So you think you know the Cook Islands? You’ve been once or twice and stayed at one of the superb resorts or properties on offer. You’ve lazed on the beach, driven around Rarotonga on a scooter and may even have ventured to Aitutaki for a day trip or even a couple of nights. But did you know that the Cooks are made up of 15 islands over an area the size of India? There are some fantastic hidden gems just waiting to be discovered! Here are some of our top picks:
1. Stay in a Luxury Villa
For your next stay, why not swap a big resort for one of the many private luxury villas on the island. Most are equipped with their own private swimming pools and exclusive beach access. Additional extras such as personal chef, private transfers, in-house spa treatments, massages, daily housekeeping service and rental vehicles are usually easily arranged. Villas are a great idea for a couple of families that would like to holiday together or for those that are after a bit more privacy and exclusivity.
2. Cross-Island Walk Across Rarotonga
To see a very different side of Rarotonga, join a cross-island walk with Pa through the lush interior. Hike straight through the mountains of Rarotonga and see some of the most beautiful views of the island and lagoon from its highest points. On the way, Pa will also teach you about the local medicinal plants used by his ancestors and recite the stories of wars, famine and great migrations that have been passed on to him by his forefathers. Not for the faint hearted though and don’t forget the mossie repellant.
3. Go to the Rugby Sevens
You’ve been to the Rugby Sevens in Wellington, Hong Kong and probably Dubai. But have you been to the Cook Islands’ version held in Rarotonga? Originally started back in 1991, every year the event gets bigger and more popular. The new organisers have been making a huge effort to expand the fun side of the tournament, encouraging people to get together and dress up and offering cash prizes as an incentive. 2009 is predicted to be the biggest and craziest year yet so gather your friends, get your flights booked, accommodation locked in and we’ll see you at the Sevens from 5-7 November.
4. Fly-fishing on Penrhyn Island
Located in the Northern Group of the Cook Islands’, Penrhyn Island sits atop the highest submarine volcano in the world. The coral atoll that has formed above this giant volcano offers extensive sand flats – a Bonefisherman’s paradise. From February to November, there are only ever a handful of anglers on the island allowing for plenty of time to explore and fish undisturbed to your heart’s content. The fishing variety doesn’t stop with Bonefish either – Bluefin Trevally,
Wahoo, Red Bass, Dogtooth and Yellowfin Tuna are also in the area. If ever there was a deserted Bonefishing paradise, this is it. Bonefishing is also available on Aitutaki.
5. Go Caving in Atiu
Atiu may be only a 50-minute flight from Rarotonga, but it’s at least a 10-year step back in time. Once a volcano, 100,000 years later travellers can now go caving in a coral rainforest of Makatea (fossilized raised coral). Guided tours are also available that tell of the many legends and ancestors who lived and died in the caves. The island is also well known for its prolific birdlife, the most famous of which thinks it’s a bat! Take a candlelit swim in the freshwater of the limestone caves and meet the endangered Kopeka bird (Atiu swiflet) that lives deep inside the caves and navigates in total darkness. The Birdman of Atiu (George) does a fantastic tour of the island that includes burial caves, ancient trails, birds and plants. And don’t forget to try to local bush brew – Tumunu.
Other Unexpected Finds
• Mangaia – the oldest island in the Pacific, activities include 4WD tours, scenic walks, secluded swimming spots and historical caves such as Teruarere Cave, a labyrinth of interconnected chambers.
• Traditional Church Service – if you get the chance, do attend a church service to experience the beautiful singing.