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Cook Islands



Where are the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands are an excellent laid back tourist destination. The outer islands in particular are one of the few places in the world where you can "get away from it all".

Geologically they comprise 2 distinct groups:


The Southern Group, comprising:

1. Rarotonga (the main island)

2. Aitutaki

3. Atiu

4. Mangaia

5. Manuae

6. Mauke

7. Mitiaro

8. Palmerston

9. Takutea

are mostly of high volcanic formation (up to 652 metres on Rarotonga) with fertile soils and lush tropical vegetation. The exceptions are the small atolls of Manuae and Palmerston are small atolls, while Takutea, is a sandy key. The Southern Group possesses about 90 percent of the total land area of the Cook Islands. Rarotonga is the largest island (6,719 hectares) and Takutea, the smallest (122 hectares).


The Northern Group, comprising:

1. Manihiki

2. Nassau

3. Penrhyn

4. Pukapuka

5. akahanga

6. Suwarrow

All except Nassau which is a sandy key, are low-lying coral atolls with sparse vegetation (coconut and pandanus trees etc) and large lagoons. Penrhyn is the largest island (984 hectares) and Suwarrow, the smallest (40 hectares).


The closest outer island to Rarotonga is Mangaia (204kms distant) while the farthest is Penrhyn (1,365kms away). The two most widely-separated islands of the country are Pukapuka, in the Northern Group, and Mangaia in the Southern Group (1,470kms apart).


Rarotonga is about 3,010 kms northeast of Auckland, 1,140 kms southwest of Tahiti, 2,300kms east of Fiji and 4,730 kms south of Hawaii.


The Cook Islands comprises 15 widely-dispersed islands in the South Pacific Ocean between French Polynesia and Fiji. The total land area of the country is 240 square kilometres, while the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone covers a maritime area of nearly 2 million square kilometres.


The main administrative and commercial center is the capital city Avarua on the island of Raratonga.


The Islands are 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Direct daily flights are offered by Air New Zealand from Rarotonga to Los Angeles, Auckland, Fiji, Tahiti and Honolulu. Telecommunications are excellent.


My wife is from Atiu in the Cook Islands, an island I recommend you visit if you want a relaxing holiday. 


The Cook Islands is situated between 9 degrees and 22 degrees south longitude and has a tropical oceanic climate with two seasons. The drier months, from April to November, have an average maximum temperature of about 26 degrees centigrade and an average minimum temperature of about 20 degrees centigrade. The wetter, more humid months, from December to March, have an average maximum temperature of 28 degrees centigrade and an average minimum of 22 degrees centigrade. During the latter season, the Cook Islands can experience occasionally severe tropical storms and even hurricanes.


The people

The indigenous population of the Cook Islands is the Cook Islands Maori, Polynesians closely related ethnically to the indigenous populations of Tahiti and nearby islands and to the New Zealand Maori (see below).


According to the latest census undertaken in December 1991 the total resident population of the Cook Islands is 14,990 of whom 3765 live in the outer islands.


Rarotonga’s resident population is 9,424 (11,225 in 1996) while Aitutaki's population is 1,946 compared to a 1996 total of 2,389.


Since the economic reform programmes of 1995-1996, the population has experienced heavy losses with migration to Australia and New Zealand.


Large numbers of Cook Islanders have migrated to New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere over the years, mostly to seek better employment opportunities. More than 50,000 Cook Islanders reside in New Zealand and an estimated 15,000 in Australia.


International air services are provided by Air New Zealand, offering flights between Rarotonga and Auckland, New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti and Los Angeles, USA. The airline has daily flights to the Cook Islands.


Air Rarotonga operates six days a week and offers passenger and cargo services to the outer islands, including the remote Northern Group. The airline runs five flights to Aitutaki a day and has daily flights to four or five other islands. Services to the Northern Group operate twice a week. Detailed flight schedules are available at www.airraro.com


Two international shipping services connect Rarotonga with Auckland, Samoa, Tonga and Niue. and a smaller service operates between the outer islands and New Zealand. Another shipping company offers more or less regular service between the outer islands from Rarotonga.


Telecom Cook Islands offers International Direct Dialing services as well as internet, email, fax, telex and telegram facilities. Some of these services are also offered on the outer islands, which also have local television broadcast facilities based around a satellite package marketed by TCI.


There are two radio stations - Radio Cook Islands and Radio Ikurangi. Radio Cook Islands operates 18 hours on Fridays and Saturdays and 17 hours the rest of the week and its AM signals reach all islands in the country. Radio Ikurangi broadcasts an FM signal with limited reach.


Privately owned Cook Islands Television broadcasts on Rarotonga from 2pm to 8am daily, presenting a mix of local news, the New Zealand Television One news service, ABC Asia-Pacific and overseas-sourced programmes.


The former Government-owned newspaper, The Cook Islands News, was privatised in 1989 and publishes six days a week. Rarotonga's two weekly newspapers, the Herald and the Independent are owned by Elijah Communications, which also operates Cook Islands Television and Radio Cook Islands.


The former Government-owned newspaper, The Cook Islands News, was privatised in 1989 and publishes six days a week. Rarotonga’s four weekly newspapers, the Herald, the Press, the Times and the Independent are owned by Elijah Communications, which also operates Cook Islands Television and Radio Cook Islands. 


The Cook Islands has close ties with the New Zealand education system and basically has the same curriculum. As in New Zealand, education is compulsory for children aged five to 15. The government provides free education at both primary and secondary school levels and provides some financial assistance for independent schools.


The country also has a Teachers Training College, a Trade Training Centre, Hospitality and Tourism Training Centre and Nursing School. The Fiji-based University of the South Pacific maintains an extension centre in Avarua, Rarotonga and provides vocational, foundation and degree courses, some using video links with the Fiji centre.


The four leading producers of income in the Cook Islands are tourism, fishing, agriculture and financial services.


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