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World | Diving the Cook Islands:

Cook Islands overview


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Cook Islands dive site map

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Scuba Diving in the Cook Islands


Water temperature:

23°C (73°F) in winter to 30°C (86°F) in summer

Suit:

3mm - 5mm shortie

Visibility:

30 - 60 metres (100 - 200 feet)

Type of diving:

Predominantly reef diving, but cave and wreck dives are also available

Marine life:

Whales, eagle rays, barracudas, tuna, sailfish, marlin, Spanish dancers, 73 types of coral, hundreds of reef fish species

When to go:

The wettest and hottest months of the year are from November to March when it is cyclone season. The annual temperature range is from around 18 to 29°C (64-84°F). July to October is a good time to visit as there is the possibility of seeing humpback whales

How to get there:

International flights go to Rarotonga International Aiport. From here there are connecting flights to the other 14 islands with Air Rarotonga, including daily flights to Aitutaki. Air New Zealand are the only regular international carrier


The Cook Islands - Courtesy of Malik Chibah

The Cook Islands are a group of 15 islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The land mass totals a mere 241km2 in an area of ocean that is two million kilometres square. It is believed that the islands have been inhabited by Polynesians since 5AD, but Captain Cook 'discovered' them when he visited the islands in 1773 and again in 1777. His name was given to the southern islands in 1835 and by 1901 the isolated northern islands were added to the group. The Cook Islands were a British protectorate from 1888 onwards after fears of French colonialism. By 1965 they had become self-governing, although foreign policy and defence are left up to New Zealand. The southern group of nine islands hold ninety percent of the population of the Cook Islands which is currently around 16,000 and fifty percent of these live on the main island of Rarotonga. The population is steadily falling with time and it is thought that 50,000 Cook Islanders live in New Zealand.

The densely forested and mountainous island of Rarotonga is visited by about 70,000 tourists per year and has a good tourist infrastructure but it remains largely unspoiled by tourism. The northern islands barely receive any tourists at all due to their remoteness. The Cook Islands do not provide a typical beach resort holiday and would suit those travellers looking to experience a more cultural vacation. The languages spoken are Cook Islands Maori and English and the currency used in the Cook Islands is the New Zealand dollar (NZ$1 = US$0.53). Be prepared to pay $25 departure tax.

The islands that make up the Cooks are volcanic in origin forming as a result of hotspots on the Pacific plate. On top of the volcanic bases grow coral atolls that create superb reefs to dive and snorkel on. The water is warm throughout the year and the small size of the islands allow divers to travel to sites to avoid bad weather conditions or rough seas and still get to dive. Having said that, the climate is fairly even and does not suffer from too many extremes. Rarotonga and Aitukaki are the most likely islands that tourists would have the opportunity of diving from, as this is where dive Centers are based and training also takes place here. All the dive companies have equipment for hire but it is wise to bring your own snorkels, masks and fins. Diving is available for all levels and although it is predominantly reef diving, there are walls, caves and wrecks to provide some variety. There is a huge abundance of reef fish and a variety of coral found around the islands and a bonus for visitors from July to October is the strong possibility of seeing humpback whales which often come very close to Rarotonga's shoreline on their migration route north from the Antarctic.

The Cook Islands are affected by some major climatic issues. They were hit by the 1997-1998 El Nino which caused a long running drought, intense cyclones and increased air temperatures. Currently waste management and water supply are big issues affecting islanders and over fishing has occurred in some of the lagoons. By the end of this century they stand to be affected by global warming, which could render some of the northern islands uninhabitable as sea levels rise, freshwater becomes contaminated and coral bleaching and subsequent reduction of the reefs means that storms hit the islands in full force.


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