Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Magical Paradise

Mangaia - A Magical Paradise

Mangaia is a 40 minute flight to the south of Rarotonga by Air Rarotonga.

Video of Mangaia taken in April 2009

Mangaia is currently estimated by geologists who paid a recent visit to the island, to be 22 million years old, making it the oldest island in the South Pacific. It is the second largest island, after Rarotonga, and the southern most of the Cook Islands. It is 15,600 feet or (4750 m) above the ocean floor.

It has a central volcanic plateau, and it is surrounded by a high ring of cliffs of fossilised coral called the "makatea", but the coral is razor sharp as seen in this pic on the left.

Mangaia is an island riddled with caves and is full of history, and the cave systems are huge! The makatea contains numerous limestone caves. It holds impressive stalagmites and stalactites along with many burial sites.

Another cave worth visiting is the Touri Cave which contains two streams; one freshwater and the other salt water.

The legends related to these ancient caves are as intricate as their origins. And many believe there is a multiplicity yet undiscovered by humans. The cave Te Puta, where the local recluse Tuna lived, has a high stunning view of the interior plateau. Teruarere with its dramatic and seemingly endless chambers hoarding ancestral bones and rediscovered in the early 1930s by Robert Dean Frisbie and Te Uru a Puru is said to be over 3km long as it stretches to the reef. All reveal magnificent stalactites and stalagmites - awesome in their ancient structure.

If the caves are famous, so too are the “staircases” cutting through the towering coral cliffs and for which Mangaia was originally named. To reach the plantations centred in the verdant plateau; these natural crevices (Ara Kiore for one) were made into steps by the forefathers who hand-carried rocks before forging them into shape to provide easy access. Unknown to the marauding islanders from other areas, legend says that they also provided quick escape for women and children during warfare.

Tere Tauakume was my guide to the caves in Ivirua, who charges NZ$50 for the tour. His email is tauakume@mangaia.net.ck

Mangaia is an island of incredible serene beauty - from it's rugged coastline to the lush green interior. It is peaceful beyond belief to those accustomed to the constant rush and haste of the outside world. This is a place where one can trek for miles along the coast or interior and not meet another soul, trust me I walked from Ivirua to Oneroa taking photos along the way, having a dip in one of the secluded beach coves, and never did I spot any living soul until I got to the main village.The road is well maintained. Mangaia uses it's own resources, they have a crusher for crushing limestone, which is used to make the road more stable, as tar sealing is not permitted.

Accommodations - Mangaia Villas
Oneroa, Mangaia, Cook Islands
Tel: +682 29 882
Fax: +682 29 884

Deep-sea fishing excursions are available - just ask your host Jan Kristensson of Ara Moana Bungalows, or Ura who manages Babe's Motel. They can also steer you in the right direction for guided tours that include caving, reef/lagoon and bush walks.

Mangaia is a large fossilized coral island of 51.8 sq km which rises dramatically out of the sea to form a fortress-like wall that plunges into the interior, in some places by as much as 60m. The central basin of mainly crop land surrounds the dramatic peak of Rangimotia which offers impressive views over the island. There are 4 smaller and more accessible peaks to also view the island from. The pic below is the Maumaukura Lookout in Tamarua, overlooking the interior where the local villagers grow their taro plantations.

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