Mangaia, Rarotonga Holidays & Accommodation

Mangaia has one of the most extraordinary looking coastlines in the whole group. At one part, stalagmite-look-alikes thrust upwards from the inland side of the coastal road, grey and sentinel. Left over from an earlier period of growth, the coral spires speak of Mangaia being the oldest island in the Cooks. At 18 million years, some say in the Pacific.

Mangaia is the coolest and southern-most island in the country, a raised atoll. Coral walls stretch high as 60 metres through the main township, Oneroa. As elsewhere, this coral makatea can be razor sharp and impenetrable in most places. From behind such defences, the people of Mangaia developed a fierce independence. A secondary system of defence lay in a huge complex of caves, with real stalagmites and stalactites. Many caves connect, some stretch from deep in the interior to openings reefside.

Waves on the reef can be heard well over one hundred metres or so inland and underground. As presumably, could orders by any approaching invaders. No mystery about the ancestral Polynesian homeland of Avaiki for Mangaia people – known as Hawaiki in New Zealand. Their legends claim they are that homeland.

To this day, Mangaia stands aloof from the rest of the country. Traditional leaders – not courts – set aside land distribution according to need and proven ability. “Anything the papa’a (European) can do, the Maori can do, but to succeed, he must work, work, work.”Carved into a ground plaque, that quotation from Sir Peter Te Rangi Hiroa Buck still speaks to new generations of young Cook Islands Maori attending Mangaia’s only college.