Home' Destinations : Destinations 25Aug2011 Contents THE HERALD
The Cook Islands, a group of 15 tiny islands dotted across a
two million square kilometre chunk of the Pacific Ocean, are
world-renowned for their picture-perfect lagoons and super-
But if you draw up a population chart of the Cooks it will
look something like this, in descending order: coconuts,
chickens, tourists, scooters, Cook Islanders and, finally,
Not that this population hierarchy in any way detracts
from the charm of the Cook Islands. It doesn't. If anything, it
adds to the juxtaposition of tourist hum and island bliss that
characterises the Cooks.
There are only around 13,000 Cook Islanders living on the
islands. Due to open-visa arrangements with Australia and
New Zealand, around 100,000 have left their picturesque
homeland and are forging a living overseas. Many return in
their sunset years, however, due to their Polynesian penchant
for being buried on family land, preferably in the front yard.
This tourist-to-Cook Islander ratio looks set to increase. The
Cook Islands government has entered a three-year deal with
Air New Zealand to operate weekly direct flights between
Sydney and Rarotonga, the main island, which is only about 32
kilometres in circumference.
The Australia-Cook Islands trek used to involve a stop-over in
New Zealand, often in the wee hours of the morning, but the
entire trip is now just five hours. And that feels far too short,
if you're lucky enough to fly business class, as my travelling
companions and I were.
Arguably the jewel in the stunning Cook Islands crown is the
island of Aitutaki, famed for being the honeymoon destination
of Getaway presenter Catrina Rowntree, the location for the
American TV series Survivor, and one of the top 10 South
Pacific beaches, as voted on TripAdvisor.com.
Aitutaki is a 45-minute flight from Rarotonga but seems a
world away from the capital. The airstrip is no longer coral but
the simple, tidy building that is the island's airport is anything
Although accommodation choices and prices range
dramatically, Aitutaki is famed as a romantic destination and
some of its lodgings are downright decadent. The Pacific
Resort, Aitutaki, features 13 individual beachfront bungalows,
each positioned for maximum privacy
and sunset views. There are also three
villas and six beachfront
The resort offers guests
600 metres of beachfront,
an infinity pool and direct
access to the lagoon,
which is just 1½ metres
deep in most places. The resort
has been mapping the coral
in its reef for guests to do self-
guided tours and has produced a
map titled "Aquatic Eco Trail -- A
self-guided snorkelling tour of
our resort lagoon".
The resort's Rapae Restaurant
offers formal dining in a
romantic, candle-lit setting
overlooking the lagoon, while its Black Rock Cafe offers casual
I stayed just down the road from the Pacific, in a secluded
beachfront villa at Aitutaki Escape.
With its water and coral feature walls and kikau-style frond
roofing, Aitutaki Escape exudes a Polynesian ambience while
offering every creature comfort this scribe could imagine.
The floors are marble, the ceilings are high. There are
downlights and impeccable stainless appliances in the
well-appointed kitchen and a big flat-screen television
with surround sound in the living area. A four-poster bed
with cheesecloth curtains commands the bedroom while a
connected bathroom houses a double glass-brick shower in a
private courtyard, double sinks, a bidet and complimentary
Out back, concertina glass doors open onto a
private deck that meanders down to the lagoon and
coral-sand beach, while the front boasts a private
courtyard, L-shaped plunge/lap pool with rock
fountain wall and statue-studded tropical garden.
There is no restaurant at Aitutaki Escape but you
can still dine in with style, thanks to the Koru Cafe. A
meal for two, delivered, costs $165. For $430, chef
and owner Steve Armstrong will come and prepare
your meal in-house. And if you fancy something
really special, Steve and his partner, Trina, will
prepare a six-dish banquet on-site for $540.
The Cooks are world-renowned for their
seafood and Aitutaki is no exception.
There are myriad choices as close as your
Amid coconuts, chickens, scooters and lagoons, EVE NESMITH finds the bliss that characterises the Cook Islands.
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