the Cook Islands
Safari Tours, 4x4 Tours
out 4x4 Safari Pictures
one pictures the Cook islands the thought of fabulous beaches
and blue seas come to mind.
those wonderful sea views are only a small portion of the island
of Rarotonga, whose volcanic interior rises majestically to
dominate the landscape.
scootering around Rarotonga on our first full day there we saw
lots of small sideroads that we wanted to explore but, as we
were doing the Raro Safari Tour the next day, we thought we'd
wait and be properly guided.
was a good choice.
were picked up at the Edgewater Resort by our driver Jiko, who
went on to become one of my favourite tour guides ever. He was
very funny, entertaining and had a wealth of stories about Rarotonga
and its people.
then joined up with the other two four-wheel drive trucks wiuth whiuch we
would explore the interior of Rarotonga.
On our first safari we met the chief
guide Mr Hopeless.
Hopeless was one of the most inaptly named people I have met.
He was brilliant and you can read about a bus journey with him I took in 2016. Not only hilarious, but he had a way of educating
you about his beloved island that had you taking in everything
he said while laughing at the same time.
Unfortunately Mr Hopeless died this year and the entire island mourned.
Each time I saw one of the bus company vehicles coming towards me I'd check to see who was driving and if it was Apu then I 'd give him a wave. He'd respond with a wave and a cheeky grin.
Rarotonga was not the same without him. Here is a story on his bus driving and also to my tribute to Apu in the Cook Islands News.
Back to Raro Safari Tours ...
of the dominating physical features of Rarotonga is a huge rock
spire that can be seen from most parts of the island.
top of a hill closer to the impressive sight, Mr Hopeless said
to us: "The Europeans called that The Needle ... we call
it a rock."
the drivers are a laugh a minute and seem to enjoy their jobs
when we hit the 4x4 part of the journey.
they turn mean as they put those trucks through their paces
on deeply rutted tracks that would make donkeys go back the
the back of the vehicles you do get thrown around a bit, but
that's all part of the fun. All I can say is don't sit near
the back and hang on tightly, which wasn't that easy when trying
to get photos.
the day we went the tracks weren't too muddy, I can imagine
it would be absolute chaos after rain.
the initial 4x4 effort we then headed to the Papua Waterfall,
also known as Wigmore's Waterfall, just to the west of Vaimaanga.
is an okay spot, but I would not recommend doing it by anything other than an organised tour.
The road has had a toll placed on it by local landowners ($5 for cars and $2 for scooters) and there have been incidents of tourists being menaced if they did not pay, even if they were just turning around after realising there was a toll.
If there hasn't been a lot of rain then calling them, a waterfall is a biut of an exaggeration.
And, by crikey, you need to take insect repellant
with you otherwise you'll be savaged by feral mosquitos.
I also have to mention the fact that security there is non-existent and a lot of items left on tables while visitors swim have a tendency to disappear.
Near the turnoff to the falls you go past one of the most amazing building
sites you will see. It is the derelict Sheration Hotel complex
that has remained in a state of unfinished disarray for the
past quarter of a century.
is a tale of mafia, corruption, bullying and the locals refusing
to bow to big-money pressure.
if you are in the area check it out as it is a monument to folly.
the main road around Rarotonga we zip through the lovely Muri
Beach and stop at Avana Harbour. This is a pretty sacred spot
for Cook Islanders as it is where New Zealand's Maori set off
in ocean-going vaka, or canoes, to settle in New Zealand.
another stop we got to see the historic marae Arai te Tonga.
New Zealand a marae is a Maori communal area that includes a
wharenui or big meeting house.
the Cook Islands a marae is generally a cleared area with a
number of stones within it so tribal leaders can sit on them
when they meet.
found Arai te Tonga a very interesting place to visit as despite
its simple structure it clearly had an influence on local people
and, to me, had a serene dignity.
Safari Tours took us on another side journey into the interior
of the island up the
green Avatiu Valley.
got very good views of The Needle (Te Rua Manga) and Mr Hopeless
put on a show of coconut husking, cracking and extracting the
also showed they make great bras, however, that's an imagfe
I want to forget as soon as possible.
it was on to a terrific spread for lunch and back to the hotels
thought Raro Safari Tours was an excellent way to see the island
and would recommend you do it early on in your stay so you get
a sighter for where you may want to return and explore at leisure.
safari crew are excellent and the lunch was superb. This is
one of the tours you must do.