Scuba Diving Cook Islands
A mix of coral atolls and volcanic islands, experience the best-kept secrets of the Pacific abounding with marine creatures, both big & small.
The Cook Islands offer a great destination for those who wish to mix good diving with a relaxed, South Seas vacation. Beautiful volcanic peaks descend to glistening white sands and the inevitable palm-fringed blue lagoons with gin clear water abounding with marine creatures, both great and small.
It is the natural charm of the Cook Island people that lures visitor in. Friendly, high-spirited and welcoming – they are the great entertainers of the Pacific and regarded as the best dancers and drummers in Polynesia. Festivals are an important part of the annual calendar, where the competition between the islands to produce the most outstanding performers is part of the national pride.
The 15 islands of the Cooks lie halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii in the South Pacific. Boasting rare beauty, an idyllic climate, warm welcoming people and a pace of life unsurpassed for peace; the Cook Islands are an Island Paradise. The 15 volcanic and atoll islands spread out over 2million square kms of the great Pacific Ocean, an area the size of Europe.
An idyllic climate, stunning scenery, warm-hearted people and a desirable way of life where the word “hurry” has not been coined, make them irresistible. The diving is beautiful.
The Cook Islands are part of New Zealand, but are treated as a free associate. Cook Islanders are citizens New Zealand but hold a separate status as Cook Island nationals. Rarotonga is the capitol and the home of the international airport. Aitutaki, also in the Southern Group, is the other main island with a more major airport.
Pearls are a specialty of the Cook Islands. The northern group islands of Manihiki and Penrhyn are important producers of black pearls, which are among the rarest pearls in the world, but pearls in other colors are also produced in and sold on Rarotonga, at much better prices than you will find anywhere else.
SCUBA DIVING THE COOK ISLANDS
The scuba diving opportunities here are diverse with crystal clear waters having seldom less than 100 metre visibility. Isolated by thousands of square miles of ocean, the fringing reef is washed by the clean, clear waters of the South Pacific. There are over 70 species of colorful coral, moray eels, reef sharks, lion fish, turtles, maori wrasse, anemone fish, butterfly fish, angel fish, eagles rays, puffer fish, trumpet fish and many, many more. There are canyons, caves, and varieties of coral – including plate, shelving, mushrooms and brain, big drop-offs and a multitude of colourful tropical fish.
The reef is characterized by a gently sloping plateau out to about 30m / 100ft, where the reef steepens and ‘drops off’ into the abyss. There is a variety of terrain and fish life at different parts of the reef and with many dive sites there are plenty of options to keep you interested.
Due to the bottom composition it is possible to do multilevel dives on most sites, which extends bottom time drastically. Thus your dive time is usually only limited by your air supply and how fast you use it.
If you’d like to go deep and explore the abyss, drop-offs offer ideal conditions as the water depth surrounding the island lays between 3,000-13,000 ft (1000-4000m).
The Cook Islands offer some unique dive experiences & opportunities such as the possibility of Seeing Humpback Whales & blue water diving.
What is Bluewater Diving? Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) have been installed around the island. They consist of floats of some kind, which are moored onto the ocean floor at a hundred meters or more deep. The idea is that, by growing algae on it, these floats attract smaller fish, which then attracts the bigger predators. During a blue water dive you might see nothing but deep blue water or you might get rewarded with tunas, mahi-mahis and other open ocean pelagics. Depth 30-130ft (10m – 40m).
COOK ISLAND DIVE AREAS
Rarotonga and Aitutaki: Both islands share the same characteristics and are part of a central lagoon with barrier reef structure on the outside. There are dive operators on both Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Rarotonga diving is better known and publicized On Rarotonga, the reef plateaus offer a great playground with fascinating fish life and usually great visibility. The marine life offers a big diversity. Apart from the smaller tropical fish species, you may also see turtles, eagle rays, reef sharks, moray eels, trevallies, napoleon maori wrasse, dogtooth tunas, barracudas, humpback whales (winter) and hammerhead sharks (winter). On a blue water dive you may even see mahi-mahi, marlin, sailfish or wahoo.
There are about 35 dive sites around the island with a wide and diverse variety for every diver. On Rarotonga, all coasts of the island are accessible and the operators are able to operate in almost any weather. Cancellations due to weather are few and far between.
