Verfasst von: rbontour | September 14, 2010

The Cook Islands – 15 Tiny Islands In Paradise

Out of the 15 precious islands, which are scattered over 2.25 million sq km in the Pacific, we were able to visit Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. Each of the three little ‘gems’ is unique. We so much enjoyed exploring all of them. We discovered untouched nature, secluded beaches and unexpected cultural traditions.

Rarotonga – An Abundance of Colors
We started our journey in the island group’s capital Rarotonga. Viewed from the aircraft, it’s most likely everyone’s image of a South Pacific island. It’s truly stunning when you see this little slice of heaven surrounded by the deep blue ocean. Green mountains rise majestically from the center of the island, while the south-eastern side forms a picturesque lagoon with turquoise waters.

As soon as Robert recovered from his pneumonia and an exhausting 10 hours flight from L.A., we rented a scooter to explore every possible spot on the island. Well, this wasn’t as easy as usual. Every tourist, who intends to be mobile, has to (financially) support the police by taking a practical driver’s test and applying for an official Cook Island Driver’s License. The funny thing: We could rent the scooter with a temporary license and no practical test on our first day, drive around and get the official document on one of the next days. What matters is that you pay them NZ$ 20 for their huge bureaucratic effort, that is, issuing an official plastic card license and taking a picture. Well, it was a unique experience and now we have a nice souvenir to take back home.

Besides ‘scootering’ around, we were impressed to spot humpback whales just outside the reef. The to‘oras (traditional Maori name for the whales) are passing the islands from July to October on their way to the Antarctica. So we’ve been really lucky! It was wonderful to observe them breaching the surface of the water and slamming back down with a powerful splash.

We also enjoyed a very scenic tour including a breathtaking view to The Needle (one of Raro’s highest points). On our way up, we hiked through the rainforest while discovering gorgeous flowers in the most diverse colors. In general, flowers are extremely important to Cook Islanders – especially women wear them, but we also saw a lot of men accentuating their outfit with a blossom. There is a simple rule – wearing it behind your right ear means you are “occupied”; wearing it behind your left ear means you are “fresh meat on the market”.

Aitutaki – Admiring One Of The World’s Top 5 Lagoons
We booked our flight to Aitutaki (only 45 minutes) with the only local airline (Air Rarotonga). Besides the fact that flying from one island to another is outrageously expensive, it is the best way to see these amazing views – views, which we will never ever forget.

The first impression of Aitutaki was different – we missed the green mountains, the flowers and the very well kept front yards, which we have seen on Raro. A day later we found out that there was a cyclone last February, which we simply didn’t know of (uniformed tourists!). Luckily there were no casualties, but the storm destroyed 42 houses and you could still see some bent palm trees or forest areas that were not cleared up, yet. Unfortunately, most crops were ruined back then – hence, no popos (papayas) or mangos for us!

Nevertheless, the beaches were absolutely gorgeous. From the porch of our little beach hut, we could enjoy the white sand, a nice salty breeze and the soft sound of the ocean. BTW, the wooden hut we stayed in was very simple. We had an outdoor shower, which you could only enter through the cooking area. Taking a shower meant to be entertained by Aitutakian geckos (you quickly get used to those little animals when you travel). The toilets were also outdoor – only a short distance away from our hut, but this became quite adventurous during the night. The path was full of night-active crabs and we needed our flashlight so we wouldn’t step on them.

Our absolute highlight on Aitutaki was the lagoon cruise. The islands enormous lagoon (45 km around) is known as one of the world’s most magnificent lagoon with dazzling white sandbars, crystal clear waters in many different blue shades and lovely motus (islets). A dream!!!

The unsurpassed natural beauty of the lagoon and the simple tranquility attracted Hollywood several times. The ‘Blue Lagoon’ with Brook Shields was filmed here as well as the US series ‘Survivor’ in 2006 (‘Survivor’ is similar to “Das Dschungelcamp” in Germany). Although the weather could have been better, we still loved the lagoon and wished we wouldn’t have postponed it to our last day on the island (yes, traveling is a learning experience… next lesson learned “Don’t postpone and wait for bad weather! Take advantage of every opportunity!”).

Atiu – Gigantic Waves & Undisturbed Jungle
Atiu was another 45 minutes flight away. Again, this island had a totally different ‘look & feel’ opposed to our previous stops. On Atiu, we could hike through wild and undisturbed jungle while learning about the islands flora and fauna. The coast has spectacular cliffs and the largest waves we have ever seen. The waves were bigger than usual – our neighbor told us that these were the aftershocks from the recent earthquake in Christchurch/New Zealand. Also the reef is very close to the shore and we sat for hours to see those gigantic masses of water break.

We also enjoyed the most secluded beaches out of all three islands. No matter which one of the 26 beaches we picked – we were always alone. No wonder, actually, as there were only five tourists on the island – including ourselves… lol. Atiu has just over 500 people and everyone lives in the central. It was very tranquil and we felt isolated at some point as we neither had cell phone reception, nor internet connection (this can be challenging when you have to plan the next countries of your trip). We also came to the conclusion, that this degree of remoteness is eventually a bit too much for us. Maybe we need some more life and action around us (or we are not used to the tranquility, yet).

Our guesthouse was in the middle of the village. It was interesting to sit outside and observe the villagers around us. Their family life happens in their front yards and children play outside from dusk to dawn. No Sony Play Stations, seemingly no important TV series and no high-tech toys. Kids run around barefoot and we could hear happy laughter and playful noise all around us. Many times we wondered how the people can survive here and what they do to generate money. After a quick chat with the owners of our guesthouse (a German couple), we learned more. All our neighbors in the village are subsistence farmers or seasonal part-time workers (tourism only contributes very little to their income). According to the German couple, the population shrunk substantially over the years and Atiu suffered from a so called “brain drain”: the well-educated and smart people leave the island to have a more prosperous future in New Zealand or Australia.

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Responses

  1. super schön zu lesen – freu mich auf die Bilder von den Cooks
    Bussi

  2. oh yeah – amazing 🙂 ich muss da auch hin 😉

  3. Hallo tante und robert habe mich jetzt auch hier eingeloggt ich schaue mir später noch die ganzen bilder an
    alles gute bis morgen in skype
    lg fabi


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