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Cook Islands? -> Newbie

Discussion in 'The Pacific Islands' started by dhbikerczar, Dec 30, 2007.

  1. dhbikerczar

    dhbikerczar Garibaldi

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    I did some searching around looking for information on the Cook Islands, Rarotonga, etc. I wasn't able to find too much. If you have a couple minutes I will make this long but maybe interesting. I grew up and live in the mountains of Idaho, USA. (about 1800 meters elevation) where right now it is -10c with 10cm of snow on the ground. Not much of a dive destination! I lived in Southern California for a short time. While there I got my dive certification and picked up some gear. Right after finishing the class and a couple dives I moved back to Idaho. While down there I gained a couple of good diver frineds and now one of them would like to do a South Pacific trip. She is a PADI dive instructor and has a lot of experience in really cool locations. In chatting with her about doing a trip I thought of the Cook Islands. My grandfather was stationed there when he was in WWII and always talked about how beautiful it was and how nice the locals there were. So I mentioned this to her and she seems totally stoked about it. Ok, was that long enough?

    Now the questions. Is it a good dive destination? Where are good web sites for information? The sites I have seen all look like they were put together by the same person/company and I haven't found much in the way of good information. I would love to get a little bungalow on the beach. Nothing fancy and the fewer neighbors the better. I found three that looked ok but thought that they looked kind of expensive. Is there a good way to do a trip there for up to a week and keep it on a good budget? Are there places that will do the tank and weights rentals? Can you beach dive or does one really need to take a boat?

    Any and all information is appreciated!!! I did some searching on this forum for cook islands and didn't find too much. I like this as hopefully it is not a popular place to go. I would love the private tropical getaway.

    Thanks all!
     
  2. akbpilot

    akbpilot Barracuda

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    Try this:
    Australasia & Pacific - Pacific Islands & Papua New Guinea - Thorn Tree Travel Forum - Lonely Planet

    We went to the Cooks in 2000, very relaxed, very nice people. New Zealand dollar was 42 cents to USD, it was the favorite trip of my life. Some time around 2003 the cruise ships started stopping in Rarotonga, and most reports indicate things changed for the worse, much higher prices (in addition to a much less favorable exchange rate), more crime (it was virtually non-existent prior), and a much less open and friendly attitude towards visitors. This is my impression from reading and comparing reports prior to and after our trip. Your mileage may vary.

    We did not dive when we were there, but did enjoy the snorkeling. On Rartonga the island is a seamount. The area inside the ring reef is shallow (less then 20'), the area outside drops steeply to 2000 fathoms if memory serves correctly, should be good for diving. The islands host many pelagics, both local and migratory. Our first morning there we were treated to humpbacks breaching off the reef in front of our resort. Very cool. I seem to remember two dive shops on the island at the time, but I'm sure there are more now with the cruise ships coming in.

    I would like to go back some day, but I'm afraid the second trip wouldn't match up to the first, and I prefer to keep the memories I have. I do a peek every now and then just in case I find something I can't resist.

    Somewhere I have other links, if I come across them I will post for you.
     
  3. marpacifica

    marpacifica Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Once upon a time in Micronesia, but now bubbling i
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    I was in Rarotonga and Aitutaki in January 2002 and had a great time topside, but the diving I did in Aitutaki was disappointing, partly because of a slow recovery from coral bleaching from an El Nino ten years ago combined with overfishing. Didn't see any large schools of fish, or any sharks for that matter. I would compare it to diving in Kauai, some good stuff but nothing spectacular. I did have some great snorkeling in Rarotonga, though, and much better on Aitutaki. Part of the the atoll in Aitutaki is designated as "raui", or protected, by the local chiefs, and that part of the reef and lagoon is stunning. I saw trevally cruising the shallows hunting baitfish like wolves. Don't see that too often. Then the next day I saw some fishermen come in from a morning run with a boatload of trevally...don't know where they were fishing, but I didn't see a single one when I was diving. Back then there was only one scuba center, and they didn't give any discounts for multiple dives..."Don't Ask" is what a sign said in their shop along with their brochures.

    Despite the mediocre diving I'm headed back there December this year. Great place just to hang out and unwind from the NEngland winter. The best Polynesian dancing you'll see anywhere. Exchange rate for the US$ really is bad now, but it was about 2 NZ$ to the US$ back when I went, and now it's about 1.4 to 1.

    I hear that the northern islands (Penhryn and Manihiki) have better diving because they're closer to the equator and don't get much fishing pressure other than locals.

    I'm skipping the diving in the Cooks and instead am hitting the Tuamotos in French Polynesia after my visit to Aitutaki. You may want to look into Fakarava or Rangiroa to see some great pelagic action.
     
  4. kempster1

    kempster1 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Currie King Island Australia
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  5. SeaTurtle42

