The Island is a "high" island with steep hills centrally. There is a paved road circling the island with aAitutaki
round-island trip taking about an hour. Between the coast and the mountains is a moderately wide
agricultural area with varied crops, including oranges in one area. Bus service is available hourly in each
direction. Rental cars are available. Stores are available for most of the needs of a traveler with the major
shops, banks, and government offices located just north of the airport.
Rarotonga is almost entirely surrounded by a fairly wide, shallow reef. The reef base is usually hard
rock or coraline algae with a considerable amount of coral rubble washed inshore during hurricanes. The
depth at low tide leaves portions of the reef uncovered. At high tide the depth is usually 1 to 3 feet. In the
shallow reef areas, the coral has grown as high as possible, and much of it appears to be dead, though live
corals grow to fill holes in the coral gaps. There is usually shallow sand near shore between raised coral areas. In the "Jams and Jellies" store area, the reef is much deeper (to 10 feet) and the bottom is mostly sandy
with widely scattered live coral heads.
The majority of the Circle Island highway is near the coast and there are frequent public parks
allowing access to the ocean. On the south west corner of Rarotonga are four small wooded islands with a
narrow channel separating them from the main land. This channel is deep enough for boats near the northern
islet, but shallow elsewhere and can be crossed by foot in one or two feet of water. The reef outside these
islets is similar to the mainland reefs, but more isolated.
There are no regulations regarding shelling except for CITES named molluscs and in restricted areas
where Tridacna and Trochus are being raised to seed the remaining reef. Tridacna and Trochus niloticus
should not be collected anywhere by visitors.
Aitutaki has one high island, named Aitutaki that is by many times the largest island of a group of
islets that border the drop off of the lagoon to deep water.
Roads on Aitutaki are only partially paved but are quite satisfactory although bumpy. Stores are few
in number and limited in what they carry, but there is one store near the wharf that has a very good selection
of food and miscellaneous items. Do not count on finding specialty items on Aitutaki. Banks are available
only on one or two days a week for limited hours. There are several good restaurants, with the major
restaurant at the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort but we found the new restaurant north of Sunny Beach Lodge to be
quite good and relatively inexpensive Much of the coastline has a silty reef that makes visibility poor, although the beaches may be pristine sand. The northern end of the island near the airport just north of the Fisheries Laboratory has reefs that have clear water. There are frequent shallow reef areas in the lagoon with attractive, live coral, and the fringing islets have clear water and often have sand on the lagoon side and shallow hard reef on the outer sides. There are a number of boats available for tours of several of these islands. Taking such a tour is recommended.
Usually, a very nice meal is part of a day trip to the islets, and you can select a different islet on different days. There is a fisheries laboratory station near the airport that is worth visiting to see Tridacna and
Trochus being grown for seeding in restricted areas.