Aitutaki: Great coral and marine life, Walls, gullies, guts & steep drop offs. Aitutaki lagoon and its islands are breathtakingly beautiful. The classic picture postcard of small palm tree fringed tropical island, with shallow, warm turquoise waters, corals, tropical fish and blue skies is taken here. The lagoon is large, taking about an hour in a boat to cross it. Tourism facilities are well developed, but are still low key enough not to intrude on the nature of the island.
Cook Island Dive Sites
Cook Islands Diving Season: All year around. July to October is a good time to visit, as there is the possibility of seeing humpback whales
Cook Islands Visibility: Visibility is rarely below 100 feet (30m) and frequently may exceed 200 feet (60m).
Cook Islands Water Temperature: The water temperatures vary seasonably between 73F (23C) during the winter months, April through November, to around 86F (30C) during the summer season, November through March.
Cook Island Skill Levels: There are sites suitable for all levels of training and experience from coral gardens to drop offs, and wreck dives to caves.
What to expect to see on the Cook Islands : The marine life around the Cook Islands offers a big diversity. Apart from the smaller tropical fish species, you may also see turtles, eagle rays, reef sharks, moray eels, trevallies, napoleon maori wrasse, dogtooth tunas, barracudas, humpback whales (winter) and hammerhead sharks (winter). On a blue water dive you may even see mahi-mahi, marlin, sailfish or wahoo.
Humpback whales rest with their calves on their migration back to the colder southern waters during July through September.
CLIMATE: The Cook Islands enjoy a pleasantly warm and sunny climate all year round. June to August are the cooler months, while November to March marks the warmer season, with occasional tropical showers expected. It is also known as cyclone season – something to be aware of although not necessarily a deterrent as they are not a regular occurrence.
The drier months, from April to November, have an average of about 79 F (26°C), whilst the warmer, more humid and damp season runs from December to March. During this season the temperature ranges between 72F min and 86F (max) 22°C – 30°C .
Severe weather is rare and infrequent all year around. The rainy season, which is summer, starts in November and lasts until mid March or early April. It is quite hot and humid during this time with frequent afternoon downpours. The increased humidity also means more mosquitos; especially prevalent in the morning and early evening hours. The sun usually shines in the morning but afternoon rain is quite common. Cyclones are formed during this time of year as well, but on average the Southern Cook Islands experiences a proper cyclone once every 8 years or so.
Winter begins after April, which reduces the humidity considerably. This period lasts until November and is much drier. Aitutaki and the northern island group are warmer than Rarotonga year round. The water temperature is also cooler during the winter months. Average temperatures during these winter months are about 78F (26C), and may even become a little cool at night at 66-68F (19/20C).
Traveling to the Cook Islands from late March through to November will offer the best of both worlds….warm, sometimes humid but not horrible, and with long sunny spells and occasional tropical rain.
LANGUAGE: English and Cook Islands Maori are official languages of the Cook Islands.
ELECTRICITY: 220 – 240 volts AC, Plug I – The same as in Australia.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The Cook Islands’ unit of currency is the New Zealand dollar, supplemented by notes and coinage for local use. The unique local coins and notes are not negotiable outside the Cook Islands, but are keenly sought by collectors worldwide.
GRATUITIES : There is no tipping or bargaining, it goes against local tradition.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: International telephone, mobile telephone, facsimile and internet services (including Broadband) are available through Telecom Cook Islands. Several internet cafes and WiFi are located on Rarotonga and Aitutaki .
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport and a return ticket will allow you a stay of up to 31 days. Extensions may be granted on a monthly basis – for up to five months.
CUSTOMS: Personal effects including sports equipment and clothing are exempt from duty.
Duty Free items include:
Cigarettes (max of 200) or 250gms of tobacco or 50 cigars or a mixture of not more than 250 grams in total
Two liters of spirits, wine and liquor OR 4.5 liters of beer
Goods in excess of NZ$250 are liable for duty
Any food items must be declared on arrival.
DEPARTURE TAX: There is no departure tax payable at the airport as this is included in your international tickets.
HOW TO GET THERE: Rarotonga International Airport (RAR) is the Cook Islands’ main international gateway, located in the town and district of Avarua, Rarotonga. There are 4 airlines that fly to Cook Islands: Air New Zealand, Air Rarotonga, Air Tahiti and Virgin Australia. Air Rarotonga is national airlines and it serves domestic flight between the islands.
The Southern Group of the Cook Islands is connected regularly by the local airline, Air Rarotonga, with Aitutaki having several daily return flights. However travel to the Northern Group is infrequent and usually only on request.
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