The Blue Lagoon, but no Brooke or Christopher

Saturday, October 17, 2009
Aitutaki, Southern Cook Islands, Cook Islands
17/10/09 Day 8 Aitutaki, Aitutaki lagoon

Got up this morning with the intention of organising a lagoon cruise . Vanessa had recommended the yellow boat. Teu was around early and before I know it Al has it all arranged. The Cooks have a large Seventh Day Adventist community and Saturday is their Sabbath so a lot of stuff isn't operating today, including the yellow boat. So we’re going with whoever Nicholas and his family are going with.

Picked up at 9.30 and travel around to town in the back of a ute. Very cool. We’re actually going in a glass bottom boat. More and more people arrive and it’s quite a squish. Not sure if it was really designed for 18 people.

Head out through the channel with skipper Lawton Story (a very Cook Islander name!) and his wife/partner Maria to the open ocean to look for turtles. We see two but visibility out there wasn’t that great and we headed back inside the reef. We’re split into two groups, eight of us got into a speed boat and both boats headed off to our first snorkeling destination.

Visibility is amazing . Thousands of fish. Coral is at least alive but still not very colourful. I’m beginning to wonder if there is actually any colourful coral anywhere cos I haven’t seen any really colourful stuff. I reckon its all photo shopped J.

Back on to the speedboat and off to the clam farm. Clams were going to be Aitutaki’s big export success story. Unfortunately they emptied the lagoon of clams in a couple of years because Aitutaki’s clams grow very slowly and didn’t have time to breed (or whatever they do). So they decided they needed to replenish the lagoon’s clams and started breeding three different varieties, two fast growing and also the original slow growing local one.

All was going to plan until 2005 when the Cooks were smashed by five hurricanes in quick succession. The clam farms were on the edge of a sandy motu and sadly over 100,000 were buried under the sand as it was washed into the lagoon. Our captain Lawton lost thousands . They’ve started re-growing them but it’s going to take a long time.

So now they are growing coral!   Using the same underwater frames they’d built for the clams they are growing branching corals for export around the world.   Lawton explained that they’re sending it to places where there reefs have been damaged or to places that have no natural coral but want it growing to attract more people. They use plastic cups as moulds to pour concrete into. They then superglue (I kid you not) bits of coral onto the concrete and sit it in the frame and the coral grows! When it’s big enough it’s air freighted around the world.

On to our next snorkeling spot and Al says it was the most perfect place in the world to snorkel. As we pulled up, two giant trevally chased a school of little fish across the sandbank towards the boat before it got too shallow for them. The snorkeling here was even better. More interesting coral, different fish, some clams with amazing blue coloured lips . And you could just sit on the sandbank if you wanted to with your head just under the water. Amazing.

It was glary and quiet hot in the open speed boat but Nicholas and Louisa’s little guys were coping fantastically. They were getting a bit hungry though as were everyone else. We finally stopped on a motu for lunch. We went for a wander while they prepared it on board.   Was a great spread of freshly barbequed fish, great salads, some local fruit - an amazing pawpaw curry, manioc, etc etc. Delicious.

On the opposite side of the island we’d walked past another group who was also having their lunch. They were sat at long tables that were in the water. They had big umbrellas over them and guys were bringing food to them in woven baskets. One of the other ladies we were with said that was a standard Teking lagoon cruise inclusion. She also said they do more snorkeling as they have faster boats that can get you to more places. Maybe we need to take another lagoon cruise before we leave .

Then it was off to Honeymoon Island where we picked up a couple who had stayed overnight. They sat on the bow of the boat. She was tiny but he was a huge (as in built) blonde mountain. Wouldn’t be surprised if he was an All Black or an Auckland Warrior. Whatever the language is here, he spoke it fluently. Took his photo so someone might recognise him.

Final destination was One Foot Island. We’d brought our passports to get them stamped but the office must be staffed by Adventists as it was closed. The beach here is regarded as one of the best in the world and we now know why. Amazing!!!!!

We loaded up the speedboat with a couple more people so the glass bottom boat could travel a bit faster. Al had been talking to a couple from NZ, Pam and Graeme, who highly recommended The Boatshed, so as soon as we got back I called and booked.

It overlooks the ocean, not the lagoon, and the view was fantastic . Will go back for lunch and drinks as the beer is only a fiver. Pam and Graeme arrived not long after us and we could have sat together but was a bit of a confusing request for the staff so we sat beside each other and got up and chatted between courses.

Meal was great. Best value both food and alcohol-wise that we’ve come across.

Pam and Graeme are incredibly interesting people. They’d owned a farm in South Taranaki that they’d sold, obviously for an absolute motza, and they now just travel. Pam’s 61 and Graeme’s maybe just a bit more. They’ve been here just over three weeks and before that had spent four weeks on Raro. Brilliant conversation with them about their amazing travels - 31 day African bus trek; weeks of island hopping in Vanuatu, then Samoa; a month on Cape York where they’re going to be spending another month next year. They told us we need to see Australia!

Finally called it a night just after 10. Our latest night since we’d left home!

It was a fantastic day.
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