Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu are covered on other pages within the Destination section, so here is a brief description of the remaining twelve islands.
THE SOUTHERN GROUP
The southern-most island of the Cooks, and the oldest island in the Pacific dating back 18 million years. An outer reef and sixty metre-high ring of fossilized coral cliffs surround the island. The rim of coral extends inland and forms steep cliff faces that drop into the central basin of the island. The landscape is covered in caves. Map of Mangaia
Manuae & Te Au O Tu
Two islets in a large shallow lagoon make up this island, an important seabird and turtle breeding ground.
A raised atoll surrounded by fossilised coral and like Atiu and Mangaia has numerous limestone caves. The CICC church here was the centre of a dispute between two villages in 1882 and the two sides of the church were decorated in two different, but equally glorious, styles. Each village had its own entrance and villagers sat on their own side.
The smallest of the Southern Group and the least populated with around 180 residents. Freshwater pools are fed by underground lakes and believed by locals to have healing properties.
Palmerston - About 50 residents live on Palmerston. They are all descended from William Marsters and his three Polynesian wives.
This sanctuary 16km northwest of Atiu protects the breeding site of a number of sea birds including frigates and tropicbirds. It is only 6 metres above sea level at its highest point.
THE NORTHERN GROUP
A large atoll with a deep lagoon, Manihiki is now intensively farmed for black pearls. Life centres on the lagoon and pearl farming.
This is a small island and satellite community of Pukapuka.
The most isolated island in the group. People have inhabited the island from at least 300 BC. The island is noted for its finely woven mats.
42km north-east of Manihiki, Rakahanga is an atoll with a picturesque, almost totally enclosed lagoon.
This islands was declared a National Heritage Park in 2002 and is a breeding ground for rare species of turtles, sea birds and crabs. In the mid-19th century a ship out of Tahiti carrying out salvage work unearthed a box containing $15,000 in coins, apparently from a century before from a British raid on Spanish shipping. In 1876, several silver pieces-of-eight were discovered in a turtle nest. But the find was hastily reburied and is still to be re-discovered!
This is the northernmost island of the Cooks famous for its finely woven rito hats and bags