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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Aerial view of Atiu
Map of Atiu

Atiu, also known as Enuamanu (meaning land of the birds), is an island lying at 187 km to the northeast of Rarotonga, in the Southern Islands group of the Cook Islands Archipelago.



Atiu is a raised volcanic island surrounded by a reef from which rises 6-m cliffs of fossilized coral (makatea). This coral cliff forms a mile-wide ring round the island, forming a virtual plateau. Erosion at the innerside of the ring has formed dip of about 30-m into fertile land, which gradually rises again to a central 70-m flat-topped hill.

Administratively, Takutea is considered part of Atiu.[1]


The first recorded European to arrive to Atiu was Captain Cook in 1777.
Atiuans trace their ancestry from Tangaroa, the principal god of Atiu and universally recognised in Polynesia as tutelary God of the Sea. Atiu's area is about half that of Rarotonga. The low swampy land consists of taro plantations, marshes and a lake, Te Roto. This fertile area also grows bananas, citrus fruits, pawpaws, breadfruit and coconuts. The ancient name of the island was Enuamanu, meaning the island of insects and animals, although there is some dispute over whether 'animals' includes 'insects'. The Atiuans understand it as meaning there were no previous inhabitants. The Atiuans call themselves 'worms of Enuamanu' because they were born on Atiu and hope to be buried there. There was once a custom on Atiu similar to that of New Zealand Maori of burying a newborn child's placenta under a newly planted tree. This is the origin of the Atiuan saying: "We come from the land and go back to the land." The Atiuans were a fierce, warrior people and before the arrival of the missionaries busied themselves with making war on their neighbors on Mauke and Mitiaro, slaughtering and eating significant numbers of them.
Captain Cook sighted the island on March 31, 1777 and made tentative contact with some of the people over the next few days. In common with most islands in the southern group, Atiu has only a small, shallow lagoon. It compensates, however, with many picturesque, sandy beaches. As is usual with the makatea islands of the southern group, the fossilised coral limestone abounds with caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites. One in particular, the Anatakitaki Cave, is inhabited by tiny kopeka birds which navigate in the dark using sonar, like bats. Male visitors can enjoy the esoteric delights of the "tumunu" or bush beer party.
Technically illegal and banned ever since the missionaries descended on these beautiful islands, the tumunu is a hangover from the old-time kava ceremonies so detested by the missionaries. However, they have survived and "invitations" can be arranged for visiting enthusiasts


Cook Islands Christian Church - Ziona Tapu The first religion established on Atiu in 1823 was that of the London Missionary Society. In later years, its name changed to Cook Islands Christian Church. Early missionaries and other visitors to Atiu commented on the prominence of Atiu's first church building, erected soon after embracing Christianity, that could be seen from the sea when approaching the island. Today the CICC is well renowned for their strong and harmonious imene tuki, the hymns of their forefathers. Women are still required to wear hats during church service, their dress should cover their shoulders, and they should also not adorn themselves with fresh flowers. Men must not wear shorts.

St. Anthony's Catholic Church In 1894 Father Bernard Canstanie from Tahiti brought the Catholic faith to the Cook Islands. Soon after, it found its way into the hearts of a number of Atiu people. In 1904 the church as we see it today was build by the Atiu Catholic congregation. The priest's residence was rebuilt with the congregation's own labour and funds raised in a communal effort. Presently, the less than 200 Catholics remaining on Atiu have worked hard at raising funds to renew also their hall. The first Catholic Community Hall started off as a school. Today, Atiu has a resident Catholic priest from the Mission of the Philippines.

Seventh Day Adventist - Church Atiu The Seventh Day Adventist religion was introduced to Atiu in 1926 by a teacher named Chapman. The first church was built the following year and renovated again in 1959. At the beginning of the new century it was felt that the old church building didn't satisfy today's modern needs any more. With funds raised amongst the Atiu SDA communities on the island and overseas, in a massive communal effort a new church was erected on the old one's premises. Pastors invited from Rarotonga officially opened and blessed the new building on the 28th of December 2002.

Atiu Coffee

Coffee has been grown on Atiu for as long as people remember.[citation needed] Missionaries established it commercially in the early 19th century. By 1865 already, annual exports of coffee from the Cook Islands amounted to 30,000 pounds. The islands' ariki (high chiefs) controlled the land used for planting and received most of the returns. The commoners often saw little if any reward for their labour. In the late 1890s, Rarotongan coffee production suffered due to a blight that affected the plants. Coffee production declined and had to rely more on crops from the outer islands Atiu, Mauke and Mangaia. World Wars I and II resulted in a further export reduction and eventual standstill.
In the 1950s the co-operative movement in the Cook Islands resulted in the re-establishment of coffee as a cash crop. On Atiu, under the supervision of New Zealand Resident Agent Ron Thorby and the Cook Islands Agriculture Department, new coffee plantations were established. The raw coffee was destined for export to New Zealand where it was processed and marketed.
In 1983, the coffee industry had collapsed. Government stepped back and left the plantations to their landowners The poor financial return from selling their coffee to a Rarotongan company for processing had prompted the farmers to stop production except for their own private use. The plantations were overgrown with creepers.

