Mauke is home to approximately 300 people and is roughly half the size of Rarotonga in circumference however it is a world away in landscape and lifestyle. 40 kilometers from their closest neighboring island, Mitiaro, and 70 kilometers from Atiu, Mauke's central volcanic plateau is surrounded by a ring of jagged, razor-sharp fossilized coral or 'makatea' which reaches up to 1,000 meters inland. The volcanic origin means that the soil is rich and this is justifiably called the garden of the islands.
In most places, religion is divided on theological grounds, but in Mauke it is divided architecturally. When the decision was made to build a church, Ziona; they agreed that a single place of worship would be sufficient to serve the spiritual needs of both the villages, Ngatiarua and Areora. The exterior building materials and labour needed to erect the church was duly contributed by both villages. However, it wasn't until the structure was raised that the problems began.
Once the structure was erect, the two villages could not agree on the design of Ziona's interior. Eventually a decision was made to amalgamate two different designs into the churches structure - each to the preference of the villages. Two doorways were cut in the walls, and two separate walkways were made to enter the church. Sticking to the status quo, each had pathway also had its own distinctive carved coral portals leading up to each villages door. A wall was initially built down the middle of the church to separate the two villages, but later taken down and replaced with a pulpit, where the pastor stood to conduct the service with a foot in each camp. More than a century later, Ziona church still remains the same.
Deep underground caves and lakes honeycomb the island of Mauke. Vai Tango is by far the most easily accessible freshwater cave, with a deep clear pool under the overhanging stalactites. Locals often swim here on Sundays after church. Other freshwater caves include Moti Cave; a large, open cave nestled in amongst the makatea and Motuanga Cave; the 'Cave of 100 Rooms'. Limestone growth has made all but three rooms inaccessible.
Mauke, like every island in the Pa Enua, has it's own unique history and culture. High on the cliffs above Araiti Cove lies Kea's grave. Legend says that the beautiful Kea sat upon this cliff watching while her husband, Paikea, fished beyond the reef. Paikea was known to be a great fisherman, but one day, as he was about to head home with his catch, he was swept up in a hurricane which carried him further and further out to sea. Thankfully he ended up alive on the island of Mangaia, but Kea, unaware of this, thought he had died at sea. It's said that Kea never left the cove, and remained there day after day, until she eventually died due to great sadness and heartbreak. It's still possible to visit Kea's grave upon the cliff today.