Cook Islands souvenirs header
Unique memories are the lasting souvenirs of a visit to the Cook Islands.  But if you're looking for something more material, here are a few ideas.
If you want a unique taste of the islands, try the locally produced NONI JUICE.  Definitely an acquired taste, but it could do you a lot of good according to the Islanders...the drink has been around in the South Pacific for over 3,000 years!   There's more information here.
Spend or keep as a souvenir?
Commemorative stamps
The Islands produce some of the most unusual and collectable COINS, BANKNOTES AND STAMPS in the world.   The Philatelic Bureau in downtown Avarua in Rarotonga is the place to go for a wide choice of both.   Some of the rarer proof coins cost hundreds of dollars each, but an uncirculated set of current coins will cost you about NZ$15. Or you could buy a $3 note in mint condition...but remember it's only legal tender on the islands.
BLACK PEARLS are - dare I say it - one of the pearls of the islands!  The black-lipped pearl oyster or parau (Pinctada margaritifera) is abundant in the MANIHIKI and PENHRYN lagoons.   In the wild they are found attached to coral reefs in depths of 5 to 60 metres.  In the past, divers collected the pearl oysters, and the shell (mother-of-pearl) was exported to be made into products such as buttons.  These days, however, black-lipped oysters are more valuable if kept alive and cultured for their black pearls.



Black pearls
Tokerau Jim is an artist based in Muri on Rarotonga.  He carves black pearls and shells into beautiful works of art.  I paid him a visit at his stall in the weekly cultural market in Rarotonga....and bought one of his superb pendants.  He also has a shop on the left hand side of the road out of town near Muri.  You don't have to travel so far... have a look at his site and marvel at his craftsmanship.   You can order via the site too.


Tangaroa
And this is TANGAROA..an image you will see all over the Cook Islands. 

Tangaroa was one of the children of the Sky Father, Ranginui, and Mother Earth, Papatuanuku.   He was the god of the sea. One of his brothers was the storm god, Tawhiri. Tawhiri was so upset with his brother, Tane, for having separated their parents that he caused storms and hurricanes. Reptiles and other animals that lived on the land escaped to the ocean of Tangaroa. That is how the Maoris explain the presence of fish in the sea.

Carvings are just a few of the many souvenirs featuring his image.



Perfume bottling
The wonderful floral smells of the islands are captured and bottled at PERFUMES of Rarotonga.  Visit them at their new "factory" near the airport, their shop at Cooks Corner in town (Avarua)...or buy on line.  
Noni juice
Perals and pearl shell
Farming pearl oysters requires drilling the oysters and hanging them on ropes set in the lagoon.  The cultured black pearl actually begins as a small bead inserted or "seeded" into the oyster.  It takes about two years before the bead is coated as a black pearl.  Many factors affect the success rate, but of 100 oysters seeded, typically only five will produce a high-quality round pearl.



Carved pearl shell
Wearing the pareu
The PAREU is a screen printed or tie-dyed piece of fabric with which Islanders seem to be able to work miracles!   Just by tieing them in different ways, they can be turned into strapless or halter neck dresses, shorts and even a beach jacket.  

I've tried....it's not easy, but it's still a great souvenir which can be relatively inexpensive.   Tuki's (the store with more) and Vonnie's in town have a great selection starting at around NZ$12.   And if you really want to know how to tie them, pick up a slim volume called  'Pareu and its many ties' (Bounty Bay Bookshop usually has copies)....or  give up and just use it as a colourful throw on your bed or sofa!!!    
Picture: Ewan Smith, Air Rarotonga
pate drum
The PATE (pronounced par-tay) is something you're likely to see if you go to an island night of music and dance.   It's an instrument carved from wood and beaten in a similar way to a drum.   You can get plenty of tacky versions (more than likely made in the Far East or China) in local shops.  But if you have a look round the weekly cultural market, you can find the real thing to annoy your friends and relatives with when you get home.  

SOUVENIRS OF PARADISE
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