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July 29th, 2013 

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Travel and Explore the Cook Islands

Discover the Cook Islands

 Beachcomber Pete



 The Cook Islands are steeped in tradition, history, culture, beauty, and mystery.
There are plenty of beautiful tropical destinations in the world, but the Cook Islands and their fascinating history set the Cook Islands in a class by themselves.

 First, their remoteness and isolation make them compelling for travelers who want to stops the clocks and get away from it all. The Cook Islands are located in the heart of the South Pacific Ocean, north-east of New Zealand, and between French Polynesia and American Samoa. There are 15 islands in the group, which are widely dispersed over an area of more than 2.2 million square kilometers (almost 850,000 square miles) of otherwise empty ocean. The total land mass of the Cook Islands is only 240 square kilometers (less than 100 square miles), making it a very small nation indeed. The islands are volcanic in origin and the climate is moderate to tropical.

 The history of the Cook Islands, since the very beginning, is one of bravery and daring in the face of incredible odds. The islands’ earliest inhabitants made the unimaginably perilous trip to the islands around 800 AD in large sea-going canoes, probably from what are now Tahiti and French Polynesia. It is speculated that a tribal ruler named Chief Toi, who arrived in the islands during this period, was the person responsible for the construction of a major road made of coral on the large island of Rarotonga. An impressive feat of engineering, this road is still in use today, despite being well over 1000 years old.

 The first Europeans to reach the Cook Islands were Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the late 1500s and early 1600s. No further European ships reached the islands for more than a century and a half until 1773 when the famous English explorer and navigator Captain James Cook first sighted one of the islands. He came back and sighted several other islands in 1777. Cook named the islands the Hervey Islands, but in the 1820s, the name Cook Islands came into use in recognition of his role in exploring the region.

The chief mutineer Fletcher Christian of “Mutiny on the Bounty” both probably sighted Rarotonga in 1789 when looking for a place to hide out. The credit for Rarotonga’s official “discovery” is given to Captain Phillip Goodenough who arrived in 1814. After some unfortunate skirmishes with the locals, there were casualties on both sides, including Goodenough’s girlfriend who was killed and cannibalized.



 The well-traveled missionary Reverend John Williams of the London Missionary Society came to the islands in 1821 founding the first Christian church in the islands, and laying the groundwork for the eventual conversion to Christianity of the majority of the islanders. Williams did not stay in the Cook Islands, but rather continued his travels, eventually ending up in what is today known as Vanuatu where he was later killed and eaten by cannibals.

 The Cook Islands became a British Protectorate in 1888 and then moved under New Zealand’s protection in 1901, and then in 1965 because a self-governing parliamentary democracy in free association with New Zealand (which means that New Zealand is tasked with defending the islands should the need arise). Tourism is the country's main industry. Other industries include offshore banking, and exportation of pearls, fish, and fruit.

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