Monday, February 28

Rarotonga workshop looks at climate change

Workshops are a frequent occurrence on Rarotonga. At the moment the National Adaptation Planning Week is taking place.
Among others it involves the Environment Service and Emergency Management.
It’s looking at how climate change will affect this country and how we can plan to cope with it.
According to Cook Islands News, from this week’s workshop, an adaptation plan for the Cook Islands will start to be formed, which will in turn enable the country to apply for some of a $5 million fund that was established under the Kyoto Protocol.
One of those attending is Ulamila Kurai Wragg, a veteran journalist and climate activist. She’s also concerned about gender awareness and wants to make sure that people at the workshop realise that men and women will react differently to the effects of climate change.
Ula’s going to be speaking at the workshop and we put together this short video to act as an introduction.

Sunday, February 20

Snorkelling at Tikioki beach, Rarotonga

Opposite Fruits of Rarotonga on the south side of the island lies Tikioki beach.
This is reputed to be one of the best snorkelling beaches on Rarotonga. The lagoon is wide at this spot but remains shallow for some distance out from the shore and there are outcrops of coral starting close to the beach so it’s a safe area for all ages (although people should never snorkel without someone to keep an eye on them).
The lagoon has plenty of fish of all sizes, shapes and colours and there are some colourful spots of live coral although most of the large outcrops are dead. This doesn’t worry the fish who find plenty to feed on.
It could be that this is standard for lagoons – the sea-side of the reefs surrounding them are where all the spectacular live coral is found and the bits in the lagoon are sort of extra. Doe anybody out there know?
The first time I tried snorkelling was in Hikkaduwa, a small town south of Colombo in Sri Lanka. I can remember channels lined with many different types of live, colourful coral - I don’t think it was in a lagoon - but this was over 30 years ago and time does strange things to your memory. I also snorkelled once in Fiji – very shallow lagoon, strands of seaweed on the bottom and lots of fish but I can’t remember much in the way of coral. Then at Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Hawaii; the bay was quite spectacular on the surface but underwater everything was covered with a grey-brown sludge. It clearly showed the effects of pollution on marine life, but in fairness this problem is being tackled and people in charge of the bay are trying to educate the public and reverse the damage. Well, they’ve got an enormous job but at least they’re doing something positive.
It’s easy to understand why snorkelling and scuba diving are popular pastimes in the Cook Islands and elsewhere. It’s really very relaxing to drift along and watch the fishes and there’s enough room in our lagoons that you don’t have to worry about running into other drifters.

Sunday, February 13

The Aranui Experience – Tahuata

Tahuata is the smallest of the inhabited Marquesas Islands with a population of less than 700. It lies about three kilometres to the south of Hiva Oa.
It was the first of the Marquesas to be visited by Europeans. Mendana sailed into Vaitahu bay in 1595 (he called it Madre de Dios) and Captain Cook visited in 1774 and called it Resolution bay. In 1838 the French navy arrived, bringing Catholic missionary priests who built the first church and began the conversion of Marquesans to Christianity.
The Aranui 3 spends a couple of hours there unloading cargo, just enough time for passengers to go ashore and visit a craft market and the remarkable Eglise Sainte Mere de Dieu (Holy Mother of God church).
The craft market is set up near the post office and a small museum (which was closed while we were there – somebody had broken a window and there was glass all over the floor). Tahuata has the best bone carvers and tattooists in the group. Well, the bone carvers are still there and we all snapped up plenty of souvenirs, but many of the tattooists are now living in Tahiti or Borabora where there are more tourists looking for a permanent reminder of their visit. Marquesan tattoos are very impressive – geometric patterns that have traditional meanings.
The church is an amazing place. It was built in 1988 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first Catholic priest’s arrival in the Marquesas.
The walls are made from large beach stones, native wood carvings are used inside the church and there’s a beautiful stained glass window above the altar. It was largely financed by the Vatican and the architect designed it so that it looks like a lighthouse when illuminated at night.
We were only able to spend two hours ashore before heading back to Atuona on Hiva Oa – Gauguin territory!

Monday, February 7

Rarotonga's Punanga Nui market

Saturday morning is the big day at Rarotonga's Punanga Nui market.
From early in the morning until midday there are seasonal local fruits and vegetables for sale and plenty of stalls selling cooked food as well as pareu, pearls and much more.
The tarmac area near the road, which is used as a carpark during the week, is mainly given over to fresh produce. Nowadays that includes hydroponic herbs, homemade breads and baked goods. You can also pick up crepes and waffles.
Permanent huts surround the grassy area closer to the sea and on Saturdays the grass is covered with temporary stalls selling cooked food, drinks.
For tourists it's a great place to buy souvenirs – there’s a huge range with items to suit all budgets and tastes - and don’t forget to pick up a music CD by one of our local performers to remind you of your Rarotonga holiday.
By the way, the prices are fixed, we don’t go in for bargaining here.
And if you're lucky you'll be able to catch a performance by a local dance group - they often fundraise at the market on Saturday morning so be generous!
The music background on this video is by popular local performer Tara Kauvai from her CD Kia Tupu. Tara was at the market selling the CD (at a bargain price so I snapped it up) and appears at the end of the video. She has a website at