Aitutaki’s biggest attraction is its lagoon, which we explored by boat, a “Lagoon Cruise”: We started off in torrential rain, but the weather improved soon and we missed none of the amazing views. Our boat passed a string of “Motus”, small uninhabited islets surrounded by turquoise water. On the way we, stopped to snorkel around a small reef that is the natural habitat of the very rare giant clams.
Around noon we arrived on One Foot Island, the most spectacular Motu: a tiny, round island covered with coconut trees and surrounded by a white sandy beach. The sandbar about 100 meters off-shore in this ocean of ever-changing-colors provided the ultimate “South Seas feeling”. Plus, the island is mosquito-free. We simply could not stop repeating how magic that place was!
The stunning beauty of the atoll and its many islands in the lagoon made it the venue for filming 13 serials of the TV reality show Survivor in 2006. The contestants had to survive 30 days on whatever food and water they found on the different islands, the winner pocketing a million USD! During these three months of filming, 280 international crew members and 78 shipping containers descended on this tiny atoll with only 3.000 inhabitants, obviously all with little disruption. The very struggle of the Survival competitors took place on a few remote Motus around the lagoon to secure absolute secrecy.
Another picturesque Motu is Honeymoon Island, where many couples who come to the Cook Islands to get married, plant a palm tree. To enhance the romantic flair, legend says that the growth of that very tree is symbolic for the relationship of the couple who planted it. Needless to say that hardly any of the couples ever return to check on “their” palm tree. On top of that, the islanders take great pleasure in telling anybody who wants to listen that all these palm trees on Honeymoon Island were whipped out in the last cyclone.
The beaches in the Cook Islands make great photo options, white beaches lined with palm trees and turquoise waters, but they are not deal for beachcombers. The white sand is often mixed with rough pieces of coral and sea shells and only very few beaches are suitable for swimming, because the water is too shallow and often the ocean floor is covered with sea slugs of all sizes.