THE SANCTUARY RAROTONGA-ON THE BEACH

THE SANCTUARY RAROTONGA-ON THE BEACH

THE COOK ISLANDS

Words and photos Daniel Resnik

A six-hour flight from Sydney and you’re landing in Rarotonga the largest of fifteen islands in the Cook Islands and it’s only 32 kilometres in circumference.

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World famous cobalt coloured lagoon

Rimmed with coconut palmed fringed white sandy beaches and reefs full of azure coloured water.

Locals tell you when you arrive all watches should be discarded and instantly get reset onto Cook Island time.

Getting around the island is quite simple there is one road and a bus leaves five minutes past the hour in a clockwise direction and fifteen minutes past the hour another bus goes in an anti-clockwise direction.

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Local fruit sellers

Like the buses the locals are very unrushed and move as most Pacific Islanders do at island pace. And in this case Cook Island pace takes Island time to another level.

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Kayaking Aroa Beach

Scooters though are the most popular form of transport and in the Cook Islands at this time of my visit helmets are not compulsory but my advice would be don’t ride without one.

There is much to do in Rarotonga from Island tours, which give you an insight to Cook Island life, water activities, which includes see through bottom boats, snorkelling/scuba diving, kite surfing, kayaking and fishing trips. For the more adventurous there’re physical tours that take in the tropical hilly centre where hikes take you to lookouts with extraordinary views. Or do what I did and plant myself on each of the beaches we stayed at and baked, (slip, slopped and slapped of course), swam, slept, ate and drank and did it all again.

This month featured resort:

The Sanctuary Rarotonga-On The Beach is perfectly located on Aroa Beach. What makes this hotel such a standout when so many hotels are available is this gorgeous resort is a ‘adults only’ haven.

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Sunset cocktails

No happy, crying, screaming kids going nuts around the pool while you’re trying to read, rest and relax and sip late afternoon cocktails.

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Hammock heaven

Now don’t get me wrong I love children and right next door is the Rarotongan Resort, which is a family friendly resort.

The Sanctuary has its own private beach and from our beachfront luxury room the post card perfection and exquisite colour of the world famous lagoon ensures that most of your time here is spent involved in water activities.

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Rooms with spectacular views

Aroa lagoon has been named the Lagoon of Love and is also one of Rarotonga’s best snorkelling spot, the Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve.

Indulge yourself in this adults-only, absolute beachfront 4.5 star boutique resort.

THINGS TO DO:
Stand up paddling

Kite surfing

Fishing

Snorkelling/Scuba Diving

Cross-island hikes

Full island tours

Glass bottom boat tours

4 Wheel drive tours

The Te punanga Saturday markets

Night markets Muri Beach

Island bar hopping bus

HOW TO BOOK ACCOMMODATION:

www.paradises.com

HOW TO GET THERE:

Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166

Pacific Resort Rarotonga

THE PACIFIC RESORT RAROTONGA

COOK ISLANDS

Words and photos Daniel Resnik

The Cook Islands have a very familiar feel. Around a six-hour flight from Sydney and you’re landing in Rarotonga, which is an Island of only 32 kilometres in circumference.

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Beautiful Muri Beach

Upon entering the airport the obligatory guitar player accompanied by beautiful harmonies greet you along with the first of many ‘Kia orana’ greetings, which means…hello.

The familiar feel is New Zealand dollars are the currency. Cook Island Maori is spoken but everyone speaks English and the relaxed atmosphere makes most Australians feel very much like they’ve returned to a long lost home.

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Pacific Resort Rarotonga bliss

Flying into the Cook Islands offers you spectacular views and gives you a quick insight to what you’ll expect from Rarotonga. The island is rimmed with palm fringed white sandy beaches surrounded by a cobalt coloured lagoon that covers the entire island.

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Cobalt coloured lagoon, Muri Beach

Getting around the island is quite simple there is one main road and a bus leaves five minutes past the hour in a clockwise direction and fifteen minutes past the hour another bus goes in an anti clockwise direction.

Scooters are easily hired and the most popular form of transport on the Cook Islands. Personally I would never throw a leg over any two-wheeled mechanical contraption unless I have the scooter/motor bike box ticked off on my travel insurance. If this isn’t the case and you have an accident, well you’re in deep shit!

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Kite surfing Muri Beach

Like the buses the locals are very much unrushed and move like most Pacific Islanders-at island pace. And in this case Cook Island pace takes Island time to another chilled level.

It suggested that when you arrive watches should be cast aside and your body clock reset to ‘Cook Island time.’

FEATURED RESORT:

Our first introduction to island life was a three night stay at the Pacific Resort, Rarotongathat has Muri Beach as its backyard and what a beginning. The beach is a stand up paddlers, kayakers, kite surfers, snorkelers and sun worshipping paradise.

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Water sports on colourful Muri Beach

Muri beach is striking with four uninhabited islands close by and surrounded by water with such an inviting temperature that once in you never want to exit. At low tide it’s also the perfect walking beach.

The contrasting colours on Muri beach are vividly layered. The green palm filled beaches, the white sand, the aquamarine waters of the lagoon that changes as the water gets slightly deeper till it reaches the reef with its crashing waves where the ocean morphs into a deep aqua blue.

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Coconut palms are everywhere

The Pacific resort has an array of accommodation that caters for most budgets and consists of an intimate collection of just 64 rooms, suites and villas.

