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Cook Islands Travel Guide

Takitaki Cave
Kopeka birds nest in the Takitaki Cave on eastern Atiu.

Sights of Atiu

Takitaki Cave

This cave is one of the few in the Cooks inhabited by birds: little kopekas, a type of swiftlet, nest in the roof. Their huge saucerlike eyes help them catch insects on the wing. They never land nor make a sound while outside the cave; inside, they make a cackling, clicking sound, the echoes of which help them find their way through the dank dark. Fewer than 200 pairs of this bird remain and their nesting success is poor. Visitors to the cave should keep at least two meters away from bird nests and discourage their guide from catching the tiny creatures.

Takitaki is in the middle of the makatea, east of Atiu Villas, a taxing 40-minute hike in from the road. A guide is required. The main part of the cave is large and dry, and you can walk in for quite a distance. Many stalactites, broken off by previous visitors, lie scattered about the floor. The story goes that Ake, wife of the hero Rangi, lived many years alone in this cave before being found by her husband, led to the spot by a ngotare (kingfisher) bird.

Keep an eye out for unga (coconut crabs) while exploring the makatea, and wear boots or sturdy shoes as the coral is razor-sharp. Go slowly and take care, as a fall could lead to a very nasty wound.