The Cook Islands
are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand, located in Polynesia, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, between French Polynesia (Society Islands) to the east and Tonga to the west. It is an archipelago with 15 islands spread out over 2.2 million sq. km of ocean. Though quite far, there's nothing between the Cook Islands and Antarctica.
With the same time zone and latitude (disregarding north and south) as Hawaii, the islands are sometimes thought of as "Hawaii down under". Though smaller, it reminds some elderly visitors of Hawaii before statehood without all the large tourist hotels and other development. Regions
Northern Cook Islands - Low coral atolls, closer to the equator.Southern Cook Islands - Mostly volcanic and hilly islands, a few atolls; includes Rarotonga, location of the capital town of Avarua.Understand
Named after Captain Cook, who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965 residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. In effect, New Zealand handles defense, foreign affairs (including passports), and currency; otherwise the islands are self-governing. This includes immigration, which is strictly controlled -- even for New Zealanders. The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems. Climate
Tropical, moderated by trade winds.Terrain
The northern Cook Islands are seven low-lying, sparsely populated, coral atolls. The southern Cook Islands consist of eight elevated, fertile, volcanic isles where most of the populace livesGet in
have a reservation for accommodations pre-arranged, or risk being sent back on the next flight out. Though immigration and customs may be a little less strict about this than in the past and let you reserve at the airport by phone, if nothing is available you will
be sent back. Camping on the beach is not allowed.By planeRarotonga International Airport
(IATA: RAR) is the main gateway to the Cook Islands. There are daily services to Auckland, New Zealand and weekly services to Fiji and via Papeete (Tahiti) to Los Angeles. The only international airlines at present are Air New Zealand and twice-weekly Pacific Blue. Air New Zealand has code share arrangements with all other Star Alliance members including United Airlines and Rarotonga is a popular stopover on Round the world flights. From April 2007, Air New Zealand ceases its link between Papeete (Tahiti) and RarotongaBy boat
Rarotonga and Aitutaki are regular stops for cruises operating from Tahiti. Other cruise companies also stop by occassionaly.
If you're planning to sail to the islands you must
enter through one of the five designated ports of entry. These are Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu in the Southern group, and Penrhyn and Pukapuka in the Northern group. There are two uninhabited islands - Takutea and Manuae. The only easy way for a visitor to get to Takutea is on the research vessel Bounty Bay
operated by Rarotonga-based Pacific Expeditions, which has special persmission to run occasional eco tours.Get around
Domestic inter-island service is provided by Air Rarotonga . Although you can book flights through Air Zealand, it is usually cheaper to do so directly with Air Rarotonga. This has become much easier in the past few years, now that they offer online booking through their web site http://www.airraro.com. Unless you're a member of Air New Zealand's "Airpoints Dollars" program, you won't receive any airline miles for Air Rarotonga -- and then only if you book through Air New Zealand, often at a higher price. Star Alliance mileage for Air Rarotonga is not available.
Most of the outer islands have only unpaved runways. However, landing won't be much rougher than that of a paved runway. If you've never landed on an unpaved runway before, it's nothing to be overly concerned about, and you've probably had a few rougher landings on a paved
runway. By boat
The intrepid traveller can visit all inhabited islands by inter island freighters, but these can be few and far between if you want to get the really remote islands. Details of services are published in local island newspapers. Talk
Languages: There are five living languages in the Cook Islands with English and Cook Islands Maori the official languages. Cook Islands Maori is sometimes also called Rarotongan after the capital island and is the most widely spoken version of Maori in the Islands. Others are Penrhynese - unique to the Northern group island of Penrhyn and rapidly disappearing - and Rakahanga-Manihiki which is spoken by about 2,500 Cook Islanders only half of whom life on the two islands from which it takes its name. On the remote Northern group island of Pukapuka, the islanders have a unique language of their own called Pukapukan of which there is no written version. It is more like Samoan, and some of it can't even be understood by other Cook Islanders. But even there, English is spoken, albeit not widely. Children though are taught it in school.