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Pacific Resort, Rarotonga pool

All the accommodation is decorated in a contemporary Polynesian style and located amongst beautiful landscaped gardens and native trees offering a natural privacy to all rooms.

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Beautiful landscaped gardens

There are two restaurants Sandals and the Bare Foot Bar, which also offers a very inviting outside area, which proves extremely popular at ‘happy hour.’ Realistically every hour spent at the Pacific Resort Rarotonga and particularly Muri beach is happy

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The Pacific Resort Rarotonga, outside Bare Foot Bar

Facilities include an inviting pool and the resort offers professional spa and beauty services and there is also a Kids Club.

 THING TO DO:

 Stand up paddling

Kite surfing

Snorkeling/diving

Fishing

Cross-island hikes

Full island tours

Glass bottom boat tour

4 wheel drive tours

The Te Punanga Saturday markets

Night markets, Muri Beach

Island bar hopping bus

HOW TO BOOK:

 paradises.com

HOW TO GET THERE:

Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166

paradises

Pho Quoc Island

Phu Quoc Island is only 12kms from Cambodia and a 50-minute short flight from Ho Chi Minh City.

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Colourful Pho Quoc Island

In less than one hour Ho Chi Minh City locals and tourists can leave nine million residents and six million motorbikes behind and escape to an island paradise that comprises of pristine beaches and minimal crowds.

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Uncrowded beaches

The island can also be accessed by boat from the Mekong Delta via hydrofoil, ferry or cruiser.

Vietnam and Cambodia for many years have claimed sovereignty over this magical island in the pacific. It’s the largest Vietnamese island and these days Phu Quoc is proudly proclaimed as Vietnams own.

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Seafood heaven

Pho Quoc Island main industry is fishing and it has a thriving pearl industry and as large as the pearl industry is it’s nothing compared to its world famous export (no.1 in the world) their fish sauce and black pepper industry.

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Pho Quoc Harbour fishing fleet

The extremely rich fishing grounds off Phu Quoc supply the anchovies needed for the fish sauce industry.

Driving around the island anchovies can be seen drying in racks in the tropical Asian sun getting ready to be “sauced”. Now I know where that saying comes from “there’s something fishy happening here.”

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Local fishing boats waiting to be launched off the beach

Take a stroll through the markets and deciding what seafood to eat is going to provide you with the biggest headache. The choice is endless and the quality and moreish seafood on display is overwhelming.dscn8086

Seafood Markets

Continue down to the harbor and you discover an armada of fishing boats. A kaleidoscope of colour’s fills the harbour of which the blue hulls of the many fishing vessels are prominent. Most of the fishing boats have red and green flags strung across their terracotta coloured decks making a walk around the harbour an extremely vivid experience.

Close to the harbor entrance is a lookout from which a Temple takes top billing. From here you can gaze down the coast and for far as you can see is miles and miles of pristine uncrowded beach. (Perfectly named Long Beach)

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Beach views from the Temple

Strewn across the sand and promenade red plastic seats dot the horizon as locals sit and gather to take in the late afternoon ambience and as some residents told me, “catch up on all the local gossip”.

Tourism plays a massive part in the islands economy and now is definitely the best time to visit as Phu Quoc still exudes an innocent rustic charm

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Locals selling produce on the beach

Beaches are a massive bonus on the island and the sparseness of people is a highlight. To find a virgin spot on the sand to lay your towel is definitely not a problem.

If you’re active the Island is a great place to discover whether walking, hiking, biking or going 4 wheel off road jeep touring. Phu Quoc is still rather undiscovered and adventures abound.

The island reminded me of all the popular South East Asian island resorts without the massive crowds, traffic, multitudes of high-rise developments and hotels. Phu Quoc is still relatively unknown, beautiful and unflustered.

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Recliner beach beds

Infrastructure is changing albeit quite slowly. When we were there the one dirt main road was being built into a two-lane freeway.

The island still runs on generated power. Plans are in place and date has been set for an Italian company to run underwater electricity cables from the mainland and bring Phu Quoc Island into the 21st electrical century.

When we were there crowds were at a minimum. Talking to the owners of Rory’s bar on the beach they explained how low season (August to November) is tough and they count the days to when high tourist season arrives (July to February). The afternoon we were there six people were at the bar. The same bar on New Years Eve in high season had 500 people “rocking round the quoc”

Low season unfortunately brings inclement weather and our most exciting excursion we had planned, night squid fishing had to be cancelled.

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Tasty sea urchin

Before our squid fishing was abandoned we sampled cooked sea urchin on our boat, now that takes courage to have the first mouthful. But what a culinary delight, for something that looks so alien it turned out to be a delicious morsel that will definitely find its way onto my menu again.

MAIN ATTRACTIONS:

Beaches/swimming,

Diving/snorkeling

Fishing/squid fishing

Hiking

4 wheel off road driving,

History of Vietnam war prisoners/prison is still active

Visit the pearl farms and pearl stores

Tour the fish sauce and pepper-making factory

Great bars on the beach

Thriving markets specializing in seafood

WHERE TO STAY:

 La Verandah Resort & Spa

 HOW TO BOOK:

 http://www.paradises.com

HOW TO GET THERE:

 Vicki Gilden

Rose Bay Travel (02) 9371 8166

Words and photos Daniel Resnik