The South Pacific
in the sun
COOK ISLAND TOURISM
By David Stanley
IN APRIL 1789, an initial wave of beachcombers and romantics washed across the
South Pacific as crew members from HMS
Bounty mutinied and eventually returned to
Tahiti. Over the next 200-plus years countless
others followed in their footsteps in pursuit
of the island dream. Contemporary visitors
come in search of the same things that captivated Fletcher Christian and crew: brilliant
beaches, crystal-clear waters, blue lagoons, a
life of leisure and friendly, welcoming islanders. It’s an ideal island paradise, suitably
remote while easily accessible.
As a guidebook writer I’ve been exploring
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these islands for more than 30 years, and what
impresses me is their variety. The notion that
the South Pacific islands are all alike is a fallacy. Here you have low coral atolls at the
mercy of hurricanes and tsunamis, uplifted
atolls surrounded by razor-sharp cliffs, skyscraping volcanic islands and combinations of
all three. In the Western Pacific (which
includes Fiji) you’ll encounter hulking remnants of a sunken continent.
The islands of Tahiti:
Where nature is in style
The romantic image of the South Pacific
is largely the creation of French artist Paul
Gauguin, who introduced Europe to the
Polynesians, and Marlon Brando, whose
memorable role in MGM’s Mutiny on the
Bounty coincided with the arrival of the first
jet aircraft on Tahiti. The legend of the South
Seas is alive and well in French Polynesia,
where Polynesian friendliness joins French
style. Black pearls, curvilinear tattoos, pareus
(wrap-around skirts), and poisson cru (fish
and coconut milk salad) epitomize the art,
dress and cuisine of this remarkable region.
French Polynesia’s scenery is second to
none. The verdant peaks of the Society Islands
soar from sweeping bays fringed with the soft-est of sand. Farther afield, sprawling low coral
atolls surround vast lagoons cradling exceptional marine life. Swimming with sharks and
rays and following dolphins and whales are
among my most vivid memories of these
islands. For scuba divers, drift-diving through
vast schools of large fish is the ultimate thrill.
French Polynesia’s honeymoon resorts
are celebrated for the over-water bungalows
The Cook Islands:
Relaxing holidays under the palms
The Cook Islands are French Polynesia
in miniature, with the French influence
replaced by that of New Zealand. The easy-going islanders speak English rather than
French. And since the price structure
reflects Auckland instead of Paris, it’s less
expensive. If anything, the Polynesian dancing on Rarotonga and Aitutaki trumps the
THE ST. REGIS BORA BORA RESORT
Staying in an over-water bungalow (above)
is a highlight of a Tahitian vacation.
Polynesian dancing on the Cook Islands
(left) rivals that of any other destination.
OCTOBER 2012 ;e Costco Connection 51
CONTINUED ON PAGE 52
equivalent on Moorea and Bora Bora.
Buffets laden with seafood and pork come
with dancing at island nighttime events.
The Cook Islands share the diversity of
French Polynesia. The soaring central core
of Rarotonga challenges hikers, while
Aitutaki’s low volcanic core is almost surrounded by a breathtaking coral lagoon.
Some of the best snorkeling in the world is
found off the sandy beaches of these two