Vai Marere

Useful Information

Location: Mitiaro Island.
Near the village Mangarei, 10-minute walk on the Takaue road, signboard posted to a coconut tree.
(-19.864986, -157.712802)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstCenote SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: none, bring torch
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Near the village is Vai Marere. It has a large chamber nicely decorated by stalactites. The pool at the bottom of the cave is unusual. It is dark in colour due to the high sulphur content. It is refreshingly cool and the minerals in the water make the body and hair feel silky.

Text from George Szentes (2004): Caves of the Cook Islands, The British Caver Vol. 127 Spring 2005, pp 1-12, 13 color pictures, 1 bw picture, 1 map. With kind permission of the author.

Vai Marere is located only 800 m or ten minutes walk from the village Mangarei on the Takaue road. A signboard was nailed to a coconut tree, but as it is quite small it is easy to miss. The locals do not need the sign, they go there frequently for refreshment and know the location well. There is a cool pool at the bottom of a large chamber, nicely decorated by stalactites.

The pool is a dark blue-green or turquoise, which is said to be due to the high sulphur content. The locals even insist that this is the only sulphur cave in the Cook Islands and is renowned for the healing properties of the water. However, the colour has nothing to do with sulfur, it's a result of the high amount of limestone in the water. This strange sulfur theory was quite popular in the 19th century and now and then someone discovers an old description and reignites this nonsense. It is then copied from publication to publication and website to website and soon becomes cave guide lore. Nobody ever checks if is actually correct. The island has a core of volcanic origin, and so sulfur rich, even thermal, springs are not really unlikely. However, it seems the responsible hot spot has moved considerably and there is no volcanic activity anymore. So to make it clear: there is no sulfur and no medical effect, but the water is nevertheless refreshing.

As there is no cave, just the huge chamber with the pool at the bottom, we classified the site as a cenote. This term is also used in publications.