In January 2018, we traveled to French Polynesia to sail on the m/s Paul Gauguin for an 11 night voyage to the Cook and Society Islands. This series is a journal of our experiences and observations so that you, our reader, can see what it’s like to experience Tahiti/French Polynesia. We hope this inspires you to travel to this and other destinations.
Day 5: Rarotonga, Cook Islands
We boarded another precarious tender as the waves outside the barrier reef were pretty high. Once everyone was safely aboard he tender we sailed towards what I came to find was my new paradise. Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands, is a beautiful, lush, clean, tropical paradise that is very welcoming to visitors from lands far away. The people are all very friendly and speak English with the New Zealand accent as the Cook Islands are technically part of New Zealand, but are governed internally for all domestic matters.
We headed over to our excursion, which was a glass bottom boat ride through Muri Lagoon with snorkeling, a light lunch and a coconut demonstration. This was one of the best tours I’ve been on in all of my travels and was definitely a highlight of the whole trip. The crew of our boat taught us how to say a greeting in Cook Islander language, Kia Orana. The also brought along a ukulele and some drum and were jamming out the whole time we were moving in the boat. Singing both in their native tongue and in English, they covered quite a few hit songs and even covered the theme song from the movie, Moana.
The snorkeling was top notch. Muri Lagoon is a bio-preserve area where fishing is prohibited. The water was crystal clear and the fish were plentiful. With the hot tropical sun overhead heating up the shallower water faster than the deeper areas, you could feel areas where the ocean temperature felt as warm as around 85 degrees and as cool as 77 degrees.
After snorkeling for about 45 minutes or so, we boarded up in the glass bottom boat and headed over to the private motu for a light refreshing lunch and a great coconut show. One of our guides had competed in a Pacific Islander competition for the fastest ascent of a 15 meter (50 feet) high coconut tree. He did it in less than 4 seconds and won that competition. He dazzled us with his skill as he seemed to fly up to the top of the tree and dropped down a coconut. We were then treated to a show of how the locals husk a coconut and then grate it and extract coconut cream. The coconut tree is known as The Tree of Life to the islanders as there are so many uses for it.
After our tour concluded, we headed out for some shopping and to have lunch. The food was phenomenal. I had the catch of the day, yellowfin tuna, and Liz had the seafood platter which was a mix of shrimp, scallops, tuna, mussels, and calamari all deep fried to perfection. We walked down the strip close to the harbor and found quite a few trinkets and souvenirs. The Cook Islands use the New Zealand dollar as their currency so the exchange rate is pretty favorable for Americans.
Back onboard the ship in the early evening we were able to catch the cultural dancing show out on the pool deck. A troupe from Rarotonga came out and put on a great display of the traditional dancing and music from the Cook Islands. The costumes were incredible as you we were able to see some small differences in the dancing, music and dress of the dancers here compared other Polynesian islands.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in our voyage. Have any favorite memories of the Cook Islands, Tahiti, French Polynesia, or Paul Gauguin Cruises? Leave a comment and share your story. If you would like some additional information, or to reserve your trip to the Cook Islands or French Polynesia, contact us here.