Home' Destinations : Destinations 25Aug2011 Contents THE HERALD
complimentary pushbike or seemingly compulsory hire
scooter can get you. Tupuna's Restaurant, which is
open Monday to Saturday, has a casual, tropical
setting. The floor is sandy and the tables are
lit by torches, but the dining is anything but
lowbrow. Specialties include local mudcrab
and fresh reef crayfish. The house favourite
is a dish comprising curried prawns,
scallops and fish with vegetables, served
with rice and a side of spicy pumpkin
soup for $35.50.
Venture outside your luxury villa or
waddle away from the table and you'll
find there is plenty else to see and do on
Aitutaki. A cruise of its famed lagoon is
an absolute must and offers the chance
to snorkel in waters that are home to
green sea turtles, giant clams and throngs
of colourful tropical fish.
Bishop Cruises' Five Islands cruise takes
in Akaimi (a former WWII refuelling stop for
Catalina aircraft), Moturakau, whose waters are
home to turtles, Honeymoon Island, Maina, and
One Foot Island.
If you haven't had enough of the lagoon by the
time you make your way back to shore, give Samade on
the Beach, at Ootu Beach, a whirl. A short walk from where
the cruiseboats disembark, this beachfront bar and grill has the
location of the universe. Its timber deck finishes about three coral-sand
metres from the crystal waters of the lagoon. Sun, sand, sparkling water
and $8.50 mojitos. What a way to spend an afternoon.
Aitutaki doesn't need to be all about sunbaking, stuffing yourself and
seducing your loved one. There's a serious side, if you want to see it,
and one way is through Aitutaki Discovery Safari Tours and its ultimate
archaeological cultural tour.
This tour explores a southern Cook Islands sacred site, or marae; traces
the inland trails of Kakeroa warriors; and takes in postcard-perfect views
from Maungau Piraki, the highest point on the island.
For me, however, the high point of the trip isn't the lookout. It is
business owner and tour guide Ngaakitai Taria's commentary and
observations on Cook Islands culture.
Nga has taken it upon himself to conduct archaeological research into
the island and its people. He also trains contestants for the reality TV show
Survivor, and is a budding entrepreneur who grows hydroponic lettuce
and tomatoes for resorts on the island.
He is passionate about the role the missionaries played in stripping Cook
Islanders of their culture.
"We are discovering the things that were taken from us," he says.
Nga says that, since the arrival of missionaries in 1821, Aitutakians were
forbidden to visit their marae.
"They were told they were cursed," Nga says. "Many still won't come."
Nga laments his people's laid-back lifestyle. He says the comfortable yet
semi- subsistence existence of many, relying on the bounty of the earth
and sea, places too much emphasis on living a good, Christian life. A
hunger to do and achieve more provides the impetus for young people to
abandon the islands of their birth. But when asked if he thinks Christianity
is the root of all evil, he pulls up just short.
"Not exactly," he says. "But these people should be warriors."
Nga believes that much Cook Island culture has been lost or
abandoned. For example, he doesn't believe Cook Islanders should kiss,
or copulate face-to-face. In ancient times they believed their saliva was
sacred and opted for the 'ongi', or nose greeting. This changed with the
arrival of the missionaries -- hence the term ''missionary position''.
Cook Islanders now kiss but much culture has been preserved in the
form of dance and ritual. An island night is an essential immersement
in this sweaty, throbbing, exuberant experience. On Aitutaki, Tamanu
Restaurant offers a fire dance, cultural
show and traditional buffet meal.
Air New Zealand flies
direct between Sydney and
departing Rarotonga on
Mondays and Sydney on
Tuesdays. This will move to Fridays
and Saturdays in October:
Air Rarotonga flies between
Rarotonga and Aitutaki:
More information: www.
The writer was a guest of
Cook Islands Tourism
and Air New
IF YOU GO
ISLAND TIME: Top,
Aitutaki from the air
and, from left, Aitutaki
Escape, Pacific Resort, a
dancer at the Pacific Resort,
Aitutaki Escape villa and pool and
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The Restaurant Sanctuary team will introduce your
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Test your foodie knowledge in the 'Wine Options
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Your five outstanding Hunter Chefs at the centre
of this MasterChef inspired experience are
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Jean Marc Pollet, Executive Chef at Mercure
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Restaurant and Cafe and Daniel Kibble, Head Chef
at 305 Restaurant and Cafe.
Your evening includes a hosted MasterChef 5-course
degustation dinner with matched wines.
Experience the taste of Peppers.
Call (02) 4993 8999 or
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