At the very least, the visitor will quickly learn the usual greeting, "kia orana" which means "may you live long"Buy
Like many other South Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands' economic development is hindered by the isolation of the country from foreign markets, the limited size of domestic markets, lack of natural resources, periodic devastation from natural disasters, and inadequate infrastructure. Agriculture provides the economic base with major exports made up of copra and citrus fruit. Manufacturing activities are limited to fruit processing, clothing, and handicrafts. Trade deficits are offset by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid, overwhelmingly from New Zealand. In the 1980s and 1990s, the country lived beyond its means, maintaining a bloated public service and accumulating a large foreign debt. Subsequent reforms, including the sale of state assets, the strengthening of economic management, the encouragement of tourism, and a debt restructuring agreement, have rekindled investment and growth.Costs
Overall, much cheaper than nearby Tahiti, though anything imported (petrol/gasoline, milk, etc.) will be expensive. Calling home can cost a bundle, due to the need to have a large satellite dish and related equipment on each sparsely populated island.Eat
Try the islands' Poke (raw tuna) with coconut milk. It is delicious! Cook Island's Poke bears little resemblance to Hawaiian's Poke.Sleep
Most of the outer islands turn off the entire electric system (blackout) overnight. Bring a flashlight (torch) with batteries.Stay safe
No major hazards, but medical care is limited -- especially on the outer islands. Though the locals often go barefoot (they're experts at it!), it's not recommended beyond sandy beaches due to the sharp coral rocks. Use caution when climbing stairs that connect the lower parts of an island near the sea to the upper part above the cliffs. Some do not have railings on the edge, including platforms. Only the most acrophobic would be uncomfortable with this (they're plenty wide enough and not vertically "open"), but for children, the blind, and someone who's had too much to drink, the risk is extreme. On the platforms, avoid getting too close to the edge -- especially if you need a rest from climbing. Motorcycle accidents cause many injuries and fatalities. Mosquitos are mostly a nuisance, though every few years there is a dengue fever outbreak in the wet season.Stay healthy
Try not to eat snappers, they may give you ciguatera.Respect
Though the survey form given on arrival (and collected at departure) is optional, the airport staff will be very disappointed if you don't complete or lose it.
German tourists may be ask about the Nazi Holocaust (and other tourists asked about their opinion of Germans), as it is a new topic for the islanders having only recently acquired broadcast television. Those on the outer islands may be quite ignorant about what's happened to Germany in the 60-plus years since then. Try not be caught off-guard by such questions and do take them seriously. The Cook Islands own history includes head hunting and a large loss of life during the earlier
World War I (1914-1918) fighting for the British against the Germany and Central Powers.
The Cook Islands
(Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani
) are a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand. The fifteen small islands in this South Pacific Ocean country have a total land area of 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi), but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1.8 million square kilometres (0.7 million sq mi) of ocean.
The main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga (c.
10,000), where there is an international airport. There is also a much larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island; in the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Island Māori descent.
Tourism is the country's number one industry, the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, marine and fruit exports. A popular art form on the islands is Tivaivai, often likened to quilting.
Defence is the responsibility of New Zealand, in consultation with the Cook Islands and at its request. In recent times, the Cook Islands has adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy.Politics
The politics of the Cook Islands takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic associated state, whereby the Queen of New Zealand, represented in the Cook Islands by the Queen's Representative, is Head of State and the Chief Minister is the head of government. There is a pluriform multi-party system and the islands are self-governing in free association with New Zealand and fully responsible for internal affairs.
New Zealand retains some responsibility for external affairs, in consultation with the Cook Islands. In recent years the Cook Islands has taken on more of its own external affairs and as of 2005 has diplomatic relations in its own name with eighteen other countries. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands are not United Nations full members but participate in WHO and UNESCO.
