Our voyaging

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The Cook Islands Voyaging Society Inc was established as a non-profit organisation in 1992 after the 6th Pacific Arts Festival held on Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The Society was registered in September 1993 under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 and the registered office is c/o The Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Development.  The aims in the Constitution of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society are to:

  •  Recover and relearn knowledge, skills and traditions about constructing traditional Cook Islands ocean voyaging canoes.
  • Cook Islands voyaging heritage.
  • Building mastery in the canoe building arts.
  • Training of crew to safely and successfully complete an ocean voyage throughout the Pacific.
  • To recruit young people from throughout the Cook Islands to be trained in the skills of canoe building, sailing and celestial navigation.

The objectives are to:   

  •  Perpetuate this knowledge through a masters and apprenticeship program.
  • Validate the findings of the project by successfully undertaking and completing open ocean voyages along ancient migratory routes.
  • Perpetuate and preserve the knowledge, skills, practices and traditions generated by this project through a broad range of educational programs and made part of the Cook Islands education curriculum.
  • Develop pride and appreciation for Cook Islands voyaging heritage and accomplishments of Cook Islands voyaging people today through communications and dissemination of information about the project.

Members from a cross section of the community make up the Voyaging Society. Executive Committee

  • President – Ian Karika (Ministry of Environment)
  • Vice President – Tua Pittman
  • General Secretary – Teresa Tararo (Ministry of Education)
  • Assistant General Secretary – Thomas Wynne (Ministry of Education)
  • Treasurer – Cecile Marten
  • Assistant Treasurer – Malcolm Laxton-Blinkhorn

5 Elected Executive Members

  • Jamaal Pakoti
  • Alex Olah
  • Andrew Uritaua
  • Sam Napa
  • Sam Timoko
  • Sonny Williams – ex oficio (Ministry of Culture)
  • Honorary solicitor – Mike Mitchel
  • Patron – Joe Vakatini (Vakatini Ariki Traditional Leader)

The Society is actively engaged in raising awareness of its activities & aims and has spearheaded many successful campaigns since the construction in 1994, of a 72’ replica of a Polynesian double hulled voyaging canoe ‘Te Au O Tonga’, under the leadership of the canoe builder & designer, Sir Thomas Davis, in 1994 – to participate in a joint voyage with other Polynesian canoes to Hawaii and as a vessel to carry out the aims of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society (CIVS).

  • Te Au O Tonga made her inaugural return round voyage in 1995 to Raiatea, Tahiti, Nuku Hiva, Hawaii, Molokai and Oahu.
  • In August 1995, Te Au O Tonga sailed as part of the protest fleet to Moruroa.
  • In 1996, the voyage of ‘Te Au O Tonga’ to the VII Pacific Arts Festival in Samoa and then on to Tonga and New Zealand and return voyage to Cook Islands.
  • Voyage to the 2000 Millennium celebrations in Gisborne, NZ in 1999.
  • To the VIII Pacific Arts Festival in New Caledonia in 2000.
  • Voyage in 2002, to Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Borabora, Mitiaro and return.
  • 2002, a short trip to Aitutaki for ‘Te Au O Tonga’ to participate in movie “The Legend of Johnny Lingo”.
  • 2010 – Te Mana o Te Moana Voyage
  • 2013 – Voyage to Suwarrow
  • 2014 – IUCN Voyage to Sydney
  • 2015 – Te Mana o te Vaka

