AITUTAKI

Life on a blue lagoon

259 kms/161 mls North of Rarotonga      
Access: Frequent internal flights and international connections
Population: 1,941      18.3 sq.kms/7 sq. mls

ABOUT AITUTAKI

Photographs can never convey the breathtaking beauty that is Aitutaki. Warm, crystal clear waters fill a triangular shaped, turquoise blue lagoon....so blue you'd think someone had painted it that colour! Each leg of the triangle stretches more than 11 kms (7 miles). Dotted around it are uninhabited, palm filled islands or "motus", with sparkling white sand...reminiscent of the sort of a picture a child would paint of a desert island. Aitutaki is the second most visited of the Cook Islands, and particularly popular with honeymooners. Tourism facilities are well developed, but the total number of visitors a year remains a small fraction of those staying on the capital island, so Aitutaki still feels very unspoiled

GETTING THERE

Aitutaki is easy to get to. Air Rarotonga operates several flights a day from the capital island and some international services link up with the domestic flight so you could by pass Raro altogether (but that would be a shame). Flying time is about 45 minutes. You can even do a day trip, which includes a fabulous lagoon cruise. Its very pricey at nearly NZ$500....but I defy you not to say it was well worth the money when you return from the trip.  Get more details from the tourist board or Air Rarotonga

GETTING AROUND

A leisurely walk is the best way to meet the locals and explore. Cars and scooters can both be rented; a scooter is typically NZ$25-30 a day plus petrol which is very pricey compared to the US but similar to UK and European costs. And you'll need to show the hire company and the police a suitable driving licence in English. There are some taxis too, but these can be pricey.

The legend of One Foot Island

Tapuaetai is supposedly known to all as One Foot Island because, from the air, it resembles a left foot. But I prefer the legend...

A tribe once attacked the main island and a man and his son escaped by canoe to an unnamed islet. The father carried the boy across the beach and hid him in a tall coconut tree. Then he paddled all the way to Rarotonga for help. When the attackers reached the islet they saw only one set of footprints on and off the island and they left. The boy remained safely hidden until his father returned with help. And from then on, the islet was known as One Foot Island.

Don't forget your passport...

...if you're paying a visit to One Foot Island! You won't need it to land on the islet, but you will want to get it stamped at the post office which sets up there each day - a unique souvenir of this piece of paradise. You can buy One Foot Island postcards and stamps too which will get a special postmark if you use the postbox on the island 

STAY AT "THE WORLD'S BEST"

The Pacific Resort Aitutaki has won many top honours at the World Travel Awards which are the 'Oscars' of the travel industry. And for two consecutive years it was voted the best island resort hotel in the world. The beauty of the hotel is beaten only by the beauty of the lagoon it overlooks. It's been described as the ultimate luxury hideaway. Its infinity swimming pool (pictured left) was built by my friend Mal and appears to merge into the lagoon. American readers might like to know it was also where presenter, Jeff Probst stayed during the filming of 'Survivor Cook Islands'.

GET A BEHIND THE SCENES VIEW OF "SURVIVIOR COOK ISLANDS"

AN HISTORIC BOUNTY

Captain (or strictly speaking, Lieutenant) William Bligh was the first European to discover Aitutaki, on 11 April, 1789...17 days before the infamous mutiny on his ship, the Bounty. And he was no stranger to the Cook Islands as he was previously Sailing Master on HMS Resolution during Captain Cook's third voyage. Bligh's own log tells of how he weighed anchor off Aitutaki, a native came out in a canoe, rubbed noses with him and gave him a pearl-shell breast ornament suspended from braided human hair. Bligh visited again on 25 July, 1792.

BLIGH CALLED AITUTAKI "A CHARMING LITTLE SPOT" 

READ MORE ABOUT HIS DISCOVERY

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