The islands of Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro are often referred to as the Nga Pu Toru or The Three Roots. Located in close proximity to one another, these three islands are similar geographically and are closely tied to one another historically as well. Atiu is the largest of the three islands and is the third largest of the Cook Islands at 26.9 sq km. Known for its makatea or fossilized coral formations; Atiu offers some wonderful limestone caves to explore. These caves were used in ancient times as burial sites.
Traditionally known as Enua Manu or Land of Birds, according to legend when Atiu was first discovered only birds and insects were found living here. What is also unique about Atiu is its rather colorful and often bloody history, as its natives were regarded as the greatest warriors of the Cook Islands. Controlled by 7 different chiefs in the early 18th century, during this period many tribal wars were fought here.
Discovered by Captain James Cook in the April of 1777, when he stopped here for supplies, Christian missionaries lead by the Reverend John Williams landed on Atiu in July 1832 looking for the island of Rarotonga. While on the island, Rev. Williams succeeded in converting the people of Atiu including its chief to Christianity. To see how religion came to Atiu, visit the island on July 19 and see how Gospel Day is celebrated here.
The ideal island for the active soul, there are plenty of things to do on Atiu. Excellent beaches, old marae, good walking trails and superb vistas mean that you will never get bored while you are here. Many people often tour Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro together because they are so close to each other.
The geology of Atiu is particularly interesting as this island emerged from the sea as a volcano cone over 11 million years ago. Today, much of the island is covered in makatea, which is home to dense vegetation and greenery. If you are thinking about climbing these makatea be very careful as it is very sharp and can injure you quite badly. All of the five villages in Atiu are located in the middle of the island, with the Atiu Administration Center, the CICC and the police station, all lying at the island’s center.
While you are on Atiu don’t forget to attend a tumunu or bush beer drinking session, which involves drinking a home brewed orange colored beer!