Aitutaki Lagoon, Aitutaki, Cook Islands
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Review of "Aitutaki Lagoon, Aitutaki, Cook Islands"
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Day trip to Aututaki with Bishop’s CruisesAitutaki is the second largest of the fifteen Cook islands after Raratonga which is the largest. This magical little island is named by Steve Davey in his book “Unforgettable Places to See Before you Die” so we thought we must see this! We pre-booked this trip before we left the UK with our agents Allways Pacific. I believe we paid about £250 per person but this did include the return flight from Raratonga to Aitutaki which was about 45 minutes each way. It is rather obvious that the Cook Islands are named after Captain Cook who landed there in 1770 but strangely the name was actually given by the Russians, in honour of the great English navigator! This tiny island of Aitutaki has a population of just 2,500 and really there is little industry and almost all its money comes from tourism which fortunately for Aitutaki seems to be booming and growing.
On the day of our trip we were collected from our hotel and taken to the tiny airport where we checked in for the flight. We were told that they were checking the weather in Aitutaki and would let us know closer to the flight time what the situation there was. At this time it was raining on Raratonga and had been on and off since we had been there. When they called us over we were given the option of going on the trip still despite showers being forecast or having a refund or trying again the next day. We all chose to go; we could have tried the next day but thought we would risk it as it could be worse the next day.The plane was tiny and seated about 25 passengers. The stewardess came with a notebook to ask what you would like to drink, tea /coffee/ with milk or sugar. She then brought it to you on a tray. It was all very cosy and the views from the plane were amazing as you approached each island you could clearly see the coral ring around the islands and then the green of the vegetation but very few built up areas on either Aitutaki or Raratonga.
When we landed we were met by our guide Ngaakitai tai Pureariki who was a very proud local trainee archaeologist and he took us to the capital city of which was really not much more than a church , one small shop and a wharf. Aitutaki had been bady hit by a cyclone earlier the year before and there were still a lot of families living in semi destroyed houses but of course the church had been fully restored to its former glory. I cannot understand the logic behind this, why would the church spend the money collected from these people on rebuilding the church rather than helping them get a roof over their heads? They all have to give so much of their money to the church each month you would think that they would get some help at a time like this. I will stop there as I could go on for hours on this subjectOur guide was so enthusiastic about his people and their history that I was quite disappointed when he left us at the boat as I thought he was coming with us. Anyway after a tour of the island with Ngaakita our little group was dropped at the boat and met our boat crew. The boat was like a river launch with open sides and an upper deck too. Our new guide was the captain of the ship and he had help from another three crew members.
We cruised within the coral lagoon so the sea was as clear as glass and very calm. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast for the first part of the trip but despite this the colours of the sea still could not fail to impress. Aitutaki has 22 small islands or islets in the lagoon surrounding the actual island atoll and we visited two of these on our sailing trip.Our first stop was Akaiami which was previously the island where the original Tasman Empire Air Lines (TEAL which became Air New Zealand) flew huge Solent seaplanes from Auckland to Tahiti via Fiji, Samoa and Aitutaki from 1951-1960. From here, travel to Rarotonga and other islands in the group was only possible by boat. These flying boats stopped to refuel and take a break on Akaiami where the passengers would get off go through the terminal (now a self catering a boutique lodge hotel) enjoy a swim and relax before boarding again to continue their journey.
We were supplied with snorkels, masks and flippers and taken across the small island to the ocean side to snorkel on the reef. However it was very windy and the sea quite rough which made getting in to the sea a challenge as the reef came virtually to the shore. There was also a strong current which meant you had to kick like crazy just to stay still. After 15 minutes we were exhausted so we clambered out, wrapped ourselves in the towels (provided by the tour) and made our way back to the other side which was much calmer and warmer because it was protected from the wind and the sun was trying to come out too.
There was no coral reef inside but the sea was so clear that just by paddling we could see so many smaller fish. We also investigated the original refueling jetty and the hotel although you would but really supposed to go onto the resort as it was private so we just peeked through the trees. This was a true island paradise but not sure I’d like more than a couple of days here as apart from swimming and snorkeling there was nothing to do except appreciate the surroundings.Leaving Akaiami we sailed on towards One Foot Island spotting a group of turtles on the way. It was so lovely to see them swimming feely around the boat. There is nothing quite like seeing wild animals like this in the natural environment, a really special bonus for us.
We were dropped off by the boat on the sand spit just off One Foot Island and then we walked acroos through the water to the island. This is the classic view you see in all the travel guides on Aitutaki of the sand spit , pale clear shallow waters changing to aqua then a deeper blue and white, white sand. It is magical, stunning and it takes your breath away. It was every penny as I have never seen a beach like this before. After taking lots of photos we walked through the sea up to about our waists and made our way over to One Foot Island for our lunch.This tiny islet of Motu Tapuaetai or One Foot Island has the world’s smallest Post Office and if you take your passport with you and pay about $250 NZ you can have you passport stamped with the One Foot Island stamp. The same building is where our crew prepared and presented our delicious lunch of salads and barbequed fish or steak.
You could buy drinks from the crew so we bought a couple of local beers to sup with our lunch while we looked out over the lagoon through the palm trees and the pouring rain!After lunch the rain lessened and we decide that we needed to make the most of our time here so we donned our masks and snorkels and walked to the part of the island nearest the sea, once we were in the water the current took us back towards out boat so very little effort was needed. There was no coral but the fish were plentiful, colourful and very friendly. We had a couple of very chummy Puffer fish following us. I have only just discovered that they are extremely poisonous but they were most friendly to us, no sign of puffing and I had no intention of walking on them or even touching them so no harm done. It was a very special experience having fish swimming all around you just feet from the shore and usually something you can experience only when diving which I don’t fancy at all.
Sadly after our swim it was time to make our way back across the lagoon to be collected ready for our return flight to Raratonga. The tiny airport has a tiny café and that is about all, one check in desk no security at all. We had been serenaded in on our arrival and the same man sang for our departure. Apparently he meets and greets every flight in and out of Aitutaki, such a charming touch which you can’t imagine seeing at many places around the world.Once again we were able to enjoy the island from the air with views from our little plane. This was an unforgettable day and well worth every penny. If you are in this area then I would certainly recommend the Cook Islands and a trip to Aitutaki. Obviously it is possible to stay in one of several resorts which vary in price and facilities offered but the day trip does give you a pretty good idea of this island and its idyllic lagoon.
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Product Information : Aitutaki Lagoon, Aitutaki, Cook Islands
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Listed on Ciao since: 10/02/2006