The thought of taking a toddler on an aeroplane – two flights with a stop over in between – gave me terrible anxiety. What do I do if she cries? THERE IS NOWHERE TO RUN AND HIDE. I will have to witness all the death stares and eye rolls, as I will be THAT Mum – the one with the annoying, loud, crying baby. People will probably think I have no control, that I let her run wild, that I am a terrible Mum. I remember thinking this over and over again. Then one of my good Mumma friends (who had just taken her toddler to Fiji) suggested buying Amaya a new toy and giving it to her ON the plane. Dickhead me brought her a doll. A fricken doll. She cuddled it a few times and pretended to feed it…then she was done. The moment that she threw the doll onto the floor of the plane, I regretted my purchase. Something that entertains them for a little longer – like a puzzle, a book even, would have been a better choice. Anyway, luckily we didn’t really need it as Amaya was a bloody super star on the plane. Bris —> Auckland, she slept. Our stop over she just wandered around and ate, then she slept. Auckland —> Raro she did some drawing, watched ‘Barney’ (her absolute favourite!) on the iPad and then cuddled up to me and fell asleep. WINNING. Luckily, both flights weren’t booked out, so they could block out a seat between Teina + I, for Amaya. What a saviour this was! We appreciated it so much more on the full flight (they couldn’t block out a seat for her) between Raro —> Auckland, I started to get claustrophobic. One massive tip I do have, is take their comforters. Amaya has a blanket, and River + Coco Kippin. She associates these comforters with sleep and she definitely found comfort in them and they certainly helped with sleeping in unfamiliar environments. We took them on the plane too! Sitting next to the window helped us a lot too, Amaya + I did a lot of cloud watching. We are such Cancerian’s – we are obsessed with the sky! We flew Virgin, but I have hear a lot of people recommend flying Air New Zealand, rather than Virgin, to the Cook Islands. Virgin weren’t too bad, in our experience, but they weren’t anything to rave about either.
Raro. Wow. Raro is amazing. The people are awesome! The beaches are incredible! The greenery is insane. Our flights were approximately $600 return pp. Legally, you don’t have to use car seats in Raro, the speed limit is 50km/h everywhere. Everyone, even children, can ride in the tray of the ute. Amaya could sit on my lap, in the front seat. We had a car seat for her anyway, as there were times where it was just me and her in the car, no car seat means that she would be crawling/climbing through the car. NO. Petrol and groceries are expensive (however, we did find that it was not too expensive to eat out) – $2.90 a litre for petrol. I saw a packet of 12 Huggies nappies for $16. We took all of Amaya’s nappies and wipes – I am so glad that we did. We also took a lot of those Rafferty’s Garden fruit pouches, just so we had back up food if we weren’t able to find food suitable and safe for her – we quickly realised that the food is safe over in Raro and we did end up bringing most of the fruit pouches home. You can’t drink the water, however there is a free, safe drinking water fountain/tap outside Arorangi State School. I would recommend buying two big bottles of water and once you run out of water, re-fill your bottles at this water fountain. Bottled water is expensive and we wish that knew about this water fountain earlier in our trip. Most hotels/villas etc. have filters installed, so the water is consider safe-ish to drink, but we didn’t risk it, we boiled our water and/or used bottled water. We went to the markets on Saturday morning, this was awesome! We had Raro kebabs each time we went (Teina and I still dream about the Raro kebab from the markets as well as the cheeseburgers at Palace!) and got to see children proudly perform traditional Cook Islander dances. The markets are a great place to pick up a bargain for some souvenirs or gifts for friends and family at home. The markets just have a great atmosphere in general, so definitely worth checking out if you ever go to Raro!
We found the food to amazing in Raro, the locals super friendly and the vibe of the island to be relaxing. It is such a beautiful, chilled place. The beaches are absolutely stunning and we were lucky enough to have Teina’s family, who live there, show us all of the best spots to eat/swim/find clean drinking water. I definitely recommend stopping by Blue Sky phone store on your way from the airport or on your first day. You can pick up a sim for $50 and that includes local texts, calls and a pretty decent amount of data. The data lasted me over a week, I just made sure to turn my data off when I wasn’t using it, as that will really chew up your data quickly.
I definitely recommend checking out Raro – especially if you have children. It is clean, beautiful and the locals are very friendly. You will never get sick of swimming at the beaches – they are truly incredible. Teina’s cousin and her partner took us for a night swim, it was so beautiful. Amaya came with us and she loved it. She absolutely loved swimming under the moon + stars (haha just like me…loves the moon + the stars!).
If you are looking for accommodation, The Rarotongan and The Edgewater are the main resorts on Raro, they are beautiful, have beautiful swimming pools and their beaches are completely safe to swim in. They have removed all of the rocks and dangerous fish from their beaches. We were swimming at the beach in front of The Rarotongan, we weren’t snorkelling, but we could clearly see the tropical fish swimming around us. Amaya (and I!) were extremely fascinated! TIP: There are some dangerous fish in the lagoons – swim at the beaches outside or near these two resorts – as they are safe. Or ask the locals!
I was so grateful that Amaya got to have this experience (not that she will remember it! Ha!). She got to watch her Uncle feed the pigs (and then saw one of those very pigs cooking on the spit – let’s hope she doesn’t remember that either! Her face dropped, as she muttered, “…pig?”). She got to drink coconut water, fresh from the tree and she snacked on coconut as she wandered around and explored the island (when she wasn’t glued to me!). Amaya loved it, but she was extremely clingy with me and Teina and her sleep routine did go out the window. Before Raro she was sleeping 12 hours straight a night, in Raro she slept with us, as I knew that she was not feeling comfortable being in a new environment (thank goodness we took her comforters, as she made sure to grab them before she went to sleep!). Since returning, we did have to re-teach her to self settle and she still (four months later! I am VERY slack posting this blog so late!) wakes most nights. She has slept through, maybe, two nights, since returning from Raro. Anyway, that was our doing. I can’t say I would do anything different tho. She was not in her usual environment and her comfort and feeling safe was paramount.
I feel that Raro is a bit of an untapped paradise. The flights are reasonably priced, the island is beautiful, and if you are keen you can check out Aitutaki (just google it – amazing!). Someone actually told me that she had been to Aitutaki and Bora Bora and she preferred Aitutaki. I think you have to fly into Raro and then fly to Aitutaki from Raro. Raro defintely has my recommendation – I am sure that you and your friends/family will have a brilliant time and will enjoy learning about the beautiful people of the Cook Islands!