Penrhyn - Tongareva

The northernmost atoll of the Cook Islands

Largest and northernmost of the atolls of the Cook Islands is Tongareva, also known as Penrhyn. Its lagoon, 275 square kilometres in area, dwarfs its surrounding motus, which total only six square kilometres.

At 9º south latitude, Tongareva is 1,400 kilometres from Rarotonga and 350 kilometres from its nearest neighbours, the atolls of Manihiki and Rakahanga, and it was one of the last of the Cook Islands to be set foot upon by Europeans.

Largest lagoon

Tongareva's huge lagoon occupies an area greater than the land of all 15 Cook Islands put together. From one side of the lagoon it is just possible to see the tops of long lines of coconut palms which delineate the motu of the other side.

The two villages Omoka and Ta Tautua lie on opposite ends of the atoll.

The lagoon is up to 200 metres (600 feet) deep and is teeming with turtles, rays, trevally and sharks. Not surprisingly, Penrhyn offers excellent ocean and lagoon fishing and bonefishing here is said to be on par with Christmas Island to the north.

Tongareva was first discovered and settled by Polynesian voyagers about 700 years ago.

However in 1862 a calamitous event occurred. Peruvian blackbirders arrived and took a large proportion of the atoll's inhabitants to South America to be enslaved. 412 people out of a total population of 500 were transported to Callao, in Peru. Not one returned.

Nowadays Penrhyn is once again a peaceful haven of tranquility.


Black Pearls and Rito Crafts

A cultured pearl industry similar to that on Manihiki exists on Penrhyn.

Overseas yachts can enter the lagoon with relative ease, and the wharf at Omoka has berthing facilities. Foreign fishing vessels also call at Tongareva to exchange goods and services, and finely woven rito hats and mother-of-pearl jewellery made on the island are prized products well suited to export by air.

The beautifully designed and woven hats, some inlaid with pearl shell, find ready markets in Rarotonga, Hawaii, Tahiti and elsewhere.


How to get there

Currently, Air Rarotonga flies to Penrhyn on a charter basis. Flying time is approximately 4 hours from Rarotonga. Penrhyn is also part of many Northern group Charters stopping over in Pukapuka and Manihiki on the way.

Please refer to our charter page or contact us about charter rates.

Penrhyn as seen from the air
Penrhyn Atoll from the Air
Omoka Village
Omoka Village and Airport Runway
The Main Road from Omoka to the Airport
Main Road
Cook Islands Christian Church in Omoka
Omoka Church.
Rito Handcrafts from Penrhyn are prized export goods
Penrhyn Rito Handicrafts

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