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Activities in
the Cook Islands

Raro Safari Tours, 4x4 Tours


Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruises, Rarotonga

Check out 4x4 Safari Pictures

Whenever one pictures the Cook islands the thought of fabulous beaches and blue seas come to mind.

But those wonderful sea views are only a small portion of the island of Rarotonga, whose volcanic interior rises majestically to dominate the landscape.

While 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.

It was a good choice.

Captain Tama's Lagoon Cruises, RarotongaWe 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.

We 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.

Mr 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 ...

One of the dominating physical features of Rarotonga is a huge rock spire that can be seen from most parts of the island.

On 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."

Anyway, the drivers are a laugh a minute and seem to enjoy their jobs as guides.

Particularly when we hit the 4x4 part of the journey.

Then they turn mean as they put those trucks through their paces on deeply rutted tracks that would make donkeys go back the other way.

In 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.

On the day we went the tracks weren't too muddy, I can imagine it would be absolute chaos after rain.

After the initial 4x4 effort we then headed to the Papua Waterfall, also known as Wigmore's Waterfall, just to the west of Vaimaanga.

It 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.

It is a tale of mafia, corruption, bullying and the locals refusing to bow to big-money pressure.

Anyway, if you are in the area check it out as it is a monument to folly.

Following 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.

At another stop we got to see the historic marae Arai te Tonga.

In New Zealand a marae is a Maori communal area that includes a wharenui or big meeting house.

In 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.

I 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.

Raro Safari Tours took us on another side journey into the interior of the island up the green Avatiu Valley.

We got very good views of The Needle (Te Rua Manga) and Mr Hopeless put on a show of coconut husking, cracking and extracting the flesh.

He also showed they make great bras, however, that's an imagfe I want to forget as soon as possible.

Then it was on to a terrific spread for lunch and back to the hotels and resorts.

We 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.

The safari crew are excellent and the lunch was superb. This is one of the tours you must do.

- Richard Moore


Copyright 2011 RICHARD MOORE