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