Monday, June 24, 2013

Snorkeling in the South Pacific

After two schools in one day, we hit the beach! We heard about this place across from Fruits of Rarotonga. Literally, it's a roadside cafe, and across the road is this microscopic "parking lot" next to a spit of sand. Being the good tourists we were, we put on our gear and went for it.

To put this into perspective, we have traveled around the globe for snorkeling. Most of the islands of Hawaii, the Caribbean and now the South Pacific. This was the reason we were here - well, that and the job opportunity, but I digress.

Locals and guidebooks call it the Fruits of Rarotonga based on the fact that it is across the street from the store, Fruits of Rarotonga. In actuality it is called the Tikioki Marine Reserve. It teems with all sorts of life.

Before even going into deeper into the water, the fish were all around.

Note: none of these fish "attacked" Kira - they were just curious.

We ventured deeper. But, wait, I need to back up. Before you set foot into any waters in Cook Islands, you need to be aware of these:

Sea cucumbers. They come close to the shore shortly before they die - so there are thousands. I mean thousands. They don't bite, sting, or hurt, they are just everywhere and it was hard not to step on them (they feel a little rubbery).

Kira liked picking them up.

Some of the fish we saw: Longnose, threadfin, several types of butterflies, sargent majors, sunset wrasse, cleaner wrasse (these tickled), Picasso trigger (these chased you if you got too close to their nest), soldierfish, squirrelfish, groupers, moorish idol, heniochus, bannerfish, trunkfish, parrotfish, goatfish, hermit crabs (galore), blenny/goby, pipefish, convicts, naso tangs, lemon peeo angel, fire coral (stay away from this stuff) and brain coral - just to name a few.

Honkin' piece of brain coral.

Large pieces of purple coral - these fascinated me because I've never seen this color in nature before.

Not a flippin' clue what this is...

Just a side note here: Jeff's job is aquariums, mostly saltwater. His job involves installing, maintaining and purchasing for these aquariums, so really, we do know our fish. We were all in underwater heaven, but, for him, it was like being in a gigantic aquarium.

While these photos were taken at Fruits of Rarotonga, just about any beach is going to give you amazing sea life. One night we went out and stood thigh deep in the water and watch as picasso triggerfish, tangs, puffers and a dozen other curious creatures ventured toward us. The snorkeling was supreme! On Aitutaki, one of the outer islands, believe it or not, it was even BETTER! It is going to be hard to beat the South Pacific for this! JC Imagery - Cook Islands Website

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