Mangaia (traditionally known as Auau Enua, which means terraced) is the most southerly of the Cook Islands and the second largest, after Rarotonga.


Geologists estimate the island is at least 18 million years old, making it the oldest island in the Pacific. It rises 15,600 feet (4750 m) above the ocean floor. It has a central volcanic plateau and, like many of the southern islands in the Cook Islands, it is surrounded by a high ring of cliffs of fossilised coral, called the makatea, in this case 200 feet (60 m) high.

The island raises to 169 meters at Rangi-motia near the center of the island.

The capital of Mangaia is the village of Oneroa, in the west, with about half of the population of the island. There are two more villages, Tamarua (south) and Ivirua (east/northeast).


Traditionally, the island has been subdivided into six districts or puna headed by district chiefs or pava, which are very nearly sectors meeting at the highest point near the center of the island, Rangi-motia. . The districts are, as on some other islands of the Lower Cook Islands, further subdivided into 38 traditional sub-districts called tapere. In the Cook Islands constitution however, the six districts are listed as tapere. The districts clockwise, starting in the north, with their sub-districts, they are:

  • Tava'enga District
    • Tapere of Ta'iti
    • Tapere of Te-rupe
    • Tapere of Maro
    • Tapere of Au-ruia
    • Tapere of Te-mati-o-Pa'eru
    • Tapere of Te-pueu
  • Karanga District
    • Tapere of Teia-roa
    • Tapere of Teia-poto
    • Tapere of Teia-pini
    • Tapere of Kaau-i-miri
    • Tapere of Kaau-i-uta
  • Ivirua District
    • Tapere of Avarari
    • Tapere of Te-i'i-maru
    • Tapere of Te-uturei
    • Tapere of Te-ara-nui-o-Toi
    • Tapere of Te-korokoro
    • Tapere of Te-pauru-o-Rongo
  • Tamarua District
    • Tapere of Maru-kore
    • Tapere of Poutoa-i-uta
    • Tapere of Poutoa-i-miri
    • Tapere of Akaea
    • Tapere of Te-vai-kao
    • Tapere of Angauru
    • Tapere of Vaitangi (Pukuotoi)
    • Tapere of Te-vai-taeta-i-uta
    • Tapere of Te-vai-taeta-i-tai
  • Veitatei District
    • Tapere of Te-noki
    • Tapere of Te-tuaroa (Te-tukono)
    • Tapere of Te-tuapoto
    • Tapere of Te-tarapiki
    • Tapere of Kaikatu
    • Tapere of Angarinoi
  • Kei'a District
    • Tapere of Akaoro
    • Tapere of Tapuata
    • Tapere of Tongamarama
    • Tapere of Te-inati
    • Tapere of Rupetau-i-miri
    • Tapere of Rupetau-i-uta


Mangaia is renowned for its shell neckbands or "eis". These are made from the shells of the tiny yellow snail, the pupu, which emerges only after rain. Gathering, piercing and stringing is a very time consuming business. The women of the island often give the highly prized strands away as gifts of friendship to visitors from other islands in the Group. Mangaia is also renowned for its coconuts. The people of the island have long considered them a staple plant of survival. They remain an important crop even today. Coconuts provide food, coconut milk, and also fiber- all in one shell.


Before missionary settlement Mangaia was ruled by fierce warriors, in a constant struggle for land and crops.

The first recorded European to arrive to Mangaia was Captain Cook in 1777.

Long ago, during a trip to London, Numangatini, the "king" of Mangaia received from Queen Victoria herself a Union Jack. The flag is still preciously kept at Oneroa.

Anthropological notes

For example, the traditional Mangaians (Marshall, 1971), a Cook Island people in the South Pacific, like other Polynesians, have generally been described by anthropologists as a "sex positive" culture. This means that sex, within that culture, has not been regarded as a negative or even ambiguous behavior. There is a focus on sexual pleasure, particularly on female satisfaction and multiple orgasms. Romantic love is not necessarily linked to sex. The restrictions on sex are few, with most restrictions placed upon the kings and queens, and the elites in Old Polynesia. In Mangaia, young people are encouraged to have as many partners as possible prior to marriage. (This occurred before the advent of AIDS in Third World countries, particularly among Polynesian peoples where AIDS entered the population through tourism.) Mangaian youths do not date. There is no gradual increasing of intimacy beginning with kissing, necking, and petting. In fact, until recent influences from the West, kissing had not been part of traditional Mangaian sexuality. For the Mangaian youth, coitus is the expected outcome of the intimate encounter. According to Donald Marshall, a cultural anthropologist, less than one out of one hundred girls or boys have not had "substantial sexual experience" (1993). Young Mangaian males (early teens to early twenties) average three orgasms per night, seven nights a week. At twenty-eight years of age they average two orgasms per night, five to six times a week. The expectation is that the male will strive to have his partner have two to three orgasms to his one.


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