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Rarotonga facts for kids

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NASA satellite image of Rarotonga
Location Central-Southern Pacific Ocean
Archipelago Cook Islands
Major islands
  • Motutapu
  • Oneroa
  • Koromiri
  • Taakoka
Area 67.39 km2 (26.02 sq mi)
Demonym Rarotongan
Population 13,044

Rarotonga is the most populous of the Cook Islands, with a population of 10,572 (census 2011), out of the country's total resident population of 14,974. Captain John Dibbs, master of the colonial brig Endeavour, is credited as the European discoverer on 25 July 1823, while transporting the missionary Reverend John Williams.

The Cook Islands' Parliament buildings and international airport are on Rarotonga. Rarotonga is a very popular tourist destination with many resorts, hotels and motels. The chief town, Avarua, on the north coast, is the capital of the Cook Islands.


Rarotonga from the north

The volcanic island of Rarotonga stands over 14,750 feet (4,500 meters) above the ocean floor. It is 32 km (20 miles) in circumference and has an area of 67.19 km2 (26 square miles). At a depth of 4,000 m (13,000 ft) the volcano is nearly 50 km (31 miles) in diameter. Te Manga, at 658 m (2,140 ft) above sea level, is the highest peak on the island.

The island is surrounded by a lagoon, which often extends more than a hundred metres to the reef, then slopes steeply to deep water. The reef fronts the shore to the north of the island, making the lagoon there unsuitable for swimming and water sports, but to the south east, particularly around Muri, the lagoon is at its widest and deepest. This part of the island is the most popular with tourists for swimming, snorkelling and boating. Agricultural terraces, flats and swamps surround the central mountain area.

Along the southeast coast off Muri Beach are four small coral islets within a few hundred metres of the shore and within the fringing coral reef. From north to south, the islets are:

  1. Motutapu, 11.0 hectares (0.042 sq mi)
  2. Oneroa, 10.6 hectares (0.041 sq mi)
  3. Koromiri, 3.0 hectares (0.012 sq mi)
  4. Taakoka, 1.7 hectares (0.0066 sq mi)

The interior of the island is dominated by eroded volcanic peaks cloaked in dense vegetation. Paved and unpaved roads allow access to valleys but the interior of the island remains largely unpopulated due to forbidding terrain and lack of infrastructure.

A large tract of land has been set aside in the south east as the Takitumu Conservation Area to protect native birds and plants, especially the endangered kakerori, the Rarotonga flycatcher.


The earliest evidence of human presence in the Southern Cook Islands has been dated to around AD 1000. Trading contact was evidently maintained with the Austral Islands, Society Islands and the Marquesas to import basalt that was used for making local adze heads, while a pottery fragment found on Ma'uke has been traced to Tongatapu to the west, the main island of Tonga. At least 30 of the traditional Polynesian crop plants found here were likewise introduced from the west.

Fletcher Christian visited the island in 1789 on HMS Bounty but did not land. Captain Theodore Walker sighted the island in 1813 on the ship Endeavour. The first recorded landing by a European was Captain Philip Goodenough with William Wentworth in 1814 on the schooner Cumberland

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