Cook Islands Wildlife
With a year-round tropical climate, the
Cook Islands have a lush green landscape teeming with wildlife.
One of the most biodiverse countries in the Southern Pacific, this
island nation is home to magical cloud forests, montane rainforests
as well as lowland limestone forests. And while the flora species
here vary from island to island, you will always catch sight of
tall palm trees anywhere you go.
Home to a plethora of plant life, one of the best places to observe
the wildlife of the Cook Islands is on Rarotonga.
Here you can find a wide variety of distinct habitats from cloud
forests in the central regions of the island to verdant valley floors.
The forestation here is rich and green with lofty trees and abundant
ferns and creepers. As you travel along the coast, you will find
coconuts, grapefruits and bananas growing aplenty with avocados,
papayas, taro and yams also found throughout the island.
To see the stunning wealth of flowers on Rarotonga, visit the
Tiare Flower Festival in November and December, or if you have the
time, take a trip to the Maire Nui Botanical Gardens to learn about
the incredible range of flowering plants that grow here. Flowers play
a central role in the lives of Cook Islanders, who use an array of
blossoms daily to decorate their homes and offices. When any visitor
arrives on the islands, they are usually
presented with a garland of flowers. Some of the more spectacular
flowers on Cook Islands include the Tiare Maori or gardenia (the national
flower) and the hibiscus, known to the Islanders as Kaute.
Apart from the beautiful plant life found on the Cook Islands, much of the flora here is also used for traditional medicinal purposes. The most notable plant is the Noni which treats a variety of ailments from diabetes and arthritis to high blood pressure.
There are not many native animals found on the Cook Islands except for Pacific fruit bats, pigs and rats, however, you can find a number of bird species here. The Indian mynah is the most common bird found on many of the islands, followed by the Rarotonga flycatcher or kakerori, the ‘Atiu swiftlet, the chattering kingfisher, the Mangaian kingfisher and the Cook Islands fruit dove.
Underwater you will find a variety of tropical marine life in the Cook Islands ranging from sea cucumbers to crabs and fish. Humpback whales also visit the islands every year in August and September as they migrate to warmer waters.