurated by TEAL on December 27, 1951.

Aitutaki has many attractions, including the magnificent TEAL Wharf - Akaiami 1952TEAL Wharf - Akaiami 1952lagoon itself and the small islands that border the lagoon. The scuba diving is also excellent with the fringing reefs having a great deal of coral and marine life. The sandy beaches are made of milky white coral, second to none, which look like being covered with snow.

The Aitutaki Lagoon is 20 kilometres across at its widest point. It is much bigger than imagined, as the island of Rarotonga (Cook Islands' main island) would actually fit inside the lagoon!

The land mass is just 18.5 sq km. The lagoon is quite shallow. In fact three quarters of it is no more than 4.5 metres deep. The maximum depth only reaches 10.5 metres.

The name Aitutaki is derived from the words God (aitu) and led (taki). Famous first 'tourists' have included Captain Cook (1789 and 1792) and Charles Darwin (1835).

map3Notice the distinctive triangular shape of Aitutaki Lagoon, one of the most well-known lagoons in the world.

There are three volcanic islands (Aitutaki, Rapota and Moturakau), plus the 12 coral motus (islets) are shown, as are the districts (tapaere) of Aitutaki Island:

Aitutaki – Akitua – Angarei - Ee – Mangere – Papua – Tavaeruaiti – Tavaerua - Akaiami – Muritapua - Tekopua – Tapuatae (One Foot Island) – Motukitiu – Moturakau – Rapota - Motutavake – Maina.

Motutavake, off Maina, is the youngest motu, being just over 27 years old. Up to 1987, what is known today as Motutavake (Honeymoon island) was just a sand-bank, 20 cm below water level. When Hurricane Sally struck the Southern Group islands of the Cooks in early 1987, gigantic waves and winds brought up huge boulders from the sea-floor and some got stuck on this sand-bank. The wind and waves then covered these rocks with sand, thus creating another motu (islet). It seems that the birds and wind brought seeds from nearby Aitutaki to the sandy motutavake (creating the bush there) and that fallen coconuts were floating across the lagoon, swept onto the sand and took roots; thus covering the motu with coconut trees and bush. Today this uninhabited motu is home to myriads of seabirds which, together with turtles utilise it as a nesting ground.

The local Government has taken possession of this new islet and, it seems, that this is the only land the Government owns in Aitutaki above the high water mark. All other land is owned by Aitutakians of the various families and tribes.islands in lagoonislands in lagoon

Aitutaki Lagoon