Our Holiday in Rarotonga | Whale Watching with Rongohiva Watersports

mummy-blog-new-zealand-travel-bogger-rarotongaOur last ‘organised’ excursion in Rarotonga was also the one that I had been looking forward to the most.

We had the amazingly good fortune of booking our trip during prime whale watching season – I cannot impress upon you how excited I was when I realised this!  Humpback whales migrate through the Cook Islands from July through October to mate, give birth and to rest.  The whole of the territorial waters of the Cook Islands are a whale sanctuary and we visited at the end of August through to September 8th.  

And did we see whales?

Two days after we arrived we were on a bus back to our accommodation after spending the morning at the Saturday Markets.  As we were heading out of Avarua, the main town, I saw a mama and baby humpback spouting a couple of times before the view was obscured by those damn coconut palms lol.  A couple of days later we ate dinner on the beach at Black Rock and watched the sunset whilst a pod of whales swam past, all spouting and doing some tail slapping.  Dave and E saw a whale breach quite close to them while they were on their fishing charter and I was insanely jealous, not going to lie!

So when it was finally time to head out with Jackie and the team from Rongohiva Watersports I was SO excited!  Aside from the knowledge that I was 100% without a doubt going to cry tears of joy if I saw a humpback lol.
The Eturere, Rongohiva’s 8.5m rigid V-hull inflatable, is the most insane boat I’ve ever been on – and I know my boats believe me.  Boasting twin 250 horsepower engines, I’m fairly certain this is the fastest boat in the Cook Islands! – with the best sound system and playlist.  And the most comfortable seats.  And the most smiley happy crew who were all so passionate about their jobs, the feeling on-board was amazing.

We decided to leave Nixon on the beach with Dave and I’m so glad we did as he has problems sitting in one spot, and the stress of wrangling him would’ve totally killed my peaceful-whale-vibes.  Tara, Ethan and I sat up front and soaked in the view as we headed out of the harbour.  Fate was smiling on us as I swear as we had just cleared the breakwater, not 5 minutes into our trip and we saw a humpback ahead.  On cue, I cried.  I’ve loved whales my whole life and finally getting to see a humpback was one off the bucket-list for me.  I was so overwhelmed I barely managed to snap any pics (SO, so unlike me I know!), but I’ll never forget seeing that big, beautiful tail playfully slapping the water.

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Our whale friend eventually moved on and we were treated to a little high speed fun on Eturere.  It was almost incomprehensible to be going SO fast, and be so comfortable and almost gliding across the water with no bump-jolt, up-down, crash-bash.  None.  At.  All.  This was the first time I had been out in the open water surrounding Rarotonga, and though it doesn’t translate in the pictures, the clear, cobalt colour of the water is equally as breathtaking (in a different way) to the bright turquoise water in the lagoons that are normally associated with Rarotonga.  Also no sea-sickness.  This boat is the business people!mummy-blog-new-zealand-travel-bogger-rarotonga

Let’s talk about gorgeous Jackie for a moment.  She was our amazing hostess and is half of the husband and wife team who manage Rongohiva Watersports.  Both Jackie (B.A.) and husband Teina (Ph.D.) are Marine Scientists and are very obviously passionate about what they do.  I have never actually seen anyone smile as much as Jackie does and her warmth and joy at being out on the water is totally contagious.  The crew were equally lovely, so safety conscious, funny and immensely knowledgable.  These are operators that show huge respect towards the humpbacks.  As soon as we spotted the whale, the Captain cut the engine and we didn’t move any closer toward the animal.  It was lovely being able to take this time to cry watch and appreciate what we were witnessing and swoon over our beautiful surroundings.

So, we saved the best for last.  I’m so, so grateful to Jackie and her wonderful crew for hosting us on an adventure I’ll never forget xx

  • For kids under 5, I would say whale watching is  a case by case basis.  My 2 year old is simply not chilled out enough to sit and enjoy the boat ride, he WILL not sit still, ever.  So this was not for him unfortunately.  Jackie is super helpful and kid-friendly – she’s a mum too – so chat with her about your family’s requirements if you have any questions.  
  • Rongohiva Watersports is not just all about whale watching, they also offer speed boat + swim, banana boat and snorkel + cruise packages or contact them for charter info and package bookings.mummy-blog-new-zealand-travel-bogger-rarotongamummy-blog-new-zealand-travel-bogger-rarotonga mummy-blog-new-zealand-travel-bogger-rarotonga

On Holiday in Rarotonga | Rumours Waterfall Spa

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When we first began planning our trip well over a year ago, there was one thing Dave was desperate to do in Rarotonga – go on a fishing charter, so we made this happen.  The one thing I wanted to do was to go to a spa and enjoy a blissful massage – read: an hour of peace and quiet, desperately needed when taking the kids on a 12 day vacation don’t you think?  Rumours Waterfall Spa made my wish happen for me and it was every inch the luxe experience I had hoped for.

