If you have ever wanted to visit the Cook Islands, now is the time! Air New Zealand is offering a special deal on their new direct service from Sydney to Rarotonga, the capital of the Cooks. Until 30 September the direct services are on sale from AU$380 one-way, for travel 18 October to 16 December 2011.The Saturday flight takes six hours.
Laze on some of the world’s best beaches if you want, but many visitors to the Cook Islands can’t wait to explore the exhilarating environment made up of 15 different islands and atolls. Incredible aquamarine lagoons beckon divers and snorkelers to discover what lies beneath. Others are content to ply the surface, paddling a kayak or trying the fast growing sport of kite surfing, which is very popular in the Cooks.
Many people are surprised how easy, accessible and affordable scuba diving is in the Cook Islands where the water rarely drops below 25°C year round. On Rarotonga, the shallow lagoon and gentle currents mean you don’t need to be a qualified diver to have a go. It’s so easy, children as young as eight leave the island with their scuba certificate (in Australia by comparison you need to be 14). Pricing compares very favorably with other more recognized dive destinations too. A beginner’s lagoon dive with one of the many PADI operators like The Dive Centre costs only around NZ$90 (A$75) and more confident divers can take the quick trip outside the reef to huge drop offs for around NZ$120 for one tank, $145 for two tanks. Visibility is sensational, anything from 15-20 meters on a bad day up to 60 meters on the ‘gin clear’ days. And the underwater terrain is so diverse – walls, caves, corals, plentiful fish and marine life – you can dive multiple days without revisiting the same site. Rarotonga’s central mountains means there is always a sheltered side of the island for optimum diving too. Turtles are commonly seen year round by both divers and snorkelers and humpback whales between July and October. In fact, Aitutaki Scuba clients regularly dive with a number of friendly turtles that love to munch on bread and doughnuts, and have their tummies scratched!
On dry land, hiring a scooter or a hybrid motorized bicycle to ride the 32km Rarotonga island circuit is the way to go. Stop at whim to wander a long beach or hike a cool jungle trail or snorkel and swim at favorite spots like the Fruits of Rarotonga on the southeast coast. Those up for a challenge should book Pa’s half-day Cross Island Trek climbing 400 meters through the lush rugged interior to Rarotonga’s highest point, The Needle, before descending to Wigmore’s Waterfall for a swim. The islands of Atiu and Mangaia offer incredible caving adventures through coral and limestone labyrinths.
And why not try something right out of your comfort zone by joining the wonderfully talented Cook Islanders at what they do best, drumming and dancing. Watch how it’s done at cultural shows or island nights then have a go yourself! Or learn the seductive hula-like hip rhythms at dance lessons in Avarua. Don’t take our word for it, tune in next week to read Alan Curson’s feature – Crossing the Dateline to Rarotonga – about his recent trip to this South Pacific jewel and find out what more this magical place has to offer.