Cook Islands Journals

Rarotonga And The Cook Islands

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An August 1999 trip to Cook Islands by ricardo

Quote: More than a thousand miles north of New Zealand. At the same latitude south of the equator that Hawaii is north of the equator. It's in the middle of nowhere. But maybe that's what you're looking for!

Rarotonga And The Cook Islands

Overview

Quote:
If you've ever wanted to go to Tahiti but you don't speak French. If you're coming back from Australia and get a free stopover in the South Pacific. If you're part of a family looking for a clean, friendly, pleasant island with no big hotels. If you're backbacking your away across the Pacific and you want a place that's cheap and safe. The Cook Islands might be just what you're looking for.

Quick Tips:

Best Way To Get Around:

Rarotonga Overview

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Story/Tip

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Rarotonga, the most populous of the Cook Islands, is an extinct volcano in the middle of the Pacific. It peaks in the center, slopes steeply downward to the beach, is covered with tropical forest, and is surrounded by a lagoon of shallow water circumscribed by a reef that keeps out the ocean swells. Raro is the island you’ll always land on first if you come by plane. It has two roads: the Ara Metua, an inner circle around the island built a thousand years ago by the first inhabitants, and the Ara Tapu, an outer slightly wider road that rings the island closer to the beach. (Tapu means sacred or holy or forbidden in most Polynesian languages. We derive the word taboo from it.) T...Read More

Motus & Topless People

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Motus are tiny, usually uninhabited, islands – sometimes only piles of sand with a few palms – that build up around reefs or islands in the South Pacific. (Most of the sand is probably produced by the chewing and evacuating of parrotfish crunching up the coral.) When I’m shivering in the cold and dark of a New England winter, motus and the Robinson Crusoe fantasies they engender, are what I dream about. So, I was happy to roam the motus in the lagoon of Rarotonga. You can walk to two of them at low tide, and though they’re each only about an acre in size, tramping around under the palms with the geckos among the coral rubble and coconut husks made me want to go right back and re-read ...Read More

What To Do, What To Do

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As do many tiny countries, the Cook Islands derive a substantial chunk of their national income from the sale of stamps and coins. So the Philatelic/Numismatic Center in town (Avarua) is the place to stop if you’re a stamp or coin collector. I’m only a casual philatelist now, but beautiful Aitutaki stamps still make my mouth water. When I was a kid growing up in a public housing project, my only ways of exploring the world were watching nature shows on PBS and asking people to give me stamps from exotic places (like Canada), so stamps still hold a special place in my heart. I bought several sheets. I also bought a Cooks 3 dollar bill. You’d think that you could just bring one home from the change you ...Read More

Snorkeling

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The reefs on Aitutaki and Rarotonga have been so decimated by overuse that Rarotonga now has raui (protected) areas in parts of the lagoon where fishing and harvesting are forbidden. After only five years the life in these areas has begun to return as the coral regenerates and the lagoon’s ecosystem restores itself. And these are the spots to snorkel in. They should be great in another ten years. One raui area near the motus has shallow water until the highest tide and plenty of small reef fish. Another one farther down has flat-topped bommies (huge heads of boulder and other coral flattened by exposure to the air at low tide). Thousands of fish hover around these natural apartment bui...Read More

People

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The people of the Cooks call themselves Cook Island Maoris. Their language is almost identical to that of the Maoris of New Zealand. This is because Rarotonga is believed to be the island from which the New Zealand (Aotearoa) Moaris paddled in the 1300s. Because the Cooks are administered by New Zealand now, most Cook Islanders live and work in New Zealand. In fact, out of 60,000 Cook Islanders, only 16,000 live in the islands. The huge number of expatriates is clearly the result of the land policy in the Cooks. The CI government does not want the archipelago to go the way of Hawaii and New Zealand where the native populations were forced off their own land and where the original inhabitants...Read More

Pace Of Life

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Story/Tip

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I just want to make a note here for anyone contemplating a visit to the Cooks. It’s illegal to land in the islands without reservations for a place to stay. (They don’t want 'hippies' camping on the beaches.) So you have to reserve a place to stay before you get on the plane. But making the reservation is something you have to be VERY PATIENT with. I work in the computer world. If someone doesn’t answer an e-mail from me in a day or two I assume they must be sick on vacation, or mad at me. And I’m used to making travel reservations instantly on the net. But in the Cooks no one has the slightest incentive to answer e-mail or any other kind of mail expeditiously. So they don’t! The firs...Read More