One of the Cook Islands most remote sister islands, Mitiaro, has opened the first of its homestay accommodation options. Previously only accessible to the truly adventurous, this stunning island now features three homestay kikau huts hosted by local Mitiaro families.
The new homestay development, initiated by Temu Okotai of Cook Islands Tours and the Mitiaro community with the full support of Cook Islands Tourism, has been in development stages since Easter 2011 and is the only accommodation option on the island (a 45 minute flight from the capital Rarotonga).
The first three of the thatch-roofed villas have just opened their doors to travellers. Each villa has one or two bedrooms, shower and toilet facilities and a relaxing porch area. All guests are catered for by the hosting family.
The full Mitiaro Homestay Project, which includes another seven more huts and a two-bedroom family unit, is expected to open within the next three years.
Mitiaro is the only island of the fifteen that make up the Cook Islands to offer homestay accommodation.
“For the people of Mitiaro this is a unique form of tourism and a true point of difference from the sister islands,” says Metua Vaimene, Special Projects Manager for Cook Islands Tourism. “Homestays are a sustainable way for the 180 Mitiaro locals to preserve their distinctive rural lifestyle, their history and the culture of this precious little place.
“There are less than ten cars on Mitiaro and the pace of life is something that deserves to be cherished and needs to be protected. Homestay accommodation ensures these remain intact.”
Visitors to Mitiaro Homestays can expect delicious fresh food, ranging from seafood, yams, sweet potatoes and other local delicacies.
Other attractions on Mitiaro include inland swimming pools known for their therapeutic values, fresh water lakes, a coastal track revealing tiny sandy beaches and swimming holes.
Mitiaro Homestays also acts as the backdrop for the newly conceived “green tourism” which encourages every visitor to plant a tree. For $50 visitors are invited to plant one of four trees (two native with timber valued for carving and furniture, a bread fruit tree adding to the island’s food supply or a flame tree – a brilliant sight when in bloom at Christmas). The takings from the trees will be shared between the Mitiaro primary school and the Community Women’s Association caring for them. A certificate of ownership is gifted to the visitor allowing monitoring of the tree’s progress on the internet.