Only in the Cook Islands

06 Feb 2016

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With its limitless beauty and rich cultural heritage, it's easy to see why the Cook Islands has emerged as a stand out South Pacific destination.

Mix the tranquil ambiance and limitless beauty of the islands with the warm embrace of its people and you have a bountiful cocktail full of tempting holiday  ingredients.

Of course there are some unique travel additives that only the Cook Islands can provide. So if your planning to visit, here are five experiences that reveal the true essence and flavour of this special place.

1. Be serenaded by a local at the airport

The crystal blue waters, rugged hinterland and deserted white sand beaches come into sharp focus upon approach into Raratonga's remote, coastal airport; and it doesn't take long before the islands' magical mood sets in.

For over 35 years, visitors have been welcomed by Jake, Cook Islands local and resident greeter, who serenades the passengers of each incoming flight with his ukulele and vast repertoire of island songs.

2. Buy a ukulele made by a prisoner

Speaking of ukuleles, these soothing instruments can be picked up for a song and a dance at the Prison Craftshop in Nikao on Rarotonga. This crafty clink provides a unique arts program for its inhabitants and the creations they make are nothing short of remarkable.

Each hand made instrument has an individual look and  design, but the one feature they have in common is the beautiful island sounds that they produce.


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3. See one of the world's most isolated coffee plantations

Who doesn't love a cup of rich, aromatic coffee? At the Atiu Coffee Factory, visitors can not only sample the medium and dark roasted coffees, but they can also tour the plantation where the beans are grown and harvested.

Atiu coffee is organically grown and completely sun dried, for a natural full bodied flavour. Visitors can purchase air-sealed bags of the aromatic beans right from the plantation.

4. Take part in a ritual with beer made from oranges

Another local brew found on Atiu Island is orange bush beer. Generally it's local men with kin or marriage who gather for the Tumu Nu, where the beer is served out of the hollowed trunk of a coconut tree and sipped from a common cup.

The Tumu Nu serves as an important social function within Atiu society and to be invited into this social circle is to be considered an honour. Kia Manuia!

5. Glimpse cave-dwelling birds that navigate like bats

Marvel at the immense limestone cliffs within the caverns and caves of Anatakitaki. The striking stalagmites provide a decorative backdrop to the artesian pool where guides host peaceful candle-lit swims.

Nesting deep in this magical place is the Kopeka, a rare swift-like bird species only found on Atiu Island. With radar like precision, the little birds find their way through the darkness by making distinctive clicking sounds.

Todd Sturm

I currently live in Brisbane, Australia. No matter where my travels take me, I enjoy experiencing each destination from the perspective of the locals. Some of my favourite attractions include historic sites, national parks and architectural landmarks.