A raised volcanic island in the Cook Islands southern group, Atiu is surrounded by a reef from which rise six-metre cliffs of fossilised coral - makatea - which form a mile-wide ring around the island, virtually a plateau. Atiu is known as "Land of the Birds," and you can view nesting birds and with luck, you may spot one of the very rare Kakerori (Rarotongan flycatcher) now being reestablished. In common with most islands in the southern group, Atiu has only a small, shallow lagoon. It compensates, however, with many picturesque, sandy beaches and caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites formed in the fossilised coral limestone. The Anatakitaki Cave, is inhabited by tiny kopeka birds which navigate in the dark using sonar, like bats.
Atiuans trace their ancestry from Tangaroa, the principal god of Atiu and universally recognised in Polynesia as God of the Sea. The Atiuans were a fierce, warrior people and before the arrival of the missionaries busied themselves with making war on their neighbors and eating significant numbers of them. Male visitors can enjoy the esoteric delights of the "tumunu" or bush beer party with them.
Captain Cook sighted the island on March 31 1777 and landed as he did on numerous islands in the southern group between 1773 and 1779 and named them the Hervey Islands. In 1888 the Cook Islands were made a protectorate of Great Britain, and in 1900 they were annexed to New Zealand. In 1965, the Cook Islands became self-governing in association with New Zealand.
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