Top 10 things to do in Mitiaro
If you’ve been to the Cook Islands, then you know that each of the 15 islands is vastly unique and carries its own legends and history. Mitiaro, also known as ‘Nukuroa’ is no different. With so much to see and do, deciding what to experience during your trip here, can be a little difficult – so we’ve narrowed down some of our Top 10 things to do.
- Get your bearings
A large coastal road encircles the island. Get off the beaten track and take your time exploring and finding hidden gems; perhaps you’ll stumble on your own private beach cove, find an ideal shady spot for a picnic or sun nap on those lazy days, or perhaps find some wild fruit ripe for the taking! The island is at your leisure.
- Meet the locals
When driving around Mitiaro, it may not look like there’s many people about, but trust us, there are! During the day you can find them at the town hall, in the plantations, swimming at the caves, in the harbour, at the general store, or out fishing. The locals are deeply curious, very friendly and hospitable. In fact, if you chat to your accommodators in time, you may even be able to squeeze in a visit to the primary school and meet the local children!
- Freshen up at Vai Nauri
This is an absolute must-do. Vai Nauri is the largest, freshwater cave in Mitiaro and is immensely popular with both locals and visitors alike. Located on the north eastern side of the island, a short drive inland will have you at a small clearing. Walking in may not look like much initially, but it soon opens up to a wide chamber where you can leap or gently coax yourself into the cool, turquoise blue water. For first timers, it is customary to go with a local for safety reasons, and to learn the special chant said before leaping in. Bombs away!
- Visit Hayley’s market on Saturday
Talk about young entrepreneurship, little Hayley (aged 7) initially started the market as a form of raising money to purchase fishing rods for a competition on the island. The market grew to be popular amongst the locals and today, Hayley‘s market is selling freshly baked scones (by Hayleys mum), shell ei’s, pandanus baskets and if you’re lucky, she’ll also serve up a fresh pot of coffee! Hayley is yet to install her eftpos, so please take cash only.
- Visit the Churches
In Mitiaro there are 3 different religions; Christians, Catholics and the Assemblies of God (AOGs). The CICC Betella Church is located in the middle of town. If you’re planning to visit, ensure you’re dressed appropriately – for ladies in particular, this means covering shoulders and knee length attire. Please also note that no photos are permitted during Sunday service, however exterior photos of the church is fine.
- Learn about the traditional preservation of ‘piere’
Piere involves drying and preserving bananas by cutting them in half and leaving them to bask in the sun until they’re a caramelized brown colour. Once they’re thoroughly ‘sun-baked’, they’re typically wrapped up in pandanus leaves and can last as long as 20 years. Piere has made a comeback in recent times, as a way for mamas and papas to make additional money by sending batches back to Rarotonga to sell at the local markets.
- The only sulphur cave in the Cook Islands
Vai Marere is the only sulphur cave in the Cook Islands nestled amongst the many caves of Mitiaro. As you walk into the cave, it broadens out into a gloomy cavern covered with stalactites. If you’re speaking to the locals about Vai Marere, many of them will attest to the healing properties the cave is renowned for. Watch your step as it can get quite moisty further in and cause a bit of a slip on your way down. This cave is a 10-minute walk from Mangarei village on the Takaue road. Keep a lookout for the signboard posted to the coconut tree, it can easily be missed!
- Visit the twin lakes, Te Rotonui & Te Rotoiti
Simply meaning Big lake (Te Roto Nui) and Small lake (Te Rotoiti), these twin lakes make up 3 quarters of the islands land mass. At the centre of Te Rotonui lies a small motu (little island) known as Motu Tane, meaning, small island for men only. This is where fisherman rested at night or early hours of the morning while out fishing in the lake.
- While you’re there, learn about the Milk Fish that breed in the lake
The fresh water lake is also home to some of the island's local delicacies such as A’va (milk fish) and itiki (fresh water eel’s). Usually, a ra’ui (conservation) is placed on the lake every three to six months preventing locals from harvesting the milkfish or the itiki, fresh water eels. If you are wanting to get a closer look at the milk fish, you can chew up some coconut meat (white flesh of the coconut) and scatter it through the top of the water where they’ll begin to swarm. But remember, take only photos and leave only footprints!
- Talk to the farmers at their plantations
While cruising through the peaceful island, you will see a couple of the local farmers at their plantations harvesting their crops and cleaning out overgrown shrubs. A lot of the farmers believe that the food crops grown in their plantations are “the food of our tupuna'' (ancestors). There’s a wide range of fruit and vegetation grown in Mitiaro, like taro, arrowroot, sweet potato, guavas, pineapple, cocoa, bananas, pawpaws and pinapi, which resembles a spinach with a slight peppery flavour, making it distinctive to Mitiaro island.