Tiare Holiday Cottages

Mauke Facts

The name Mauke comes from ma uke, "Uke's Land"; also known as Akatokamanava.


Mauke is half as big as Rarotonga in circumference. It is 18 kilometres (11¼ miles) around compared to Rarotonga's 32 kilometres (20 miles). The topography, however, is quite different. Mauke consists of a central volcanic plateau which climbs to a maximum height of about 30 metres. It is surrounded by a raised, fossilised coral reef – 'makatea' – which ranges from about 100 metres from the shoreline to about 1000 metres inland. There are no rivers so rainwater which falls inland drains into swamps on the inner rim of the 'makatea' and thence underground to the lagoon, similar to Mangaia. The lagoon is very short and you get a good close-up of spectacular waves smashing on the surrounding reef 


There are no sealed roads; they are topped with crushed coral sand, much like Rarotonga's roads in the 1950s before the advent of international jets, resort hotels and tourists. As in Aututaki, there are no dogs. However, wild pigs are prolific.


Mauke is a garden island, extremely verdant and fertile with magnificent hardwood trees in its interior. These forests are where the 'maire' bush is found growing wild, Maire leaf is the source of a thriving export industry to Hawai'i where the leaves are used to make welcoming 'leis' – garlands. Each week, the island gets an order from Hawaii and the women head into the interior at the weekend to pick enough 'maire' leaves to be air freighted out on Monday. The island also boasts the largest banyan tree in the world - a fact verified by a professor from Leeds University in England who is one of the world's leading experts on the banyan.


The village roads are tidy and well-maintained with low white coral walls at the front boundary of the houses. On the way in from the airstrip at the north-west corner of the island the first village is Kimiangatau. Just before the small hospital lies the derelict house of Robert Julian Dashwood (a.k.a. Rakau), the flamboyant English writer who arrived in the Cook Islands in the 1930s. He worked in Mangaia and Manihiki and eventually moved to Mauke where he married a local girl and ran a store.

The main village is Kimiangatau, located on the northwest coast, with the administration building. Other settlements are Ngatiarua (central area) and Areora/Makatea (northeast). Oiretumu is the location of the church between Areora and Ngatiarua.



Mauke has an impressive pre-history. There are at least 11 sites which could be described as 'marae'. This word has a different meaning to its counterpart in New Zealand. In Mauke it refers to a ceremonial structure similar to those found in eastern Polynesia. Usually, 'marae' contain prepared structures with paving, stone walls or platforms and have a 'tapu' or sacred quality. On Mauke the word applies to sites associated with ancestors. However, the people did not build the same type of large stone structures found elsewhere in the southern Cooks and in Tahiti and the Society Islands.

Mauke is named after a settler from Avaiki called Uke or Uki - hence Mauke or Mauki which means "Land of Uke (Uki)". Before the arrival of Europeans, the Maukeans were under the domination of neighbouring Atiu. Raiding parties went over from time to time for food and women. The first European discoverer was missionary, John Williams who landed on 23 July, 1823. The British flag was hoisted on 1 November, 1888 by Captain Bourke of HMS Hyacinth. Mauke became a member of the Cook Islands Federation until it was annexed to New Zealand in 1901, when the population was recorded as 370. The three main ariki or chiefs, Samuela, Tararo and Teau Ariki. Which of only Samuela and Teau ariki are direct descendants of Uke. Maukeans especially Maukean women are noted throughout the Cook Islands as being the most beautiful in the Pacific.


Island Life

Mauke has a special atmosphere. Its people cleave to the old customs of hospitality – the 'ui tupuna' – and they are very friendly to visitors. People from overseas need to adjust to a different pace and style. Shops are few and far between, are often closed and the range of goods on offer is limited. There are no cafés or restaurants, milk has to be bought in powder form in cans and fresh home baked bread comes from an old gentleman in Ngatiarua village who bakes loaves in a wood-fired oven.