Nassau is the only island, geologically speaking, in the northern Cooks group. The rest are atolls, including Pukapuka, its sister “island,” located some 90 kilometres away.
To reach Nassau, travellers must fly to Pukapuka, then ride for a few hours in a powered boat. Those lucky enough to visit say it’s one of the Cook Islands’ best-kept secrets – infrequently visited, perfectly preserved, verdant and lush. Plantations, a freshwater spring, and abundant seas nourish about 70 residents, who live in one tiny settlement containing thatched-roof huts.
Aside from its satellite dish and solar panels, one of the only other symbols of the outside world is a shipwreck – the ruins of the Manuvai, a cargo ship that ran aground on the reef in 1988 – in the very centre of the island, on the sand and amongst the coconut trees.
Many who have travelled throughout the Cook Islands name Nassau as their favourite island. American Elliot Smith, who wrote Cook Islands Companion, called it “a small garden of Eden.”
Like many of the Cook Islands, Nassau was named and renamed by visiting explorers; its monikers include Adele Island, Lydra Island, Ranger Island, and Mitchell Island. For some reason, the name Nassau, imposed by an American whaling ship, stuck.
Little else has been imposed from the outside. The population doesn’t require much from the outside world, and the people are hardy and self-sufficient. Cargo ships visit infrequently.
To visit Nassau, you must receive permission from the Pukapuka Island Council, and arrange travel and accommodation ahead of time.