Having never visited Rarotonga before I had no idea that Rumours was located a mere 150m walk from our rented accommodation, just south of popular Muri Beach.  After a quick stroll and Tara and I arrived a little early and sat outside because the lush, perfectly manicured garden was too pretty not to enjoy.

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Upon entering I noticed two things; the first was the number of awards that were tastefully decorating the walls.  Most recently Rumours was awarded Best Luxury Beauty Spa in Rarotonga, actually they’ve won the award every year since 2011!  There is no shortage of spas to choose from on the island so this is quite an achievement. Secondly, one can’t ignore the beautiful rock waterfall featuring in the reception area which instantly set the tone I was looking for, peace and tranquility.

We were booked in for 60min relaxation massages described as a smooth flowing massage that induces deep relaxation, improves circulation and ultimately relieves muscular tension. The ultimate stress reliever!

The treatment room was as you’d expect from a spa with such glowing accolades, spotlessly clean but also effortlessly comfortable.  I positively sank into the massage table and tuned out for the next hour.

I’ve had what I thought were full body massages before, but this was indeed a full body massage including my buttocks and face – both of which were amazing!  It makes so much sense that to relieve lower back tension you need to fully work on the big muscles in your butt!

The use of locally sourced coconut oil for the massage was the pièce de résistance.  I’ve always wanted to try this natural super-oil as a body moisturiser and let me tell you the proof is irrefutable!  My skin was transformed instantly and the super-hydration lasted for 2 days after the massage!

If you have saved and planned like we had, I absolutely recommend taking some time (and allocating some holiday budget) for yourself.  Rumours Waterfall Spa is without a doubt deserving of their many awards and their beautiful therapists are extremely skilled at what they do.  The whole experience was more than I had wished for and left me uber relaxed and in the right state of mind to enjoy the rest of my vacation.  

 

On Holiday in Rarotonga | Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours

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I was so excited to make contact with Dave and Natavia from Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours.  So much of Rarotonga’s tourism is focused on ocean activities (justifiably so) but there is also a huge cultural story to be told on the land.
Dave picked us up on the morning of our tour and we rode island style – in the back of the ute! – to our starting point.  Because we had Nixon in tow, the three hour Discovery for Families Tour was perfect for our group.

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyMummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyAfter a comprehensive safety briefing and a prayer for the road, we set off with local guide Jimmy in the lead.  Prior to setting off, Natavia asked all of us if there was anything we were interested in focusing on during the tour ie farming, plants as medicine, history, birds, wildlife etc. Our Avanti bikes were amazing, super comfortable and with great suspension for navigating the Rarotongan roads and heading into the bush.  Nix was riding behind Dave in a sweet trailer, complete with a perfectly sized toddler helmet….. that he wouldn’t wear lol.
Jimmy was a fountain of local knowledge, at our first stop he introduced us to a small pineapple plot, the two variations of farming taro, manioto, banana, cinnamon, edible flowers, we sampled coconut of various ages, fed piglets and learnt about basic bush medicine.
Natavia took the lead soon after as we pedaled on to a Noni plantation. We ate fresh noni and smelt the revolting pungent, fermented noni that is eventually processed into the super popular noni juice.
Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga Family Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyStorytellers has permission to take visitors onto the eerie site of the derelict Sheraton Hotel.  Hearing the tale of this historical icon from a local perspective, amidst the ruins was very cool, but also provided lots of food for thought about the actions and accountability of big business in tiny island nations such as Rarotonga.
We concluded our tour at a beautiful clearing on a private beach, ready to enjoy a traditional lunch of fish, rice, maniota fries (aka the BEST food ever!), salsa fresca, coleslaw and fruit prepared by a local mama.Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyI loved this excursion so much.  Owners Dave and Natavia were such a joy to talk with, as was our guide Jimmy.  I was a little surprised at how much Ethan (aged 10.5) enjoyed the tour.  He loved being off the beaten track, in the bush and learning about the native flora and fauna – plus there was always something yummy to eat, Jimmy kept the boys supplied with fresh oranges, bananas and coconut found along the way.
Storytellers is definitely a point of difference in the Rarotongan tourism industry and a wonderful one at that. Suitable for most ages and levels of fitness, getting off the beach and onto a bike is worth every penny.

