Travel: Aitutaki is heaven on earth
Eighteen months ago we got married. But, thanks to Covid, any type of honeymoon was put on hold, which left me with plenty of time to think about the perfect destination.
Right from the start, Rarotonga was at the top of my list. I had been there once, ten years ago, and couldn’t wait to go back. By chance, I came across a YouTube video about Bonefishing, the holy grail for any fly fisherman worth his salt. It turns out that nearby Aitutaki is one of the few places in the world where the elusive bonefish can be found.
Since my husband is an avid fly fisherman, it didn’t take long to convince and the decision was made. We were in Aitutaki for my husband’s fishing trip, I mean our honeymoon.
Arriving on the island, a 45 minute flight from Rarotonga, is like literally arriving in paradise. Swaying palms, white sand beaches and crystal clear lagoons.
I have visited some amazing places in my life, but I have never seen anything as spectacular as this.
Our home for the next five days was the Pacific Resort, a five-star resort with 29 individual beachfront bungalows set among beautifully manicured tropical gardens.
Our bungalow was luxurious, with every need catered for. It was cozy and welcoming, with a large balcony overlooking the beach, with an outdoor shower and a foot bath to rinse off after swimming right outside your door.
The heart of the complex is a stunning infinity pool, where you can do laps or just swim to the edge and admire the ocean, a view you will never tire of.
The bar has a daily happy hour and friendly cocktails, including the ‘Belinda’ the day we arrived – for the record, it was delicious.
The staff are warm and welcoming, quick with a smile and a joke, and full of local knowledge. Four out of five nights we ate at the Rapae Bay resort restaurant and the food and service was impeccable. Most notable was the Ika Mata or raw fish, which we had at every meal.
Our first day was perfect and we were going for a day trip on the Vaka cruise. We were collected from our hotel by our guide Ali who has a deep connection to his culture and history and was full of songs, jokes and information.
The tour lasts approximately 6 hours aboard the 21-meter Vaka Titi-Ai-Tonga. It stops at some of the beautiful islands in the lagoons, a snorkel stop with a very friendly giant trevally and a delicious BBQ lunch on board.
Our final stop was an opportunity to spend some free time exploring the legendary “One Foot Island” and on the way back Ali regaled us with more stories about the island and its history. The Vaka cruise is one of the most popular activities on the island and although Covid has hit it (and the whole island) hard, it is now back in full swing and bookings are essential.
Our next outing was our bonefishing trip. Excitement levels were high, especially for my husband who has spent the past twenty years fishing for trout in the rivers around New Zealand. He heard many stories about the elusive bonefish and was determined not to return home only with stories about the one that got away.
Our guide was Tia, who along with her twin brother Rua and other brother Etu run the E2 bone fishing charters. The brothers are world renowned for their prowess in spotting and catching these now protected and thriving fish in the lagoon.
Spotting silver and translucent fish is a skill passed down to the brothers from their father. It’s definitely a skill that needs a bit of honing, as even after a full day on the boat, we had trouble spotting any of them.
Incredibly, Craig snagged one within an hour of coming on board. But quickly lost. Then a few minutes later it was back and after a 10 minute fight between a man and a fish the bonefish was caught, photographed and released back into the water. With his bucket list well ticked off, it was time to head out into deeper waters to see if I could catch one too.
Fishing in deeper water requires much less skill, a jigging technique as opposed to casting with a fly rod. Pretty soon I felt a bite and after a lot of huffing and puffing (and almost giving up) I landed my own bonefish, and at almost exactly the same time on the other side of the boat Craig was bringing in his second fish from the daytime.
It was hard to top our bone fishing experience, but every day spent on the island was perfect. We spent an entire day by the resort’s pool, reading books and snorkeling a few feet from our loungers.
Another day we rented a scooter and visited other beaches, Avatea cafe (great smoothies and ice cream) and Craig fished again on the lagoon flats. I also managed to sneak in a massage at the Tiare Spa.
It was one of the hardest places I have ever had to leave, but made easier knowing we will definitely be back.