The Traditional Voyaging Vaka ‘Te Au O Tonga’ was badly damaged during the 5 cyclones that hit Rarotonga in February 2005. Despite efforts to secure the Vaka from sustaining damage during the cyclones one of the hulls was smashed and other damage was incurred. The Society has spent 3 years raising funds to repair the damage and working on the vaka. Repair work has been carried out by a dedicated and committed team of CIVS members and other individuals committed to seeing the vaka sailing once more. Over this period the Society has been the recipient of sponsorship from the EU Fund & some very generous individuals.  One of these individuals was Deiter Paulmann from the Okeanos Foundation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Te Au O Tonga’ was re-launched on the 9th July 2008, and voyaged to participate in the 10th Festival of the Pacific Arts in American Samoa.  Present at the arrival of the Vaka was Deiter Paulmann and from there was the birth of Pacific Voyagers. In 2010 Pacific Voyagers completed the construction of seven ocean voyaging canoes, called “Vaka Moana” (boat of the ocean).   The 22 metre canoes are modeled on the Cook Islands traditional double-hulled canoe ‘Te Au O Tonga’ and were built by Salthouse Boatbuilders in Auckland with the help of Cook Islands traditional boat building expertise.  The Project was funded by the Okeanos Foundation.  Cook Islands Voyaging Society members involved in the construction project.They were built to set sail on a maiden voyage across the Pacific in 2011, and many of the island nations of the Pacific were represented by one vaka, each with their own sailors. The fleet sailed from Aotearoa to Hawai’i, then to the West Coast of the United States and completed their journey in July 2012 at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands, after visiting San Diego, Cocos Islands, Galapagos, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu. The aim of this voyage, known as ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean), was to reconnect with the traditions, with Pacific communities and with the ocean and to spread the message of ocean protection. Since the Vaka’s return in November 2012 she has been based in Rarotonga.  The Cook Islands Voyaging Society is a non-profit organisation that relies on fundraising and sponsorship and volunteers to keep Vaka Marumaru Atua in the water.  In 2012 Deiter Paulmann, of Okeanos of the Sea Foundation gifted the Vaka Marumaru Atua to the people of the Cook Islands in recognition for the contributions that the society and its members had made towards the Te Mana O Te Moana voyage.  The vaka is now 4 years old, has travelled thousands of miles. The canoe itself is valued at $850,000, which is the total cost of the vaka construction and equipment onboard, sails, solar panels and electric engines. The requirements of the gifting was that the Society continue to promote Cook Islands Voyaging culture and traditions, and to highlight environmental and marine issues in the Pacific while also showcasing the vaka as being fossil fuel free, only using the wind and sun energy for propulsion, hence being environmentally friendly. She was taken out of the water for the cyclone season in November 2012 and was returned to back home to the water in May 2013 after extensive refurbishments.  The vaka which received a new coat of paint also sports two new bow sprits carved by Master Carver and sailor, Tetini Pekepo.  A dedication ceremony was held to commemorate the naming of the vaka. The port side representing the female hull has been named “Te Tika o te Tuaine” after the late Dorice Reid who held the traditional  of Te Tika Mataiapo and the bow sprit is name Te Marama (the moon).  The late vaka builder and former Prime Minister Sir Tom Davis has been honoured with the starboard hull name “Pa Tuterangi Ariki”.  Sir Tom was instrumental in reviving the art of vaka building and the MMA design is modelled after the design of the vaka Te Au Tonga which he built in 1994.  The bow sprit has been named “Te Taunga o Te Ra” (the high chief of the sun). The vaka’s last major sail since 2012 was to the uninhabited island and bird sanctuary of Suwarrow to collect a group of environmentalists including President of Cook Island Voyaging Society Ian Karika had been on the island to conduct a rat eradication programme. Through the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and Vaka Marumaru Atua, we see ourselves being able to provide programs, recruiting and training young people to become crew, community programmes and initiatives such as education, bringing about voyaging awareness in schools, youth development, Youth at risk and gender equality programmes. All of these will enhance our community values, traditional and cultural knowledge through teaching, practice and participation bringing about empowerment and sense of Cook Islands pride and respect, whilst preserving and reviving our traditional voyaging culture. Eventually we hope to operate the vaka commercially, in order to be able to sustain the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the vaka, provide ongoing programs as stated above and fund future voyages.  By commercial we mean operating eco-tourism/environmental tours throughout the Cook Islands. The Society has planned to partake in these Future Voyages:

  • September 2014 MUA Voyage to IUCN World Parks Congress 12th-19th November, Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Brisbane, Auckland
  • Feb 2015 Auckland-Waitangi-Auckland 75th Anniversary Celebrations
  • April 2015 Auckland-Rarotonga
  • 2015 50th Anniversary of Cook Islands Self Government – voyage to Australia to commemorate 50th Anniversary
  • 2016 Festival of Pacific Arts, Guam – voyage via Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, New Caledonia, Micronesia
  • 2019 Gisborne, New Zealand – voyage to New Zealand to commemorate 250 years since the arrival of Endeavour to Gisborne, the first meeting of English and Maori in Aotearoa.


Kids from the Rarotonga Sailing club out for a sail…