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My Ultimate Cook Islands Experience

My time on this tiny island in this Pacific Ocean, I must say, it was, The Best Time of my Life. It was an honour to be able to set my foot on this place. It was totally incredible moment for me.

By i.c Golina

Cook Islands, a tiny country in the South Pacific Ocean is one of the exotic islands I have ever come to discover – Finding peace-of-mind and relaxation. It is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 240 square kilometres. Cook Islands’ main population centres are on the island of Rarotonga, capital of Cook Islands and an international airport. Cook Islands is one of the most magical places on earth. With its untouched beautiful beaches, warm water, lush green vegetation right in the centre of the island makes this tiny island my idea of Paradise on earth. 

Deserted beach, few steps away from my cottage

Cook Islands has been on my top priority-list of Pacific countries to visit since high school days. It was one of that rare moments in my travel plan that I wanted to visit various Pacific island nations throughout the South Pacific. These Pacific island nations included; Honiara, Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa. Spending a week in each of these island nations truly made me realise how lucky this people are. Each of these islands are profoundly unique in culture and history. The lay-back lifestyle and the friendliness of the people truly welcomes you as you step out of the aeroplane or cruise boats. Island way of life is nothing compared to Western modern cities where hustle and bustle becomes our daily way of life. We struggle and complain that “we never got time”. 

After landing in Avarua, Cook Islands international airport I made my way out of the terminal and hopped on a taxi to my cottage, less than 10-minutes drive from the airport. Rarotonga is the big island but you can drive around the island in less than 40 minutes. High-rise buildings are prohibited on the island. Most of the modern holiday resort-like buildings have to be no taller than coconut trees. This makes this island so unique to visit. As Cook Island is an Island, white sandy beaches are everywhere and you’re all surrounded by the bright blue sea. Every accommodation around the island virtually have beaches right outside their doorstep. Unlike, many other places that I have visited in various countries throughout the world have either secluded, common or designated beaches. It is an island with family-oriented atmosphere where everyone is so friendly but respect, privacy and integrity is the moral of the island.

My self-contained private cottage was virtually right on the beachfront. Like most holiday destinations, Rarotonga has variety of accommodations to fit all families. It has other affordable accommodations to suit all budgets – from 5 star resorts to under-the-star campsites. I try to avoid staying in resort like accommodations, especially, when I am visiting small islands. The feeling of authentic and close connections with the locals is not present. In having closer connection with the locals during my holidays to any places creates a better learning curve for me. I tend to better understand how locals live their lives on the island on daily basis and their cultural way of living. Since I arrived mid-morning, I decided to have a short nap to refresh myself before my evening outing. I just couldn’t hesitate to go out and explore this tiny paradise island. Rarotonga is not an actioned packed destination. There are no mega shopping centres or complexes and nightlife, foreign fast foods, including McDonalds are non-existence on the island. This certainly creates a relaxed, lay-back and problem-free island atmosphere holiday feeling.

My destination Cook Islands, where I spent 10 days in Rarotonga (big island) doing nothing except reading, relaxing by the beach and by night, attending cultural activities. Since, it only takes 40-minutes to drive around the whole island, I didn’t want to explore the whole island in just an hour. My first priority was to get to know the local people. Looking at a local pub overlooking the ocean, I was intrigued and ventured inside this pub for my first stop to start out my “feel of the island”. The town centre was just 5-minutes drive from where I was staying. As I sat there admiring the glittering sunset and darkness started to take its place, it just made the entire island so spectacular. As I blend myself into the evening, I decided to have a taste of local cuisine at a nearby stall. I don’t know what was the fish combination in the recipe but it was absolutely delicious. Eating at the local stalls are always the cheapest and best option rather than going into a restaurant with familiar dishes, like steak, chips or fish etc. As the night went on, the taste of island feeling started to emerge with local dancers swaying the night with a mix of traditional and modern style of Rarotongan island music. It was just peaceful listening to the music on this tiny island in the middle of the ocean. 

As the night went on I felt that it was getting too late after a long flight. I took a taxi back to my cottage. Since the island is so tiny, almost everyone knows each other. The locals knew if your new in town. This makes this island one of the safest place on earth compared to Cairns, Australia where I lived there for almost 30 years and I still feel unsafe in many areas, especially any night time after dark. I felt like, I belong to the island where safety is their number-one priority. 

The following day after having breakfast, I was curious as to what I was going to do for the whole duration of my stay on the island. I jumped onto a local bus to the main town centre of the island and navigate myself on the main street. The local bus service is very reliable. The public bus does a loop around the whole island. It has only one main road that goes around the island. It didn’t matter which direction you get on the bus, you will still end up where you began. There are lot of activities for visitors to do from fishing, skiing to aerial scenic flights and the fun is endless. The town centre of the island have very limited shops but local stalls and markets makes the place very interesting place. Within less than 20 minutes you have seen the whole centre of the town.

The main purpose of my island holiday on this unspoilt island was to relax, read, strolls along the white sandy deserted beaches and going to the town centre for coffee or simply engaging with the locals that I come in contact with. My room attendant Lorna was very kind that I spent a day or two with her where she took me for a ride on her motorcycle. We both visited few waterfalls and other places of interest which were not accessible or known to tourists. It is always good to know the locals during travels because they tend to show you places or sites where only locals know.

 Just a short 40-minutes flight from Rarotonga is Aitutaki, which is only accessible by air and very expensive because of the monopoly of the single airline operating in the region. There is a ferry service but it travels infrequently and the route takes almost 18 hours because of its small population, it doesn’t justify a regular ferry service. Aitutaki is the second biggest island is undoubtedly the most exotic and beautiful island in the South Pacific. 

Rarotonga was absolutely beautiful but after seeing Aitutaki, my description of how beautiful has completely undermined that. I exited the maze feeling of euphoric. I was totally left speechless. This tiny island is simply a hidden paradise and if heaven on earth was for real, without a doubt this place was. It is not only a great destination for finding peace, quietness, relaxing and away from the rest of the world but it is a great place for fishing lovers. You have to go there to experience what fishing is all about and you will never be disappointed.

Most of the beaches are untouched, uncrowded and undeveloped for beachside resorts. It has some of the most wonderful spots with stunning views of the blue sea which will give you the chance to truly marvel at nature. I must say, these are some of the unique and pristine places on earth that are worth taking in. To me, this was the perfect place to escape the routine of everyday life. It was certainly an ultimate experience for me. I continue to add more relaxing and reading. A great fan of Lee-Child, a fictional detective novel I must have finished reading three 495 page books.  

Pristine beach in Aitutaki

This idea of island holiday was to explore and discover its diversity of attractions, people, culture and their way of life on each islands – to name a few. It didn’t take much convincing to take this self-island vacation alone. While in Cook Islands, I intended to make most of my much-needed time alone and away from the rest of the world. This include totally banned myself from using mobile phone and other social media for the duration of my stay in Cook Islands. I am happy to report that I have survived the experience.

Finally, my time of this island paradise was about to come to an end. It was great. I had lots of fun on my own and the amount of energy gained, I was guaranteed a satisfying journey back home. Without a doubt, this island feeling won’t be easy erased from me.

From personal perspective: For many travellers, getting away to visit many destinations whether for relaxing, away from busy work life or simply to explore new places, it is an achievement. Whether we get away just to rejuvenate our body for the next busy life at work or whatever reason it may be for each individual. It is good for our body and mind or simplify spending quality time either to yourself, family or with someone that you care and love.

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