We visited Rarotonga in October 2012. While at beautiful Muri beach, we were trying to decide between lagoon cruises. There were two options: the large scale Captain Tamas and world famous, and the smaller single boat Koka lagoon cruise. Both were the same price so it was a 50:50 call. We had been recommended to go with Captain tamas as it was great, however on a hunch we went with Koka Lagoon. We were definitely impressed, and the bullet points below will indicate why.
1. at the start when making enquiries the lady who took our booking was very friendly and willing to explain all about their tour, not knowing whether or not she would get a sale out of it.
2. on the day of the cruise, our transport was right on time despite the rumour of island time.
3. the cruise was started very promptly and the entertainment started on board the boat rather than on the beach. This created the impression of a team that were going to get you moving quickly.
4. the Koka team made sure that everyone had their bags up in the overhead nets warning that the chequer plate floor would get wet. I was reminded personally and politely after thinking a bit of water wouldn't hurt.
5. The Koka team were very friendly and clearly explained what the cruise was about. The crew sang to us and played their guitars for the entire trip out to the reef. They were really happy, looked like they really enjoyed their jobs, and were extremely respectful to all passengers and each other.
6. At the snorkelling spot we looked at the fish being fed through the glass bottom boat by the crew. The visibility is amazing. Then followed a seamless transition to the snorkelling whereby we were quickly ushered into the water to see the giant clam cages, and tropical fish. needless to say the water was warm and the coral looked great.
7. When I cut my arm on a piece of coral, one of the team quickly washed the cut in iodine to avoid infection and put a waterproof plaster on it. I had no problems with it after that. It healed quickly later.
8. The crew then sang and played for the entire trip back to the island where we had a great BBQ lunch featuring yellow-fin tuna. I am not a big fish fan, but this fish tasted amazing. Guess that's the difference between fish at supemarket, and deepsea fish caught fresh in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
9. I have a large appetite and was encouraged to eat as much as I wanted. There was no shortage of food.
10. The trip and each meal was started with a prayer. I appreciate how they have managed to incorporate their Christian faith into their work. This Christian ethic is played out in their behaviour and not just their traditions. The Cook Islanders would be the most honest, generous, and ethical people I have met (and my wife and I have travelled around the world before).
11. Then came the highlight of the trip for my wife and son - the coconut tree climbing demonstration. The Koka team member is the number one climber on the island. He was a real showman, and evidently loves performing in front of people. He took us through how every part of the coconut tree is used and then climbed up and down a tree in 6.9 seconds. I was timing it.
12. Finally, when we saw them later that week, they remembered us and chatted to us. it made me feel part of their island family and not just a tourist.
Incidentally, my wife and I had done all our previous snorkelling on Great Barrier Reef, so i was expecting to be underwhelmed by the Cook Islands. However, the visibility is superb, and the interaction with the local people will touch your heart. The Cook Islanders know not tourists only temporary (super) extended family
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