The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.Geography
The Cook Islands are in the South Pacific Ocean, north-east of New Zealand, between French Polynesia and Fiji. There are fifteen major islands, spread over 2.2 million square kilometres of ocean, divided into two distinct groups: the Southern Cook Islands, and the Northern Cook Islands of coral atolls.
The islands were formed by volcanic activity; the northern group is older and consists of six atolls (sunken volcanoes topped by coral growth). The climate is moderate to tropical.
The fifteen islands are grouped as follows:High Cook Islands*Aitutaki*Atiu (Enua-Manu or Island of Birds)*Mangaia*Mauke*Rarotonga (with capital, Avarua)Low islands of the Southern group*Manuae*Mitiaro*TakuteaNorthern Cook Islands*Manihiki*Nassau*Palmerston Island*Penrhyn Island also known as Tongareva*Pukapuka*Rakahanga*Suwarrow also called SuvorovHistory
The Cook Islands were first settled in the 6th Century A.D. by Polynesian people who migrated from nearby Tahiti, to the southeast.
Spanish ships visited the islands in the late sixteenth century; the first written record of contact with the Islands came with the sighting of Pukapuka by Spanish sailor Álvaro de Mendaña in 1595 who called it San Bernardo
. Another Spaniard, Pedro Fernández de Quirós, made the first recorded European landing in the islands when he set foot on Rakahanga in 1606, calling it Gente Hermosa
British navigator Captain James Cook arrived in 1773 and 1779 and named the islands the Hervey Islands; the name "Cook Islands", in honour of Cook, appeared on a Russian naval chart published in the 1880s.
In 1813, John Williams, a missionary on the Endeavour (not the same ship as that of Cook), made the first official sighting of the island of Rarotonga.
The first recorded landing by Europeans was in 1814 by the Cumberland; trouble broke out between the sailors and the Islanders and many were killed on both sides.
The islands saw no more Europeans until missionaries arrived from England in 1821. Christianity quickly took hold in the culture and many islanders continue to be Christian believers today.
The Cook Islands became a British protectorate at their own request in 1888, mainly to thwart French expansionism. They were transferred to New Zealand in 1901. They remained a New Zealand protectorate until 1965, at which point they became a self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand. Sir Albert Henry, the Islands' first Prime Minister, led the country until he was accused of vote-rigging in 1978.
Today, the Cook Islands are essentially independent ("self-governing in free association with New Zealand") but are still officially placed within New Zealand's sovereignty. New Zealand is tasked with overseeing the country's foreign relations and defence. The Cook Islands are one of three New Zealand dependencies, along with Tokelau and Niue.
After achieving autonomy in 1965, the Cook Islands elected Albert Henry of the Cook Islands Party as their first Prime Minister. He was succeeded in 1978 by Tom Davis of the Democratic Party.
On June 11, 1980, the United States signed a treaty with New Zealand specifying the maritime border between the Cook Islands and American Samoa and also relinquishing its claim to the islands of Penrhyn Island, Pukapuka (Danger), Manihiki, and Rakahanga.
In 2006, the British television station Channel 4 broadcast the show Shipwrecked
, filmed in the Cook Islands. The thirteenth season of CBS's Survivor
series was also filmed in the Cook Islands during the summer of 2006. It was broadcast in the fall of 2006 as
Rugby league is a popular sport in the Cook Islands, as is football.Cook Islands in Popular Culture
The thirteenth season of the popular reality TV show Survivor, named was filmed in the Cook Islands. The "tribes" of players were named after the islands, for example, Rarotonga.The British television show is set in the Cook Islands. External links
Cook Islands, the best kept secret in the Pacific Ocean - The Most Comprehensive WebsiteCook Islands - Detailed and non-commercial websiteCook Islands GovernmentCook Islands Government (summary)Cook Islands Tourism CorporationOpen Directory Project - ''Cook Islands directory categoryCook Islands National Environment ServiceCook Islands Biodiversity Database