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The Best Lagoon Cruise Ever

2010 September 9
by rob

March 19, 2009

Today actually ended up being a very exciting day!  I have many photos and even some videos to share.  I hope you enjoy them.

I woke up around 7 AM as usual but I took my fine time having a shower, breakfast, and coffee. I had my own space and didn’t have to bump elbows with anyone! It was really great… even if I had to squash a cockroach or two.

I emerged from my bungalow around 9 AM and ran into Verena. She had already been on a run and bought a couple coconuts and gave me one. Thanks! She told me that the island was nearly out of petrol and very few of the tours and lagoon cruises were running. Bad news! The weather was perfect and it was very high priority for me to go on a lagoon cruise on one of the two full days that I was on Aitutaki.

I waffled around for a bit. I knew that the cruises usually left around 10 AM and I had a bit of time to ruminate on the matter. Someone must have enough petrol to run a cruise! There were many operators. I had to call around! Mama helped me out called one place, Kia Orana Cruises. They said they weren’t running today but had enough fuel to run tomorrow. Okay. That sounded do-able. I went back to my bungalow.

Not more than two minutes later, Mama came by and said that they will run today! Someone else must have called them. She told me that they’d be around in five minutes to pick me up. Ack! I undertook a mad dash to get ready. I filled up a bottle of water, changed into my board shorts, rash guard and put in my last pair of disposable contacts that I had bought in Malaysia the year before.

In no time, a pickup truck came by to pick Verena and me up and down to the main jetty in the village. The boat was small, which is exactly what I liked. Other than Verena and I, there were three other guests on the cruise: a pair of newlyweds from Arizona and a Cook Islander with an Australian accent who filmed EVERYTHING. He told me he was going to post his videos on YouTube and gave me his username: Jessie2Evans. If I hadn’t have written it down into my journal, then this information would have been lost to me forever. Now you can watch some videos of my cruise, too!

The captain of the boat was a Cook Islander named Andrew, but he preferred that we called him “Captain Fantastic”. His wife came, too, and was the cook for our lunch. Her name was “Captain Cook”. Har har har.

Unlike Atiu, the lagoon at Aitutaki is enormous and is ringed my dozens of tiny motus (small islands in a lagoon). We stopped at several of these, including the beautiful One Foot Island, which you can see in this video here, posted by the Cook Islander guy on the cruise.

We continued to Maina Island, which I walked all the way around.  That’s not a big deal since it’s a tiny island.  I took pictures of hermit crabs and many frigate birds that were nesting on the island.  I even looked under some shrubberies and was able to see a mama bird feeding fuzzy baby seabird!  I couldn’t believe that I was fortunate enough to see such a thing!  These birds weren’t scared of humans at all.  I tried to disturb them as little as I could.

The newlyweds and I harvested some fresh coconuts from the trees by throwing rocks and them and knocking them down.  They planted theirs on the next island.  I kept my to eat the next day.  I’m such a scavenger.

Lunch was in a wee shack on adjacent Honeymoon Island.  Captain Cook prepared a wonderful buffet for us, including many fresh fruits and some fish.  Very tasty.  The serving dishes and our own plates were made from woven leaves.

Lunch on Honeymoon Island

Lunch on Honeymoon Island

I had never seen so many hermit crabs in one place before.  It looked like the ground was literally crawling.  It’s clear that they were scavenging scraps from the buffets.

After Honeymoon Island, we proceeded to a shallow spot in the middle of the lagoon and set up for some snorkeling.  I saw lots of giant clams and many colourful and friendly fish.  I practiced my diving skills and attempted to take pictures of the underwater features with the same underwater camera that I’ve been carrying around since I was in Western Australia.  As I dived down to get closer to the photographic targets, I could feel the water pressure press the mask up against my face and the water temperature drop suddenly.  Check out the giant clam!

Underwater Picture

Underwater Picture

We continued on and cruised past the wreck of the Alexandra, a ship that sunk almost 100 years ago when its German captain got lost in the lagoon.  For the last leg of the trip, I sat in the little cubby hole in the front of the ship as Captain Fantastic piloted the boat through the exit of the lagoon and into the open waters and swells of the ocean.  The water was very bumpy here and I got splashed in the face with salt water.  We were looking for sea turtles, but didn’t see any.

This video, also posted by the Cook Islander on the cruise, shows the second part of the trip, including after we landed and my attempts to balance a coconut on my head.

We finally got to the Vaikoa units around 5 PM.  We had originally planned on hitting up a dinner buffet and island night at the same restaurant we went to the night before, but neither Verena nor I were capable of eating a second buffet meal today.  Mama told us that it was considered acceptable to skip the buffet, buy some drinks, and watch the show anyways.  Excellent idea!

An island night is basically a demonstration of local dance and music (like you would see at a luau in Hawaii or a fiafia in Samoa).  Verena and I sat at the edge of the deck to ensure a good view.  The music and dancers were really good!  I clapped extra loud and cheered extra loudly.  Rumour had it that audience members would often be picked to dance later.  I had no shame and wanted them to know that I was there.

After watching the best fire dancing display I had ever seen (these guys were twirling fire and making human pyramids!), I was the very first audience member chosen to dance.  Ha ha, my plan worked!  The pretty lady who picked me, I found out the next day, was actually Mama’s niece, Carol.  She told me briefly how to dance: shake your knees together really quickly, jump around a lot, move your arounds around, and try to make it look good.  It was really fun!

My Turn to Dance

My Turn to Dance

Verena told me that everyone cheered the loudest for me.  Yay!

Rob Szumlakowski
Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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