Human settlements

It is on the central hill that most human settlements are concentrated. On the 12 March 2003, the population of Atiu was 571. They live in 5 villages radiating out from the island center that give the appearance of a human figure. The villages have essentially grown together into one, since 1823. They represent the tapere subdivisions prior to European contact.[2] With their traditional names the villages are:

  • Teenui Village (Te-Kuru-Kava-Nui)
  • Mapumai Village (Mapumai-Nui-O-Ruavari) residence of the Mayor
  • Ngatiarua Village (Mokoero-Nui-O-Tautipa)
  • Areora Village (Areora-Nui-Te-Are-O-Tangaroa)
  • Tengatangi Village (Taturoa-I-Te-Puta-Marama)

Of special interest to tourists are the Kopeka caves situated deep in the makatea, the Atiuan 'jungle'. It is within Anatakitaki cave that the Atiu Swiftlet makes its nests.

See also


External links


Atiu, an Island Community: An Island Community. By Ngatupuna Kautai. Published by, 1984. ISBN 982-02-0163-2, ISBN 978-982-02-0163-7, 207 pages

Coordinates: 19°59′S 158°07′W / 19.983°S 158.117°W / -19.983; -158.117


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Atiu is an island in Southern Cook Islands. It is the third largest, third most populous, and third most visited island in the Cook Island group. It is 27km2 and has a rapidly decreasing population of 480 (2009), of which most are children and elderly.

Get in

By plane - Air Rarotonga [1] daily flights to Rarotonga except Sundays, and weekly flights to Aitutaki. Officially there is a baggage limit of 16kg per passenger but it is not handled very strict for tourists.

  • By foot you'll see the most, but you need time.
  • By mountainbike ($10/day) Tel.33271
  • By Motorbike ($25/day), ask your host.


Bushwalking, caves, birdwatching, fishing, diving, Relaxing.

Unlike the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutiki the settlements on Atiu are central. Difficulties in accessing the coast, and the lack of protective reefs and lagoons do not make Atiu as suitable for swimming and snorkelling as these other islands. Nonetheless it is possible, and there are some very nice secluded beaches on Atiu.

In detail:

  • Relax, have a coconut.
  • Walk around the island, have a coconut.
  • Chat with the local people, learn about their culture, have a coconut.
  • Have another coconut
  • Ask around when the next pig hunt is taking place and join. Not for vegetarians or animal rights sissies.

Organized tours:

  • Island Tour ($40) visit places of historical interest and learn about the daily life on a pacific island.
  • Kopeka Cave visit ($25) visit the cave of the Atiu swiftlet, a bird which find their way in the darkness.
  • Burial Cave visit ($15) see the bones of Atiu's ancestors.
  • Raka's Cave visit ($15) the fairy tale castle of Atiu's underworld.
  • visit the Atiu coffee factory ($15/min 2 pers.) learn all there is to know about coffee.
  • Bush walk with George ($40) if you want to learn about bird life and other flora and fauna of Atiu.
  • Reef fishing with Papa Moetaua ($25). if you want to know more about Atiu's sea creatures.
  • Deep sea fishing ($100) with a boat.
  • Seafary ($50) see the island from the other perspective.
  • Historical Tour ($26) Ancient and recent history of the island.


Coffee is the local produce of the island, and can be purchased and sampled on the other Cook Islands.


  • ADC shop Tel. 33028
  • Enuamanu store
  • Center store Tel. 33773
  • Akai bakery Tel. 33207


There are 3 possibilities to eat out on Atiu (2009):

  • Atiu Cafe Tel.33000 Serves small snacks like Fish & Chips for $7.50.
  • Terangi Nui Cafe Tel.33101 Serves dinner for $25 (Book before 15:00).
  • Kura's Kitchen Tel.33777 Serves dinner for $25 (Book before 15:00).

Self catering is also a good option, there is a lot of local stuff growing on the island. Ask the locals where to get it, usually they give it to you. Be nice and give them something back, like something you brought from home or bake some cookies, use your imagination. Bring as much non-local stuff like butter, eggs, meat, spices,... as you need. These things are extremely expensive as they are imported by plane (to give you an idea: 12 lowest quality cage eggs cost $11.50).

  • Water should be boiled before you drink it.
  • There are plenty of coconuts.
  • Join a traditional bush beer drinking session.
  • Are Manuiri Tel.33031 (double $60). Owned by ADC, the cooperation of the local people. It's in the heart of the villages which has advantages and disadvantages. You get better contact to locals, and it is next to almost anything, but it can be very loud ( think loud boom boom music at 6:30 in the morning).
  • Taparere Lodge Tel.33034 (double $78).
  • Kia Orana Bungalows Tel.33013 (double $80).
  • Kopeka Lodge Tel.33283.
  • Atiu Homestay Tel.33041 ($80 with breakfast).
  • Atiu Villas Tel.33777 ($160-$180).

Get out

Takutea - uninhabited island 20km off the coast.

  • Water should be boiled before you drink it.
  • Ciguatera Poisoning is something you really do not want. It is caused by reef fish collecting poison from dying corals. Do not eat any reef-fish. Flying fish and ocean (game) fish are completely OK.
  • Stealing. Cook Islanders are raised to share almost everything naturally. Things may be borrowed (even without telling the owner) and will be returned upon request, provided you know whom to ask. It is not considered stealing in their culture. So it's best to watch out for your stuff.
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