Explore beneath the surface on Rarotonga

Diver explores beneath the surface. Image courtesy of Dive Centre.
By Rachel Pinder

Getting back to nature is easy on Rarotonga, as it’s a great place to explore both in and on the water.
Snorkellers will be in for a real treat with heaps of reef fish and schools of small trevally to swim with.

The best way to find the top snorkelling spots is by looking for boundary poles decorated with coconut fronds stuck into the lagoon.
It is strictly forbidden to take any fish, coral or shells between the poles, so you’ll find more marine life than you can shake a stick at…if you were going to shake a stick at marine life, that is!

That’s because traditional leaders have banned the harvest of marine resources in certain areas under an environment protection system known as Ra’ui. This was traditionally imposed by the chief  of the tribe to allow the fish and shellfish population to increase.

So what's Ra'ui all about?

The Ra’ui aims to protect the environment and to boost marine life for future generations.
There are 12 Ra’ui areas in Rarotonga including in Tikioki, where Koka Lagoon Cruises has set up its marine site. Some Ra’ui are short-term and allow harvesting on a rotational basis, others are long term. Parts of Tikioki Ra’ui are now permanently reserved.
Koka Lagoon Cruises contributes two percent of its sales to the Rarotonga Lagoon Conservation Trust, which has been set up to help towards the protection and preservation of Rarotonga’s lagoon ecosystem.

Fish hanging out at the lagoon. Image courtesy of Sabine Jabneck Meet the colourful fish which hang out beneath the surface at the lagoon

You’ll have an awesome day out with Koka Lagoon Cruises exploring Muri Lagoon.
Snorkel amongst the lagoon or check out the views through the glass bottom boat, and enjoy non-stop entertainment with ukulele playing, pareu (sarong) tying and weaving. You can also taste a delicious fish barbecue feast and watch an amazing coconut tree climbing show.

Or why not jump aboard the Raro Reef Sub, where you can enjoy the view of the island from the top deck or go down below to check out the marine life.
The Reef Sub tour cruises along Rarotonga’s northern coast over shipwrecks including the famous SS Maitai which sank in 1916.
There’s also a good spot at Avarua passage where you can look out for eagle rays, turtles, and check out the sea life and coral formations.

Take the plunge

Divers can also get up close and personal with all that lives beneath the surface - Rarotonga’s clear, warm waters have awesome visibility and a huge diversity of marine life.

Go diving with The Dive Centre – The Big Fish – where you’ll be able to check out the huge variety of fish in the lagoon in the Aroa Marine Reserve, or take a trip outside the reserve to feel the difference of what’s out there waiting to be explored in the ocean.

There’s a diverse range of diving including wicked drop-offs, canyons, caves, swim throughs, passages and wrecks. Keep your eyes peeled for eagle rays, whitetip reef sharks, turtles, baracudas, starpuffer fish, trevallies, to name just a few!

Humpback whale. Image courtesy of Pacific Divers.
Get up close to majestic humpback whales which migrate to Rarotonga every winter

You might also be lucky enough to see humpback whales, which migrate through the Cook Islands every year from July to the end of October, passing very close to shore.

After all that hanging with the marine life, you’ll probably want to find out more about the creatures of the deep.
So pay a visit to the Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife Centre, which was set up back in 2000.

Find out more

The educational centre aims to help people learn about the Cook Islands and the surrounding ocean. It also aims to raise awareness about the environment and encourages people to take ownership for the whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles that live beneath the surface.

And one thing’s for sure….you’ll definitely be glad you did your bit to help this piece of paradise.