Visitors Guide I

Ika Mata

This is a dish made from raw fish and is a delicious South Pacific favourite. It’s also known as Kokoda in Fiji (pronounced kokonda) as well as ‘Coconut Ceviche’ and ‘Tahitian Fish Salad’. It takes about ten minutes to knock up. The fish is marinated in lime juice and is served cold with coconut cream. Fresh tuna is probably the best choice of fish but even calamari works for me. For an entrée for 4 people, get:

  • 400g fresh fish
  • ½ cup lime or lemon juice (kiwi fruit can be used for a quick-time marinade)
  • ¼ cup thick coconut cream
  • ¼ cup red onion
  • handful chopped coriander
  • finely sliced spring onion or two
  • a green or red chilli (no seeds, no pith and finely chopped)
  • salt and ground black pepper

Cut the fish into small chunks or thin strips and mix through the lime juice. Leave it for at least an hour – up to four hours – in the fridge. The finer the fish is sliced, the quicker it will ‘cook’ in the citrus juice. Combine the remaining ingredients, drain the fish and toss through the coconut mixture. Serve at once with salt and pepper to taste. A crispy bed of lettuce makes a nice presentation and a cool crunchy taste. For a different taste replace the coconut milk with soy sauce. For a speedier marinade, use kiwifruit – don’t leave for four hours or the fish may ‘melt’.


Many travellers to the tropics get mild tummy upsets. This may not be the fault of the tropics as much as a change of time zone and diet and the body doesn’t like it (who has a full cooked breakfast every day and that extra few drinks every night at home?) While there are natural remedies like lots of water, packing Imodium or similar to take with you may come in handy.


You will be met by immigration officials at the airport who will stamp your passport with an entry permit for 31 days. You can get an extension for up to six months for a fee providing you can show that you have sufficient funds. The Immigration Office is on the top floor of the Government Office Building behind the Post Office. People with business skills or money to invest can get work permits and residence permits through the Cook Islands Development Investment Board – phone 24 296, fax 24 928.


Inoculations are not requited unless you have been in an area affected by Yellow Fever in the week before (Central Africa, parts of South America).


Mosquitoes and occasional flies are really the only pests so take a repellent for your comfort.


Travel insurance is cheap – because most people don’t get to use it – but if you do, it could save you thousands of dollars. Flights do get delayed, connections do get missed, people do get sick or have accidents and property does get stolen. Policies vary so check the fine print for your needs – e.g. pre-existing health conditions, whether extreme sports are covered, whether property is has new replacement value etc. I had a camera stolen in New Zealand and thought I was doing the insurance company a favour by purchasing a similar camera duty free. The fine print only covered the actual value of the item and, as it was a few years old they deemed it to be worth $40.

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Island Time

‘Island time’ is as much part of the tropics as palm trees and azure waters. Go with the flow, relax, pick up on the lack of stress and do your well being a big favour. Once you arrive the only deadline you have to keep is your next flight. As they say in Vanuatu, “another time, another pace.” And I thank author David Stanley for the phrase, “The coconut will fall when it is ripe.” I also thank fellow author and Cook Islands resident Elliot Smith for this bit of info – it will also fall when a coconut rat has chewed its way part through the stem, and the weight makes it fall! These are good drinking nuts if the rat’s teeth have not penetrated the nut itself.


A holiday in the Cook Islands should be more than a ‘resort’ vacation. It’s an easy place to explore and there are some fine restaurants to sample away from your resort. A combination Rarotonga and Aitutaki is excellent for first time visitors and other islands can be rewarding for repeat visitors or the more adventurous. For a short stay, four days on Rarotonga and 3 days on Aitutaki could be perfect, especially for couples. A Friday flight to Aitutaki may suit some so they can take in an Island Night experience, a lagoon cruise on Saturday and on Sunday, explore the island or laze on a beach (Rarotonga pretty much closes on Sunday). Contact us for free itinerary advice – or indeed advice on the resort to suit you.

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