Monday, January 2, 2012

Aitutaki Island, The Cook Islands and the Giant Clam

We arrived in Aitutaki early in the morning but only finally made it into the anchorage at about noon. You can read the reason for that HERE. Or you can just page down to the last post.

So after all that we were rather knackered. We sat on Puddytat and waited for the Customs and Immigration bods to arrive. Finally at about 14:00 David went ashore to find out why they hadn't been around. It turned out that the Customs office was closed so we'd have to wait to see him tomorrow. Okay, so do we have to stay on the boat till then..No! he was told by the harbour office, go and have some fun. We did! we went ashore and explored the little town. It was well spread out up and down the coast road. We looked at prices of foods and alchohol..phew rather expensive.. we were charged NZ$8 for 12 eggs. Told that they were imported..what? that we didn't believe, there are chickens running around everywhere, they're as prolific as flies.
On our walkabout we ran into another couple and stopped in the street to ask them some question, I forget what it was now, but we got to talking and eventually we invited them onto Puddytat for sundowners that evening.
The little safe harbour where we are anchored.
A huge canoe we saw parked near us.
What our guests, Jim and Annie saw when they came for dinner.
When they arrived they were surprised because we'd cooked dinner for them, fresh caught wahoo and roasted vegies. They'd said, that afternoon, that they'd not been able to find any fish for sale. :-)
We had a great time that evening and in passing told them that we'd be hiring a motorbike the next day to explore the island. Next morning we arrived at the hire place to find all the bikes were out but we could get a scooter. David went into the office to pay for the day NZ$25.00 not bad..and guess who were there... yeah Jim and Annie.. ha ha they'd looked into hiring bicycles and decided that a scooter would be more fun. We joined up and explored together. First we went up to the lookout at the top of the highest mountain... what an amazing view! On the way up our scooter ran out of oomph and as I was getting off to walk the short distance up the hill, my leg caught on David's shorts and down I went.. great... I had a lovely scrape all the way down my left calf, just super. Did I have my gentian Violet on me? no..what a doris I can be ;-p anyway I washed it down with some drinking water and tried to forget about it.
The view is like this all around the island.. wow
Ahhh sweet.
After the lookout we went to the Institute of Marine Research where Charley Waters is trying to reintroduce Giant clams back into the lagoon. We had ourselves a lovely snorkel and a picnic on the beach, and then met up with Charley to be educated about the life of a clam. Believe me, they are wonderful creatures, most fascinating. It seems that the peoples of this island need extensive education to stop raping the lagoon of life, because there is not a whole lot to see here. When tourists come here they complain that it's nothing like the Great Barrier Reef. Well if they want to see the Great Barrier Reef, then they should go there. BUT what the locals are doing, is feeding the fish at certain spots, then they take the tourists there, the tourists see loads of fish and are happy. (I think they are feeding the fish WHEN the tourists are there .... they probably even let the tourists feed the fish as is done in several tourist snorkeling sites).
Except that this weekend a group went out to see the fish. It had been raining for about 4 days previously, so the fish had not been fed ... they were hungry... A tourist decided to go for a snorkel  and take pictures with an underwater camera. There was a large trevally in the area who was used to being hand fed. The trevally thought the camera was food and went after it, striking the man's hand instead. He was cut to the point that he thought he should check with the hospital where he was bandaged. Not fun.

Its important, if you are wanting to take a tour, ask if the company feeds the fish..if they do, don't book the trip. The tour operators will realise that we don't accept that sort of behaviour, that we expect them to take care of their ecology not rape it and then try and manipulate it for monetary gain. If they looked after it properly there would be no need to go to the extremes of fish feeding. Refusing to book a tour with a company who does this is a good way to educate them to stop raping the lagoon and let the fish alone so that they can breed. Surely it must be more rewarding to see the fish behaving naturally in their environment rather than this? If you were in Africa, wouldn't you prefer to spend a day or two searching through the bush to see a lion, elephant, etc rather than have them lured to a convenient location for a photo shoot? You may as well go to an aquarium or a zoo.

The people aren't starving on the island, not by a long shot... they live very well, drive new cars, and new bikes,.. live in nice homes... even the youngsters are driving around on bikes and carry cell phones... they don't need to eat the reef fish, and they don't need to eat the baby giant clams either.. but they do!! So funding is needed to do an extensive program of education and to make efforts to reintroduce giant clams to the Aitutaki marine ecosystem easier. Charley is a volunteer marine biologist at the Aitutaki Marine Research Centre in the north of the island. He is desperately trying to get the giant clam back in decently large numbers into the lagoon. I learned that a clam takes 9 months to get from egg to just about 15mm!(just bigger than 1/2 an inch) These guys need time, years and years, to get really huge and they are so unbelievably beautiful! I'd like everyone who reads this to tweet, facebook and whatever else we can do to get the word out about the efforts to reintroduce giant clams to the Aitutaki marine ecosystem.  Maybe someone could donate a domain for a website for these clams... hmmm anyone out there?

The photographs supplied here are Charley's.
Air view of Aitutaki.
Two razor corals with a clam tucked in between.
A clam.. so pretty.
Taking Clams out to the wild.
In they go.
Setting them up.
Hanging out.
One that is slowly getting there.
Amazing colours.
How can you eat this?
Or this?
These guys are old and still so small, about 6 inches long!
Aren't they fantastic? They are taken of the life in the lagoon at present, and may look as if there are a lot around but we've snorkeled here and the photo's are only showing tiny pockets of life, in a huge lagoon as you can see by the aerial shot. This place should be teaming with life.

Here are some other photo's of what we saw that day whilst traveling around the island.
David and Jim

Where Jim and Annie stayed.
Annie outside their cabin.

View from their cabin..nice and private.
Inside a cabin.
Another view from a cabin.
Driving through a banyan tree archway.
Annie standing under the tree... whew it's huge!
Beautiful beach.
Cool shady roads, lovely countryside.
At the time of writing this we're on our way to Palmerston Island. As usual there is no wind. We're flying along at 2.2 knots in 4 knots of wind.. ho hum.. the ocean has barely a ripple on it.. it's 01:15 am the moon has just risen, a huge half moon in the inky black star studded sky. It's a lovely night and it's almost my bed time.. yay.

Pretty fish.

Okay folks please don't forget send this blog out, attach it to your blog pages, (click on "blog this" at the bottom of the post), whatever it takes, lets try and help efforts to reintroduce giant clams to the Aitutaki marine ecosystem.


  1. Absolutely brilliant bog - well-written, accurate and insightful! Easily the best I've ever read about Aitutaki.

  2. No matter how many times I read this, I will never get bored of it.