The Cook Islands are named after the first European to land there in the 18th century, Captain Cook. They are now an independent state with a small population and are fiercely protective of their rich cultural heritage. As far as diving goes, Cook island diving is ideal for beginners and although not very challenging for seasoned divers, still offers beautiful marine life, warm waters all year and lush rainforests and streams on the island for above-the-sea adventures.
Rarotonga is the largest of the Cook Islands and the name appropriately means ‘down south’. Despite being the largest island, it is still tiny and you can complete the island circuit by car in under an hour. Rarotonga offers the best of both worlds, as it is fringed by miles of sandy beaches and coral reefs and inland are enigmatic misty and lush mountains. If ‘tropical paradise’ springs to mind, you’re not far off, as it is situated just inside the tropic of Capricorn and the water temperature fluctuates between a temperate 23 degrees Celsius and a warm 30 degrees in summer, providing you with the perfect climate for your Cook Island diving adventure.
Cook Island diving consists of mostly easy and relaxed reef diving, although there are some wreck diving opportunities. Rarotonga is surrounded by a lagoon which provides an ideal environment for snorkelling. If you venture beyond the lagoon, you will encounter more exciting dives as the Cook Islands are home to many underwater caves, canyons and tunnels. The island is best avoided from November to March during the cyclone season but July to October are the ideal months for visiting, as it is humpback whale season. While diving in the Cook Islands you are bound to encounter a variety of marine life, including magnificent mantra rays, barracudas and marlin, as well as Spanish dancers, sailfish and turtles. The numerous species of coral are unfortunately under invasion from destructive crown of thorn starfish but recent culling has proven to be successful.
Cook Island diving has a lot to offer and is perfect for those on their first diving holiday; PADI courses are also available on the island. For the intrepid explorers among you, the Cook Islands offer miles of unexplored territory and deserted tropical forests. You can fly to the airport at Rarotonga and from there explore the smaller islands by cruise or charter.