Everything you need to know… about the Cook Islands
Flying into the largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, I saw its rugged Jurassic interior and a turquoise lagoon surrounding the island. I was greeted with a traditional lei welcome of beautiful fresh flowers. Travelling along the main island road to Muri beach, it was clear to see that the island was quiet, extremely verdant and the lagoon was always in sight. Muri beach is on the south-eastern coast of the island, making for beautiful sunrises and, between June and October, whales can be often seen from the beach.
On Rarotonga, an island tour is a must. I had an excellent guide called ‘Uncle George’ who was a real character and a fountain of knowledge, delving into the diverse flora and fauna across the island. We stopped at a local church and the Noni juice factory. The juice is made from the noni fruit, which is picked and fermented for a minimum of 12 weeks and is said to have great health benefits. We also stopped at the Black Rock Beach, where Maori people made their tools on the basalt in the area. It is believed to be where spirits of the dead leave Rarotonga.
Touro (Black Rock)
The island has two buses, one that travels clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. The main bus stop is in the centre of town; otherwise you can hail it down and tell the driver where you want to get off. Alternatively, hire a bike. Cycling is the best way to see the island, but don’t forget your sun cream!
We spent an evening at the highland paradise cultural show in the 600-year-old village site, once home to the Tinomana tribe. We had a warrior welcome and learnt about the island’s spirituality. Walking around the sacred site, they explained how they were self-sufficient through their agriculture, medicines, fishing, education and canoe voyaging. After which, we were treated to a locally sourced feast and an evening of cultural music and dance.
Highland Paradise Cultural Show
The Cook Islands’ lagoon produces beautiful black pearls that grow in black-lipped oysters. Despite being called ‘black pearls’ they come in a number of different colours, from aubergine and peacock green to charcoal black. The price of pearl depends on its shape and quality, which is determined by its sheen and how smooth the surface is.
Water-based activities are a must in the Cook Islands, whether it’s swimming, paddle boarding, snorkelling or kayaking. Due to the nature of the reef surrounding the island, the reefs in Avaavaroa, Papua, Rutaki and Arorangi can be hazardous. I went on a turtle sea scooter safari; it was great to see the beautiful creatures so close.
One Foot Island, Aitutaki
From Rarotonga you can easily fly to Aitutaki, which has a main island and 15 uninhabited islets. The Aitutaki lagoon cruise and the One Foot Island (Tapuaetai) day tour was a great way to get a feel for the islands. The boat takes you out to the lagoon where you can snorkel over large clam farms before having lunch on the uninhabited One Foot Island. The sunsets from Aitutaki Island are simply stunning.
The Cook Islands are picturesque islands encircled by reefs, renowned for their excellent beaches, snorkelling and scuba diving. However, my recent trip showed me so much more…
View from the plane of Aitutaki
The islanders are such friendly, vibrant and happy people, who made me feel very welcome. The interior of the island is as beautiful as its beaches next to the clear, turquoise waters of the Pacific. It’s hard to get lost on Rarotonga – there is one exterior road and one interior road that runs around the island, with smaller roads that lead inbetween. During the bike ride we stumbled across a myriad of fruits and vegetables, free-roaming chickens and plenty of friendly dogs. One of the most memorable experiences for me was swimming with giant green turtles on my first-ever snorkelling excursion.
Cox & Kings’ Cook Islands Discovery private tour visits the islands of Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. Alternatively, we can add on the Cook Islands as an extention or create a tailor-made holiday based on your requirements.Share: [Sassy_Social_Share]