    SeaTurtle42 Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: New Zealand
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    Hi there. Just spent a long time in the Cooks and did all the diving you can possibly imagine in Rarotonga. In short, it's not worth it unless you get to go to the South. The coral is dead and the sharks, turtles, etc. are scarce. The only good diving here is in the South, but conditions have to be perfect in the South to go out there and only 2 of the 4 dive companies go there. The South has passage that you swim down and can (on a good day) be full of puffer fish, white tip reef sharks, green sea turtles, hawksbill seaturtles,and moray eels.
    I did my first two dives with Pacific Divers and it was possibly the worst dive outfit I've come across in my time. Their boat is lucky that it still floats. My first dive guide was a local who wasn't that friendly. He took off his fins and ran across the bottom throughout the entire dive. I don't know if he thought it was amusing or what, but I thought it was highly unprofessional. On the other hand, he was only a teenager. The second guide I had wasn't that much better. She was hungover and in no shape to dive. She was really young and had more fun engrossing in gossip with the boatsman than she did in diving.
    I then went with The Dive Centre. Much much better. The boats were nicer and the staff heaps better. They go on the South and I couldn't believe the difference in the diving. I had a wonderful guide, Gary, who was also a local and does pearl farming. Gary has fantastic customer skills and knew a lot about the marine biology of Raro. He's from Manihiki and he said the diving up there is amazing, but there is no dive outfit up there...
    My partner took a course with The Dive Centre and also had a fantastic instructor, Kristen, who is the only American there. She was very flexible and took her time with my partner who was very nervous. She had all the patience in the world and had the lovely "no worries" attitude that I love about the islands.
    The other 3 that work there are all Germans and I didn't really interact with them much, but they seemed nice enough.
    As for the other two dive operations, Dive Raro only dives the North and I don't know anything about Cook Island Divers, so I can't say.
    A two tank dive cost 125, but they are rising up the price and it gets cheaper the more you dive.
    If you are also going to French Polynesia during your trip, I'd forgo the diving in the Cooks and use the money for more diving in French Polynesia because the diving there was unreal.
     
  6. Ayisha

    Ayisha DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Toronto, Canada
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    When I did research on Rarotonga and the Cook islands over a year ago, I discovered that the diving was not worthwhile. I read, including on this board, that the area is plagued with the Crown of Thorns, which apparently eats it's weight in coral every day. The result is bleached coral and lessened sea life.

    Rarotonga is beautiful and has great jewellery shopping - we found the most reasonable prices and really beautiful selections there. However, I skipped the diving/snorkelling there. I heard that Tahiti is so-so diving, although better than Rarotonga, so I did not dive there either.

    Instead, I dove in Moorea and Bora Bora, which were amazing; and Raiatea and Huahine, which were pretty good. These islands were on my 10 day Tahitian Princess cruise.

    Some places that I've heard are amazing but didn't get to dive are the Tuamotus, Rangiroa and Fakarava. Here there is really amazing diving through Passes, which is where the ocean flows rapidly into the lagoon through a break in the coral. The current is ripping and they are challenging advanced dives, but this is where the big stuff hangs out - you fly through with tonnes of sharks, manta and other rays, etc. They are supposed to be incredible. We attempted to do a pass in Huahine, but one of the divers was having issues, and we went to a nearby reef instead.

    We saw tonnes of sharks (black tip, nurse, lemon, grey, hammerhead), spotted eagle rays, sting rays, sea turtles, eels, lion fish, clownfish, trumpetfish, triggerfish, and much more around the 4 islands we dove off of (Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Huahine). French Polynesia is mostly hard corals and not really the colourful soft corals, so it is different looking than the Caribbean, but it is very healthy and supports a lot of life. The other islands outside of the Cook islands would be much better choices for diving.
     
  7. ScubaYakker

    ScubaYakker Guest

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Northern Cal
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    The Cook Islands is a great tropical vacation destination that has diving available, but should not necessarily be considered a "dive destination". I've been there twice - dove both times, and had nice dives. Not great, but nice. It's one thing to talk about Crown of Thorn infestations, but another thing to actually see it! I would consider the diving off of Rarotonga to be basic intermediate diving. There is pretty much only one break in the reef to get out to the die sites and it can be quite rough. Could not dive off of Aitutaki due to weather conditions.

    My last trip was in '06 and I did not see the high prices or crime. I think it is an awesome family alternative to Hawaii. No visit to Rarotonga would be complete without at least meeting Pa, a local nature guide, who has heaps of personality and stories. His cross-island trek is amazing - amazingly tough I should say. I schlepped a heavy Bogen tripod and Canon video camera about a third of the way - Pa carried it the rest. Amazing (I already said that, didn't I??) that a man of his age is so agile and in good shape - Beware his Noni juice tho - it may be healthy, but it's tough to get it down.

    Always follow the Bubbles..........
    Mark the Yakker
     
  8. havnmonkey

    havnmonkey Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: WPB, FL
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    I'm starting a Dive Shop w/ gun boats as dive boats... I'm gonna work in ALL the islands and blow holes in all the competitions boats... My reef's will be better... my prices will be lower...and my equipment will be supererer... and my employees will not post on forums... Blah Blah Blah...

    So it seems the Cook Islands has less than superb diving, but still seems to have great above surface life... I'd say try it out and let us know how it is!!! If you decide on elsewhere, let us know how it is there too! I've always wanted to go to the Caroline Isle's for surfing and diving so look there too! Then theres always Truk Lagoon!!! and Palau and Yap and etc.,....

    And the watermelon served on my dive-gunboats will be the most succulent you've ever had!
     
  9. almitywife

    almitywife Vegemite Mod

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Sydney, Australia
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    A ScubaBoard Staff Message...

    whooooo - lets all just chill a bit and take a breather... please.

    this thread is about the cook islands and i will be going thru it to get the off topic posts deleted

    also, please remember that cyber stalking and name calling is a no-no, so if a SB'er is tracking another member down for a sport then they should be expecting a pm from me soon and seriously need to step away from the keyboard

    if someone answers a question and you have an opposing view then keep your posts TOS friendly, preferably pleasant and on topic

    if you find a post that is against the TOS please contact your nearest friendly mod by pressing the report button

    cheers


     
  10. havnmonkey

    havnmonkey Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: WPB, FL
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    sweeeeeeeet!!! Thanks ^^^^^

    If anyone does end up going to the Cook's any time soon let us know how it is so we can decide whether to put it on the "never ending list" of paradises to visit!!!
     

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