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga Family

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga Family

** We were generously hosted by Storytellers Eco Cycle Tours, however, all opinions expressed are my own. 

On Holiday in Rarotonga | Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes

We visited some amazing spots in Rarotonga on our family vacation and I’m going to share my favourite Kid Friendly activities right here.  Follow along for the entire series and hopefully you’ll get inspired to start planning your own Cook Islands adventure.


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As soon as I mentioned that our family was traveling to Rarotonga, the first place people recommended if they had visited The Cook Islands before was Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes.
Not going to lie, when I checked the website I was SO freaking excited!  After emailing an inquiry through and receiving a super quick response from Lynne, we scheduled our cruise for the day after we arrived in Raro.
Of all the excursions we had planned, I was the most worried about how Nixie would survive such a long day – on a boat!
We arrived to overcast, average day on Thursday which unfortunately deteriorated into a bit of a cold rain on Friday morning.  We were instantly cheered however, by the beautiful singing and drumming that greeted us upon our arrival at Captain Tama’s Muri Beach location.
After a quick (hilarious) intro we boarded our glass bottom boat and headed out into Muri Lagoon to go snorkeling.

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyThe lagoon is quite sheltered so don’t worry about a bumpy ride, plus the pontoon style boats are super stable so no need to worry about feeling seasick.
After a short spell of motoring, 15 minutes or so, we arrived at our snorkeling spot, stripped off and stepped overboard into the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen.  People took their time, hopped in and out of the water, always assisted by one of the guides who stayed onboard, keeping a very watchful eye on all of their charges.
We had packed a flotation ring for Nixon so Dave and I took turns exploring the reef below and hanging out with our little guy who had a great time bobbing around, chatting to everyone and pointing out all of the ‘whales’ he kept spotting!Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyEthan was in the water before anyone else and was the last to get back on the boat.  He loved every second of it.  One of the guides was in the water showing people where to spot two huge moray eels so that was the icing on the cake for our big boy.  The fish were everywhere.  We saw Giant Clams, Butterfly Fish, Trigger Fish, Damsel Fish, Blue Fin Trevally, Parrot Fish, Needle Fish and so many more.  The incredible range and varied scale of marine life was so abundant that often you didn’t know where to look. We were all a little overwhelmed and so, so grateful for such a memorable snorkeling experience.

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyThere was another two year old on our boat and both he and Nix were totally happy throughout the lagoon trip.  I couldn’t believe our luck that Nixon was relaxed and loving his time on the boat.  This can definitely be attributed to the friendly, fun atmosphere that our guides made sure to maintain, even in the less-than-perfect weather.
After another short spell of motoring we pulled up to a gorgeous island in the lagoon and hopped off for lunch just as the sun came out.  The boats are flat bottomed so you literally disembark into ankle deep water.  There was an elderly gentlemen on board that the guys took such great care of, carrying him gently to and from the boat so don’t worry about accessibility!Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga Family
We had about 20 minutes before lunch was to be served so Ethan grabbed a snorkel and headed back to the water whilst we explored the beach with Nixon and tried to ignore the incredible smells wafting from the BBQ.
Women and children were served first, of course, and we were not disappointed.  We feasted on fresh tuna, grilled bananas, onions, potato salad, coleslaw, bread, oranges and papaya with coconut.  Ah.  Maze.  Zing.
We all had seconds…….and maybe thirds.
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Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyMummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyEthan headed straight back to the lagoon and snorkeled his heart out for the next hour or so whilst we enjoyed a cultural performance including Rarotongan song, drumming, the complete coconut how-to guide from climbing the palm to making coconut cream, sarong lessons for both men and women and finishing with a hilarious haka.

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga Family

Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga FamilyThe day’s schedule was so well planned, there was value added at every transition.  All five of us thoroughly enjoyed our day with the boys from Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruizes.
This is such a professionally run operation but one that retains it’s cultural authenticity.  We are in full agreement that we would all pay to visit Captain Tama’s again on future holidays in Rarotonga, the total package (plus the amazing food!) was totally worth the ticket price.  All you have to bring on board is a towel and a water bottle if you need one – all snorkeling equipment is provided.  

This is an excursion suited to all ages and after 12 days on the island I’m rating it a must-do (be prepared for tired kids – it’s too much fun!).Mummy Blog new Zealand TRavel rarotonga Family

* We were generously hosted by Captain Tama’s, however, all opinions expressed are my own.