Traveling from Brazil to New Zealand
or any other place in the Pacific is quite expensive, so since
Carlos and I had some extra time in NZ, we went to a travel agency
in Auckland and bought a package to the Cook Islands to try to
collect some more shells.
We arrived in the capital, Rarotonga,
very early in the morning and went straight to our hotel, Paradise
The hotel is right on the beach, and our room was well supplied
with a kitchen and space enough for our mess of shells and diving
gear. The owners, Pam and Marc, were very nice and helpful; they
even offered to keep our luggage while we went to Aitutaki (the
second part of this article).
Our first try at finding shells
was not very satisfactory - the only shell we found in front of
the hotel was a lousy Cerithium! The island is relatively large
and looked promising, although friends told us that we wouldn't
find anything. It has a nice road near the shore, which goes all
around the island, and buses run in both directions (labeled “clockwise”
and “counterclockwise”!). But we needed more flexible
transport - I didn't dare rent a car since they drive on the "wrong"
side of the road. The easiest way was to rent a scooter (moped),
so we went to get two of them at one of the many rental places.
To rent them it was necessary to get a provisional driver’s
license and if we didn't have a motorcycle driver’s license,
then we would need to take a short driving course. Carlos and
I used to have motorcycles, so that was not a problem - so now
we are the proud owners of a Cook Islands Driver’s License!
Cook uses NZ currency, and most
things we found on the island were imported from there as well,
including the precious alcohol we use to preserve our finds. There
are several nice expensive hotels on the island, many aimed at
honeymooners and couples coming from all over the world. Where
these nice hotels are, there are usually diving centers as well,
and we were able to rent there some lead belts for diving. (I
am tired of leaving lead behind on my trips...).
We drove to Muri beach, a nice place
with three islands near the shore. The water was warm and nicely
turquoise-colored. Well, after 6 hours of snorkeling, warm water
does not feel so warm any more, and turquoise does not necessarily
mean clear. In many places the visibility was not so great, but
of course much better than we are used to in Brazil.
If you read my article about New
Zealand, you already know how customs can be a pain in the neck
when it comes to shells. If they took away some of my neatly cleaned
shells, what would they do with stinky rotten ones? To avoid returning
from Cook and passing through NZ customs with shells that we collected
in NZ, we rented a locker and left two suitcases in Auckland.
So we had two fewer pieces to carry too....
We tried not to collect anything
too large, but the temptation was too great. We found several
huge Tectus niloticus, Tridacnas (well, those we wouldn't take
anyway because of CITES) and other large things. The largest shell
was collected by Carlos and I let him keep it: a giant Conus leopardus.
Trochidae, Mitridae, Ranellidae, Columbellidae, Coralliophilidae
and many bivalves were our best finds.
We did not find as many shells as
we wanted, but they were very diverse. Small shells and land shells
from this place are virtually impossible to obtain from any source,
but we found them! There are forests and hills where we could
hike and look for land shells. We did find some small species
(still working on IDs) and lost a few milliliters of blood to
Our next stop would be Aitutaki,
a small atoll near Rarotonga. Our nice hosts warned us about weight
limitations on the plane, and advised us to leave our heavy stuff.
Otherwise we would need to rent a locker at the airport, not to
mention creating a mess by having to repack our material. Thus,
we left one large suitcase and one carry-on at the hotel. It felt
weird traveling with less and less luggage... but I am glad we
did, the plane was very small - only 10 people!
We left very early in the morning
and arrived in Aitutaki - a beautiful island and..... TO