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The Cook Islands: An unspoiled blue lagoon

PARADISE: The Cook Islands

THE COOK Islands are located in the South Pacific ocean and consist of 15 islands, spread over 2.2 million square kilometres. I flew into the capital Rarotonga after a long, but enjoyable journey in Air New Zealand’s luxurious business class, direct from Los Angeles.

We were warmly welcomed with flower necklaces and a greeting that positively captures the essence and values of the Cook Islands Maori people: ‘Kia Orana’, meaning “may you live a long and fulfilling life”.

BREATHTAKING
We stayed in Sea Change Villas, nestled along the beach in the village of Titikaveka.

Entering my beachfront villa with its private pool, breathtaking panoramic lagoon views and direct beach access, ignited my curiosity to venture out into the shallow lagoon in the hope of reaching the breakwater. Imagine the clearest of waters with no one else in sight, passing clusters of corals, beautiful multicoloured fish and sapphire blue starfish.

Keen to discover their local cuisine, we ventured out to Sails restaurant on Muri Beach. Flavourful sashimi salads and battered parrot fish all succulently melted in my mouth.


ADVENTUROUS: Rachel Ritfeld, pictured, was keen to discover the local cuisine

The Raro Mountain Safari Tours quenched my thirst for adventure, with an epic fourwheel drive inland tour. First stop was the Papua Waterfall, before heading into the mountainous Avatiu Valley, passing plantations and historical villages to reach the island’s needle shaped peak, Te Rua Manga. This summit is accessible to hikers on a three-hour cross island track connecting the south and north of Rarotonga.

Taxis can be expensive, but try flagging down the local bus anywhere, which only goes in two directions: clockwise or anti-clockwise. For just five New Zealand dollars per journey, I recommend visiting the town of Avarua’s Punanga Nui Market for quaint souvenir stalls and delicious food. Michele’s cafe serves the best “Ika mata ta’akari” which is a local speciality of fresh tuna sashimi, lime, coconut milk and vegetables.

Don’t miss Te Vara Nui, a spectacular night show and dining experience set in a replica traditional village that takes you on a compelling and insightful journey of Maori traditions followed by a mesmerising overwater traditional dance show.

After a few days of exploring and resting we flew to Aitutaki Island. Tamanu Beach Resort nestles canoes along the beach for guest use which was fun taking out into the lagoon at sunset.


BLUE LAGOON: The Vaca Cruise in the magnificent Aitutaki lagoon is not to be missed

LIBERATING
Dinner at the Aitutaki Resort was to die for. The burst of flavours in the seared tuna, homemade bread, the soup, even the salad was unforgettable. The Vaca Cruise in the magnificent Aitutaki lagoon is not to be missed.

As soon as the deserted honeymoon island was in sight, I was intrigued to experience being the only person an on island so I stepped off the boat and walked the rest of the way.

Reaching the shore was so liberating that I started singing and skipping on the brilliant white sand... and why not? Escape from your busy life and head to the other side of the world for an unparalleled experience in the unspoiled Cook Islands.

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