Guide to the beaches around Aitutaki island.

Aitutaki is shaped like a fish hook, with a larger low-rise land mass on the western side of the island, adjoined by a smaller and flat sandy "hook-like" structure on the eastern side.  The entire island is surrounded by a triangular shaped lagoon, fringed by an outlying coral reef. While the lagoon area is reasonably shallow, the ocean drops off considerably beyond the reefline.

Aitutaki is described as part atoll and part volcanic.  The crater of Aitutaki is well worn, forming low lying hills at its interior.  A couple of the outlying motu are volcanic in origin, while the remainder are all atolls.  Aitutaki lagoon is one of the most beautiful marine areas in the world.  The ever changing azure-blue waters are very attractive, inviting a closer encounter of its depths and myriad of tropical fishlife best experienced by venturing onto its waters by lagoon cruises, sailboats, fishing charters, private launch and kayaks. 

Around the main island there are a number of accessible places to engage in aquatic activities including swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.  Here's a rundown of the localities, starting from the Arutanga harbour, the main sea entry into Aitutaki and located on the western side of Aitutaki.

1. Ureia - Amuri - shallow lagoon, tidal and silty.  Lot of coral hides for fish habitat.  Not good for snorkelling. Suitable for wading and kayaking when tide is full. Channel located opposite Amuri Hall, from boat launching site on sports field. Sheltered for most part from prevailing winds.

2. Anaunga - deeper lagoon area, suited to snorkelling, swimming and kayking when tide is full.  Abundant coral heads. Best part of beach and lagoon is found between Pacific Resort and north of Matriki Beachhuts. Somewhat shallow lagoon from Tauono's garden cafe to north of Aitutaki Escape. This latter area is better suited to wading, or swimming and snorkelling when tide is full. Beach profile is flatter along this length of beachfront with more broken coral and siltier sand compared to the southern end. Paradise Cove has created an artificial swimming hole in the lagoon floor.  BEWARE of wearing reef shoes at all times around coral heads and areas of silty substrate where stonefish like to hide and bask in the warmer waters. 

3. Northern Aitutaki to Ooka channel - good snorkelling area. Clearer waters and more prolific fishlife found from Aitutaki Seaside Lodges to Marine Resources hatchery.  Nice beach area alongside the western end of the coral runway.  Popular picnic spot with easy road access. Further south of this point, along the eastern side of the "hook" of the island, the lagoon occupies a narrow strip with the reefline and ocean lying close to the steep-sided and coral-packed shoreline.

4. Ootu channel and beachfront.  Thick layers of white sand border the beachfront, and tip of Ootu point.  Sand-banks are uncovered when the tide is out.  It is possible to wade, swim and walk across to Akitua motu under low tide conditions. Popular area for picnicking, batheing, sailing, kayaking and kitesurfing.  Several lagoon cruises depart form Ootu including Titi Ai tonga, Bishops Cruises and Wet 'n wild. Aitutaki Sailing Club operates from Ootu point.  A small launch is available to transport guests across to the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa on motu Akitua. BEWARE of wearing reef shoes towards the seaward end of the channel due to the presence of stone-fish basking in the warm waters.

5. Nikaupara to Te Koutu Point.  Very shallow lagoon area best suited to fishing and wading.  A picnic area exists at Te Koutu Point, with good views across the widest part of the lagoon to the distant motu.  Prolific crab species can be seen scuttling along the silty sand and in exposed holes that dot the land-lagoon interface. Lots of mossies are found around the freshwater streams and ponds that drain into the sea around here.   

6. Vaitupa to Tautu.  Interesting estuarine area on the eastern side of Aitutaki that faces into the upper reaches of the shallow lagoon, looking across to Ootu and closely lying motu that hug the northern reefline.  This part of Aitutaki lagoon is a traditional fishing ground for indigenous  Aitutakians, and was settled long before European arrivals when Ootu channel was used as a main entry point onto Aitutaki island.  Subject to the prevailing winds that blow from the NE, the marine waters are mostly cloudy providing protection for fish spawn and fry from predatory shorebirds.  OK for wading, but not suited to snorkelling or swimming.  Several jetties occupy the area. Much of the shoreline is boggy ground, and dotted with crab holes.  Mud crabs are gathered around the upper estuary and around the sealed runway area.